Bahrain appears set to lose its World Endurance Championships team gold medal to France, following a steroids positive by its 18th placed rider.

Hera Durances, ridden by Abdulrahman Mohammed Alzayed, tested positive to the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol and its metabolite 16-beta-hydroxystanozolol, following sampling during the championship last month at Butheeb in the UAE.

A positive from one horse does not automatically result in disqualification of the whole team at a FEI world championship. However, only three of Bahrain’s five riders completed so it has no drop scores to reinstate and can no longer deliver a result.

The rider and the horse’s trainer Muhammad Abbas Khalid have been provisionally suspended from March 20. They have 20 days to respond to the FEI, and can request that the B sample is tested. The FEI is making no comment while these proceedings are ongoing.

Once the positive is accepted, disqualification of the result will be non-negotiable under the “strict liability” principle that applies to the FEI and all WADA-aligned sports. The rider and trainer may be eligible for a reduction in the standard two-year suspension if they promptly admit the offence, or if they can prove they were not at fault.

Portugal is expected to move up to silver place, and Italy to bronze.

The news will further tarnish FEI hopes that the (delayed) 2022 championship would be uncontroversial, following the abandonment of the race during the 2018 World Equestrian Games, and then the last-minute switch of venue to Butheeb after the FEI decided original host Verona could not be ready on time.

As well as the potential embarrassment caused by Bahrain, two horses were confirmed to have died of metabolic complications. Both passed all the veterinary inspections and completed the race, but one died enroute to Dubai Equine Hospital for further care later that night, and the other three days after transfer to the same state-of-the-art facility.