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Three-year ban for Cheltenham horse dope dad and son from Northern Ireland

By Staff Reporter

A father and son team from Northern Ireland have been banned from racing for three years for horse doping.

The suspension comes after their horse Anseanachai Cliste was withdrawn from a race at the Cheltenham Festival on March 17 after being injected with a tonic that contained banned cobalt.

Trainer Stephen McConville and owner and jockey Michael McConville admitted doping charges at a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) hearing.

The pair faced a disciplinary panel yesterday to answer doping charges brought against them by the BHA after the nine-year-old was found to have cobalt above the permitted threshold in a urine sample taken before he was due to run in the Foxhunter Chase.

The horse was withdrawn from the race by order of the stewards, with a BHA report stating they "could not be satisfied that the horse had been administered only normal feed and water on race day".

The case is the first in Britain concerning a positive test for cobalt, but there have been a number of high-profile cases in Australia.

Both Stephen and Michael McConville faced charges over allowing or causing the administration, or conniving in the administration of prohibited substances, having such items in their possession on a racecourse on a race day and attempting to obstruct the proper administration or control of racing, specifically by deliberately misleading, or endeavouring to mislead stewards and/or a BHA employee.

Michael McConville also had to answer whether he failed to act in the interests of the horse's best health and welfare by administering substances, namely adrenal cortex, without veterinary consultation or advice.

For his part, Stephen McConville had to answer if he was complicit in assisting, aiding and/or engaging the responsible person (his son) for the horse in violations of the equine anti-doping rules.

In a statement, the McConvilles accepted full responsibility and apologised for the incident. The statement read: "We fully accept the finding of the British Horseracing Authority and regret that they had to invest time and resources to investigate and address the incident.

"We apologise for what has happened, which was of our own doing due to lack of knowledge. However, this is no excuse for what happened at Cheltenham.

"The horse was administered the tonic - Hemo 15 - which is a widely used nutritional supplement which, unknown to us, contained cobalt.

"We now just wish to put this unfortunate matter behind us as it has caused a lot of stress to all members of our family as the horses and point-to-pointing is purely a hobby for the family. Again, we wish to apologise to the BHA for this unfortunate incident and thank them for the fair hearing."

Anseanachai Cliste had won eight successive point-to-points prior to his arrival at Prestbury Park in March and went on to win the Ulster National at Downpatrick nine days later.

The early admissions by the pair meant the disqualifications were reduced from five years for Michael McConville and from four years for his father.

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