Coral Cove findings cast doubt on the vet

Andy Bathe, the former British horse trials team vet, will find the long-awaited report on the Coral Cove investigation painful reading. He emerges less than gloriously from this tangled web of cover-up and deception, which followed a positive dope test on the late Polly Phillipps' horse, Coral Cove, at the 1998 World Equestrian Games in Rome.

Andy Bathe, the former British horse trials team vet, will find the long-awaited report on the Coral Cove investigation painful reading. He emerges less than gloriously from this tangled web of cover-up and deception, which followed a positive dope test on the late Polly Phillipps' horse, Coral Cove, at the 1998 World Equestrian Games in Rome.

The report tackles the complications of the saga, which led to the forfeiture of team bronze medals and Olympic qualification before the latter was reclaimed at this year's European Championships.

Bathe contravened the rules on the morning of the final show jumping in Rome, when he gave Coral Cove a painkilling injection of salicylic acid for a sore back. This did not come to light until long after the horse's urine sample was found to contain approximately twice the permitted threshold.

In a statement provided in December 1998, Bathe claimed that Coral Cove had been given Herbasprin (a natural product) on the morning in question and that "no medication was administered... before or during he competition." On another occasion, the report says: "Bathe had stated that, according to his 'contemporaneous notes and clear recollection', 8ml of aspirin solution was injected at about 11am. He has now told us that in fact he injected a product called Salsprin..."

Phillipps, who died after Coral Cove fell on her at a cross-country fence in August, was also a vet. Many believed that she must also have administered the same substance to the horse - the hostile posse of riders who confronted her at the Bramham Horse Trials in June were clearly of that opinion.

However, two eminent veterinary professors believe that Bathe's injection on its own could have resulted in the high level recorded. Bathe, Phillipps and Giles Rowsell, chairman of the selectors, were privy to this information.

The report also concludes that Dawson Buck (chief executive), David Robinson (World Class Performance director) and John Tulloch (President of the British Equestrian Federation) had been put on notice that something untoward may have happened. While acknowledging that the Judicial Committee was "misled", the report accepts that Phillipps was "following the prescribed party line". Bathe, Rowsell and Buck are among five key officials who have since resigned.

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