Equestrian: Paget wants to ride clear

By David Leggat

Kiwi horseman said to have strong defence as tribunal hearing on drug tests looms.

Jock Paget wants a full exoneration after his horse Clifton Promise returned a positive drug test at Burghley last September. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Jock Paget wants a full exoneration after his horse Clifton Promise returned a positive drug test at Burghley last September. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Leading New Zealand horseman Jock Paget will press for complete exoneration over the positive test returned by his horse at last September's Burghley horse trial.

And officials close to the case believe there is evidence mounting to suggest he has a strong defence.

Paget has been suspended since Clifton Promise returned a positive test for Reserpine, a tranquiliser used for sedating horses, after winning Burghley, which is in England.

He sought an extension from the International Equestrian Federation's tribunal to gather more evidence to present in his defence.

His dossier was submitted to the FEI on January 17. He waits still for his day before the tribunal, but it's expected to be around the end of April or early in May.

Rulings are then usually handed down about six weeks later.

Paget has already all but given up any hope of riding in the four-star Badminton trial, which is on May 8-11. He simply hasn't time to prepare his best horses. The quadrennial world games in Normandy in August shape as his big challenge for the year.

Equestrian Sport New Zealand boss Jim Ellis is optimistic Paget will get a good outcome from the tribunal.

Only once before has an FEI hearing exonerated a rider on a doping charge, British endurance rider Christine Yeoman in 2009, and she was represented by Paget's legal team, Bristol-based Burges Salmon.

"It is a very high tariff that leads to a zero ban," Ellis said yesterday.

"In order to do that, we have to prove Jock has done absolutely everything he could have, even to some extent beyond what's reasonable, and to have had no knowledge or control over this substance.

"That is the case we believe we can make and that is what's gone to the FEI - no fault, no negligence."

If the FEI finds Paget had no significant fault or negligence, he could get a one-year ban; the far line of prescriptive ruling options is the two-year ban.

Ellis said that during the checking process on the contamination of foodstuffs, "we've had good news rather than bad in terms of what we've found - good in Jock's case in terms of his ability to prove he was clearly morally innocent".

He has spoken to Paget recently and confirmed this was a trying time for the 30-year-old. Having sat out the European winter, or off-season, the British season is under way and he would ordinarily be riding and preparing horses for events. The first three-star competition of the year, the Belton horse trial in Lincolnshire, starts on April 4.

"However traumatic it's been, only from mid-January has it started to really be real," Ellis said.

Paget was ineligible to attend EQNZ's squad trainings which began recently. Horses are kept in work but not to four-star standard.

Paget will also have confirmed the loss of his Burghley title, no matter the FEI tribunal hearing.

That will pass to fellow New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, who will therefore have a chance to win the grand slam of Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton over the next couple of months. That carries a prize of US$500,000 ($598,457).

Road to redemption

* Jock Paget's horse Clifton Promise tested positive for Reserpine on September 8 after having won the four-star Burghley horse trial in Lincolnshire. He potentially faces a two-year ban.

* Paget and his advisers are waiting for a hearing date from the International Equestrian Federation, which is expected to be around the end of April-early May.

* The strategy is to press for a high end no fault, no negligence finding, which carries no penalty and Paget could begin riding again.

* Paget won both the Badminton and Burghley crowns on Clifton Promise and was part of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand eventing team at the London Olympics in 2012.

- NZ Herald

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