In a statement last night the BHTA said: "Coral Cove was injected with a substance in a manner contrary to International Equestrian Federation (FEI) regulations." Asked whether the injection was administered by the team vet, Clarke Willis, managing director of BHTA, said: "That is the implication, but we need corroborative evidence."
The statement followed a meeting of the BHTA board, which lasted several hours. Bill Henson, a member of the board and director of the Bramham Horse and Hound International Three-Day Event which was proceeding quietly in the dressage arena, emerged to say: "I am absolutely amazed by what I have heard today. I am shattered at what has gone on."
Polly Phillipps, the rider of Coral Cove, would have liked an inquiry to have been held in December, after the news that the horse's second urine sample (taken at last year's World Equestrian Games) had tested positive to salicylic acid above the permitted threshold. Unless Phillipps appeals successfully, Britain has forfeited both Olympic qualification and the bronze medal won at the World Games.
"We've lost a lot of business," Phillipps said of her own veterinary practice and her husband's horse dealing interests. "It seems cruel that we have taken all the flak for it when we have done nothing wrong. It will put me off going on a team again."
Phillipps, who was lying eighth with Coral Cove after yesterday's dressage was completed, had expected her name to be cleared when the statement eventually emerged. The exoneration was, however, implied rather than stated.
Having foolishly decided to keep news of the positive test under wraps when it emerged last year, the BHTA now find themselves with a saga that is set to run and run. An independent inquiry (as distinct from the one which has just been conducted by the British Equestrian Federation) will now take place.
"We need to find out who knew what. There are still things that don't add up," Willis said. The association will be asking their lawyers to recommend someone outside the sport to chair the next inquiry.
Meanwhile, the New Zealander Blyth Tait retained his overnight lead on Welton Envoy at the end of the dressage phase yesterday.
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