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Swabbing at Endurance Events

Swabbing takes place at endurance events throughout Australia

By Dorte Colja

This is meant as a simple outline of how swabbing takes place at endurance events in Australia, more information can be found through the Australian Endurance Riders Association (AERA) website www.aera.asn.au, where the ‘Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Rules’ are available. Through the Equestrian Australia (EA) website www.equestrian.org.au – under medication Control, you can find a list of prohibited drugs, also a list of detection times and a checklist for medication and supplements.

Swabbing takes place throughout Australia at both AERA events and FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) events, to ensure performance-enhancing drugs are not used during competition, and no doping of any kind is taking place.

It is important to know herbal products can contain prohibited substances that will show up as positive if your horse is swabbed. Penalties apply if a swab is positive, so always be aware of exactly what your horse is fed or medicated with. Your veterinarian should be able to help guide you if you are uncertain.

In the case of AERA, each State Committee is responsible for swabbing and selection of events to be swabbed. For FEI an international program is in place and events to be swabbed are selected by FEI Head Office.

Once an event has been targeted for swabbing, an EA accredited Swabbing Steward will be contacted and given the number of swabs to be done at that event. The Swabbing Steward will order kits from Racing Forensic Laboratory Sydney. This laboratory is the only laboratory in Australia, EA/FEI accredited to perform swab sample analysis.

For AERA events, the Chief Steward (CS) will select how the horses are to be chosen, for example by randomly selecting rider numbers, choosing first, second and third placegetters, or any other random way suitable. Horses can also be targeted if the CS or Head Veterinarian deems this necessary. Swabbing can take place anytime during an endurance event, but will in most cases only be done once a horse has finished the ride.

For FEI events the Ground Jury make the selections – medal winners, randomly selected horses or targeted horses.

The Swabbing Steward will notify the person responsible (PR) for a horse selected for swabbing, and a notification notice will be signed, the horse is then taken to a swabbing box or area, along with the PR. The PR must witness the whole swabbing procedure and sign to the effect that he or she is satisfied that all procedures have been in accordance with protocol.

A separate swab kit is used for each swab. This kit is securely sealed and contains the sterile vials for blood and containers for urine and associated paperwork. The seal of this kit will only be broken and opened under observation of the PR. A vet will be in attendance to draw blood samples, a Swabbing Steward can take urine samples only.

The veterinarian will take six small vials of blood from the horse. A horse has about 55 litres of blood in its system, the six vials contain about 35ml total, a minuscule of the total blood volume of a horse. The Swabbing Steward will take a urine sample if possible. Bloods will always be taken even if a urine sample has been taken. Finally the samples will be packed back into the swab kit and securely sealed with a tamperproof lock, while being observed by the PR. The swabbing procedure should take less than an hour, sometimes a lot less, depending on the wait for a urine sample.

Once all swabbing has been finalised, the kits will be couriered to the laboratory, where they will be analysed. Only two vials are used for the initial analysis; if a result is disputed there are four other vials available for re-analysing.

Cleared results will be available on the EA website after two to three weeks, positive results will be forwarded to AERA/FEI, and the person responsible for the horse with a positive test will be contacted through the appropriate sports body, AERA or FEI, for penalty to be applied.