McConvilles banned over 'Cliste' doping
Father and son Stephen and Michael McConville were disqualified for three years apiece by the British Horseracing Authority's disciplinary panel following Anseanachai Cliste, their intended runner in the Foxhunters Chase at this year's Cheltenham Festival, becoming the first horse to return a positive test for cobalt in England.
The County Armagh-based trainer and his son, who was the horse's owner and amateur jockey, faced nine anti-doping charges.
The panel heard how suspicions had been raised when two syringes dripping with fresh blood were found in a random search of a bag belonging to the McConvilles being brought into the racecourse stables on the day of the race.
It also contained two glass bottles; Haemo 15, a tonic, and Adrenal Cortex, an anti-inflammatory.
Not satisfied that Anseanachai Cliste had only been administered in his feed and water on a race day as per the rules, the stewards withdrew the gelding and ordered the dope test, which tested positive for cobalt.
The panel accepted that neither McConville had any real understanding of the components of the substances they administered, although they had a general belief it would help their horse in some way in the race later that day.
The panel also accepted that a cheat intending to introduce cobalt to a racehorse for blood improving purposes would not use Haemo 15.
But it added: "The real vice of what they did was the deliberate breach of race-day administration rules, combined with the welfare risks they took.
"There was an element of pre-meditation.
"They brought with them from Northern Ireland the two substances intending to use them or, at least, giving them the chance of using them."
The McConvilles were given five and four-year disqualifications, but each had them reduced to three years for early admission. The McConvilles issued a statement accepting full responsibility and apologised for the incident.
It said: "We fully accept the BHA findings and regret they had to invest time and resources to investigate the incident.
"We apologise for what has happened, which was due to our lack of knowledge.
"However, that is no excuse for what happened at Cheltenham. The horse was administered the tonic which is a widely used supplement which, unknown to us, contained cobalt.
"We now wish to put this 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."
Cobalt is an essential dietary mineral in mammals at a low level.
However, increased levels can increase red blood cell production which means a greater ability to carry oxygen and maintain higher performance levels for longer so boosting endurance.
It has a similar effect to EPO in humans and has been a problem in Australian racing.