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August 23, 2008 — IRISH team vet Marcus Swail last night insisted show jumper Denis Lynch was “totally unaware” of the danger of using the lotion that led to his disqualification from the Olympic show jumping final.
The 32-year-old Tipperary-born rider was disqualified from competing in the individual show jumping final on Thursday when it was revealed that his horse, Lantinus, had tested positive for a banned substance called capsaicin.
“When I told Denis about the test result we were close to the horse’s stable and he turned around and walked straight over to Lantinus’ stable door,” Swail said.
“There was a wooden tack-box hanging over the front of the door with grooming things in it and the horse had his head hanging out over the top of it.
“Denis put his hand into the box and pulled out a tub of Equi-Block, saying that he thought it contained capsaicin — now if you knew it was illegal to use it, you would hardly leave it sitting in a box at the front of the stable where anyone could see it would you? Denis was horrified.”
The Irish contingent in Hong Kong are aware of the tidal wave of criticism being directed toward them following the latest humiliating disqualification from the Games.
Yesterday, they were holed up in their hotel while Typhoon Nuri blew through, leading to delayed departures for horses, competitors and officials.
“I’ve heard that people have been saying how can we all have been so stupid,” Mr Swail said.
“But I would say to that — if you were Denis Lynch and you used that preparation all the time and the horse was tested seven or eight times over the nine months since you had him and each time the test was negative and you never heard of a positive result for this product — would it not be reasonable to believe it was fine to use it?”
The banned substance capsaicin creates a burning sensation and, if applied to a horse’s legs, “could hyper-sensitise them and make them jump better in competition”, a press conference heard earlier this week.
However, Mr Swail insisted Equi-Block has little or no burning effect when applied to the skin.
At the hastily convened Irish team press conference last Thursday night, the Irish veterinary surgeon said, “I invite you to come up here and try it” as he laid the tub of Equi-Block on the table.
Written on the label was “contains capsaicin”, with the additional claim that horses will not test positive when the substance is applied. “If you were hoping to create a burning sensation with it, then you would be looking for your money back,” he pointed out.
“Denis uses it to loosen muscles on his horse’s lower back as part of his normal routine,” Mr Swail explained.
The FEI has only recently broadened its screening programme to search for capsaicin in the belief that it is being used in an abusive manner to make horses jump more carefully.
“The rules are changing all the time and people are getting caught up by mistake. Denis doesn’t deserve this,” Mr Swail insisted.
Lucy O’Brien in Hong Kong