New Zealand eventing rider Andrew Nicholson and horse Avebury are the new official champions of the 2013 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials held last September in the United Kindom, following the doping-related disqualification of compatriot Jonathan (“Jock”) Paget and horse Clifton Promise.

In an unusual order of events, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) tribunal made Paget’s disqualification official prior to the full case hearing, FEI representatives said. This “partial decision” was handed down following Paget’s request to not delay the disqualification any further.

“Paget is aware that the ongoing uncertainty with regard to the Burghley title is having a detrimental effect on the sport of eventing and especially the build-up to the first two major events of the Northern Hemisphere season, this weekend’s Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event and the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (May 8-11),” Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) stated on their website.

Nicholson and Avebury, a 14-year-old gray sport horse gelding, will compete in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, which gets under way today (April 24) in Lexington, Ky.

Although Paget insists that he is not at fault and was unaware that 14-year-old Clifton Promise had received the prohibited tranquilizer reserpine, he acknowledges that the substance was found in the horse’s two blood samples taken Sept. 8 at Burghley, according to the tribunal's decision. Regardless of fault, a positive blood sample would “inevitably” lead to disqualification at the final ruling, the decision read. Thus, on April 7, Paget requested that this part of the decision—which includes forfeit of prize and points from Burghley—be handed down immediately. The request was granted on April 9.

“A ruling on the automatic disqualification from the event in advance of a full hearing was of importance for the reputation and integrity of the sport, and in order to gain clarity over the winner of the event in advance of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, scheduled to commence on May 7, 2014,” wrote Pierre Ketterer, chair of the tribunal panel, in the April 22 decision.

In addition to the disqualification, Paget faces a two-year suspension from all international competitions, as well as a fine, an FEI representative told The Horse. The amount of the fine would be determined by the tribunal at the time of the final hearing, which should take place in London, England in June.