A Uruguayan endurance rider has been handed a record three-year ban for a controlled medications offence, because of his history of prior violations.

Facundo Leites could have been suspended for four years for this third violation in four years’ period, though the FEI and its independent Tribunal felt three years was appropriate. Leites, 27, will have served suspensions totalling four and half years when this latest one ends in January 2024, unless he appeals.

Leites claimed he had accepted the ride at Bou Thib, Abu Dhabi in February 19 on Calandria Noe at short notice and could not have known the mare had recently been dosed with the corticosteroid Flumetasone to treat “chronic arthrosis” in the fetlock joint. The stable vet injected her eight eight days before the scheduled race. The trainer blamed the positive sample on the ride then being brought forward.

The trainer, Ali Nasser Sultan al Yabhouni, said his stable was one of the most “respectful” in the country. He had carried out his own investigation, and found miscommunication between stable staff in recording the treatment and the entry made for the ride, for which he apologised.

However, for the Tribunal, Dianne Pitts agreed with the FEI legal department that this explanation was unsubstantiated.

Leites’ two prior violations also occurred at rides in the UAE.

In 2017 he was suspended for six months when Ascot de Montfluq was administered with Phenylbutazone and Dexamethasone five days before the ride “by the head groom due to an accident” of which Leites was allegedly unaware. He had never ridden the horse before.

In 2019 he was suspended for a year after Altanera was sedated with the controlled Detomidine (Domosedan) for clipping 35 hours before the ride. Leites claimed this was usual and they had no positive cases before.

The FEI said the common denominator was that all three horses were medicated close to the events. Leites “has not educated himself enough on the Withdrawal and Detection Times” and “has taken no action to ensure that proper practices were adopted at the stable.”

The decision notice records that a fourth violation in four years is subject to a life ban. It also sets out lengthy extracts from the FEI athlete’s guide. These include a reminder that riders don’t have to a “legal expert” to have a basic understanding that the rider is always accountable, and to be “very careful about who you trust to care for your horses and even more so who you trust to treat your horses.”

”In the case of a borrowed horse, you should make sure you are comfortable with the horse’s treating history before competing with it. An experienced rider can quite often identify with the naked eye an irregularity in the condition and behaviour of the animal both before mounting and during the competition.”

For this latest offence, Leites was also fined 5,000 Swiss francs.