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Berkshire equine vet struck off for dishonesty and breaching racing rules

23 February 2011

Please note
This is an archived news story. Mr James Main was restored to the RCVS Register of Members on 22 March 2012 following successful application to the Discplinary Committee. He is therefore currently entitled to practise as a veterinary surgeon in the UK.

The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons last night [22 February 2011] directed that a veterinary surgeon from Berkshire be removed from the Register, following his administration of a prohibited substance to a racehorse and his subsequent attempts to conceal his actions.

At a six-day hearing that concluded yesterday, James Main faced four charges of serious professional misconduct concerning his treatment of Moonlit Path, a six-year-old mare owned by The Queen.

Three of the charges related to Mr Main breaching British Horseracing Authority (BHA) rules by injecting Moonlit Path with tranexamic acid (TA) on the day she was due to race; the fourth charge related to his dishonest concealment of this treatment in his practice clinical records.

Nicky Henderson had himself faced a BHA Inquiry into this case in 2009 and subsequently been sanctioned.

The Committee heard that on 18 February 2009, Mr Henderson’s yard requested a veterinary surgeon attend Moonlit Path to administer an injection of Dycenene the following morning. The injection was requested as the mare was prone to exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage.

Mr Main attended on the morning of 19 February and injected the horse with intravenous tranexamic acid.

Moonlit Path raced at Huntingdon later that day, along with the eventual winner, and favourite, Ravello Bay – another horse trained by Mr Henderson. Moonlit Path finished sixth and a urine sample taken from her after the race tested positive for TA.

Of the four charges, Mr Main admitted injecting Moonlit Path with TA on the day she was due to race when he knew this breached the BHA’s rule prohibiting any substance other than the horse’s usual feed and water being given on race day.

However, Mr Main denied knowing that, if tested, a horse would test positive for TA (thereby imposing a strict liability on the trainer); he denied administering a prohibited substance to a horse with the intention to affect that horse’s racing performance; and, he denied dishonestly concealing the TA injection by omitting it from his clinical records and referring to it as a ‘pre-race check’.

The Committee heard and carefully considered evidence from Mr Henderson and his employees, from BHA investigating officers and its Director of Equine Science and Welfare, from an expert equine physiologist and from Mr Main himself.

In its findings, the Committee stated it was “unimpressed by Mr Henderson’s evidence and surprised by his apparent lack of knowledge of the rules of racing”.

Whilst the Committee accepted Mr Main believed at the time that Moonlit Path would not test positive for TA, it considered he failed to fully inform himself of the medicinal product he was using; especially so as TA does not possess a Marketing Authorisation as a veterinary medicinal product.

In so doing, he did not meet his professional obligation to provide Mr Henderson with the information and advice he needed.

The Committee concluded that TA was a prohibited substance and, whilst accepting that Mr Main’s concern had solely been for Moonlit Path’s welfare, he had actually breached BHA rules by affecting her performance through administering such a substance.

Finally, the Committee found that Mr Main had deliberately concealed the TA injection to Moonlit Path by describing it in his notes as a ‘pre-race check’ – a protocol developed over several years between the practice and Mr Henderson.

Such inaccurate clinical records were in breach of the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct and led the Committee to conclude he had acted dishonestly.

The Committee also found Mr Main “did not act with candour” by claiming to have administered the TA injection the day before the race.

On questioning by the Legal Assessor, however, he admitted that he had known that Moonlit Path was racing the same day that he administered the injection.

Professor Sheila Crispin, chairing the Committee, said: “[We] regard it as wholly unacceptable practice that a veterinary surgeon should be party to serious breaches of rules of another regulatory body in the field of animal welfare … and which go to the very integrity of racing.

“Whilst the findings relate to a single incident, [we] are satisfied that Mr Main’s actions amounted to pre-meditated misconduct … It is highly relevant that Mr Main held positions of responsibility within the racing industry where he was required to uphold the rules and standards of the profession,” she added.

Noting Mr Main’s “long and hitherto unblemished career as a highly respected equine veterinary surgeon”, the Committee accepted Mr Main’s evidence that the reason for the administration of tranexamic acid was solely his concern about the welfare of the horse.

Nevertheless, it found his evidence was “evasive, lacking in candour and on some aspects of the case his evidence was untrue”.

Professor Crispin concluded: “…proven dishonesty has been held to come at the top end of the spectrum of gravity of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect … Having considered carefully all the mitigation put forward on Mr Main’s behalf, [we] have concluded that Mr Main’s behaviour was wholly unacceptable and so serious that removal of his name from the Register is required.”

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