A Guide to Avoiding Prohibited Substances

Article last updated: 16th June 2021

To try to ensure fair competition most affiliated organisations including showing, breed societies, riding clubs, FEI sports and racing, define certain substances as performance affecting and are therefore not allowed to be present in the horse. The level to which competing horses are tested varies, but any competitor could be subject to testing if the organisers so desired. It is important people competing in affiliated competitions are aware of the risks.

What’s a naturally occurring prohibited substance (NOPS)?

NOPS are prohibited substances that are naturally occurring in plants that can contaminate feed materials used for horse feed. They are not intentionally fed to the horse but their presence will still cause a positive test result and the trainer/rider will forfeit the winnings. If it is proven that the feed was the source of the positive test, then the rider or trainer is unlikely to receive a ban or fine if they use a NOPS approved feed or can demonstrate they have not been negligent in the feeds they choose to use (see information below). Please note that in disciplines other than racing, the rider is responsible for the horse even if they only accept the ride on the day of the competition.

BETA NOPS Code of Practice

  • Aims to be the industry standard that allows a company to show due diligence – in other words the company is doing everything practically possible to reduce the risk of contamination with NOPS.
  • Requires an annual independent audit
  • Covers all prohibited substances not just morphine
  • Includes HACCPS, traceability, testing procedures and risk management

All Dengie feeds are approved under the BETA NOPS scheme. It is NOT a guarantee but a mark that we have done all we can to reduce the risk of contamination with NOPS.

Advice for riders and trainers

If you choose to use a non-NOPS assured supplier and they tell you they don’t use materials containing prohibited substances, your response to them should be “and what do you do to reduce the risk of accidental contamination with NOPS in the ingredients you do use?” We would also recommend you ask why they aren’t NOPS approved as this will help you to assess the level of risk you are undertaking by using their products. Do be aware that lots of commonly used ingredients have had issues of contamination with NOPS in the past which is why the BETA NOPS scheme exists as it provides a framework to help reduce the risks of these issues happening again.

What are the consequences if you use non-NOPS products?

This centres around the concept of negligence. Negligence is the failure to take proper care over something and as a rider or trainer competing under rules, it is your responsibility to “take proper care” over ensuring no prohibited substances have been administered to your horse. This includes use of medications but also means you have a responsibility to use feeds that have been produced with sufficient care applied to them to reduce the risk of contamination with NOPS. The easiest way for you to demonstrate this should the worst happen and you have a positive test result, is to show that you have used feeds from a NOPS assured supplier. If you choose to use a non-NOPS approved supplier then you should request statements in writing from your supplier that you could present at a tribunal to show that you did assess the level of risk of potential NOPS contamination and were satisfied that suitable and sufficient measures were in place to reduce the risk and therefore demonstrate that you and the manufacture have not been negligent.

What else should you be doing?

  • Ask yourself whether you know exactly where all the feeds, supplements, forage you use are coming from and what they contain – ignorance is no excuse. Be aware that even your vet may not fully understand the risks relating to NOPS
  • Identify any potential sources of contamination – where do you make your tea and coffee on the yard, is it near the feedroom. Where do people have their lunch – does anyone sit on the hay bales to have a break?
  • Implement good practice – don’t share buckets, scoops and stirrers, especially if medication is being used for some horses
  • Keep batch details of feed – a photo of the statutory statement or label is ideal and retain a small sample from each batch if you can
  • If you make your own forage or you purchase from a local supplier, make sure you risk assess it. There are lots of environmental benefits from organic forage but do consider that it is likely to mean there will be greater opportunity for other plant species to be present in the forage. Make sure the producer knows that these could be a potential problem for you if you compete under rules. The key species to watch out for are ornamental or commercially grown poppies (usually ranging in colour from purple down to lilac and white in some cases) which are a source of morphine. Wild or common red poppies may also be an issue if present in significant quantities.

If you would like to learn more about NOPS here are some useful links

British Equestrian Trade Association – BETA NOPS Scheme

FEI – Contamination prevention