The first piece of upbeat news to emerge from the FEI’s new Endurance Strategic Planning Group has been undermined by revelations today that Jaume Punti Dachs, a member of the FEI endurance committee, was raided by a UK government agency who seized 124 medicinal products in August.
Punti Dachs is married to 2010 endurance world champion Maria Alvarez Ponton and trains for Sheikh Mohammed at Moorley Farm East in Newmarket, the main thoroughbred racing centre in England. Moorley is one of many properties owned by Darley, the breeding arm of Sheikh Mohammed’s extensive global racing empire.
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) took products unlicensed for use in the UK including “injectables, analgesics, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics” just two weeks after Punti Dachs participated in the round table convened by FEI president Princess Haya in the wake of growing demands from European equestrian federations to address the high incidence of doping and equine injuries in Middle East endurance.
Both the British Horseracing Authority, still recovering from the Godolphin racing doping scandal, and Darley were quick to distance themselves from Punti Dachs.
Only days earlier the BHA had been forced to deny that a separate VMD raid in May, seizing unlicensed veterinary products from a private plane at Stansted airport just half an hour from Newmarket, was anything to do with racing.
Mr Punti Dachs published a detailed list of drugs taken in a statement drafted by a prominent PR firm, Paddy Harverson.
Punti Dachs said “there is no indication whatsoever or any suggestion of any willful or careless wrong doing” on his part.
He added: “These medicines are lawfully and legally used in the UK. However, the make/labels of the veterinary medicines in this case may be slightly different as they were purchased by me outside the UK, and the authorities know that. They explained to me after their visit how to source the same medicines at the Newmarket Equine Hospital [one of two principal veterinary practices in the town], and the following day I went and got them.
“To help everyone understand what we are talking about I am publishing the complete list and quantities of the medicines with this statement, and I am fully confident that everyone will clearly see that this is a completely normal cabinet.”
I showed Punti Dachs’ list, which includes anti-flammatories ‘bute and flunix, to a Newmarket veterinary surgeon. He said that, had the drugs been licensed, they would represent a “fairly standard list of VPOMs (veterinary prescription-only medications) a vet would carry in his car.” But UK law requires them to be properly prescribed for named horses and only UK licensed vet are allowed to administer injectables.
Punti Dachs claimed the DEFRA visit were “routine and expected.” However, Newmarket sources said this was the first time anyone could remember such a raid, and a VMD spokesman confirmed it was “intelligence-led.” He declined to comment further as “investigations are ongoing.”
A spokesman for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the UK veterinarians’ regulatory body, said: “ If an unregistered vet, for example an overseas vet, or other person has been involved, there could be a breach of the Veterinary Surgeons Act and we would support any police investigations.”
A FEI spokesman said: “It is our understanding that the matter is being investigated by the British authorities and as it is an open case of which the FEI only has indirect knowledge, we are not in a position to comment.”
According to Dachs’ website, he joined Sheikh Mohammed in the late 1990s and now trains 200 horses, primarily for the Juma’s Team, whose “elite” horses are stabled in Sheikh Mohammed’s Emirates Stables in Dubai.
Click here to learn more about the Endurance Strategic Planning Group’s initial meeting.