Antony Noel Parsons is a whistle-blower on equine doping, literally. The top veterinary professional from New Zealand ‘whistles secret tunes in the ears of horses in quiet stables’ so urine samples can be collected without hassles.
The Kiwi, who is here at the Guangzhou equestrian venue for the Games, takes blood and urine samples because, he says, he is duty-bound to ensure the event is drug-free. "Just like humans, horses must also compete at the Asian Games drug-free. Extracting blood is somewhat straightforward. Extracting urine is somewhat tricky," he says.
"We collect the horses coming out of the arena and put them in a quiet stable," says Parsons, adding, "I whistle my secret little tunes to the horse. Most horses will urinate when they are unsaddled and they relax after competing."
At the Games, he has the unenviable task of testing the horses of every medal-winner. It's not an easy job, and here's where his talent comes to the fore. The 51-year-old doctor from Taupo, New Zealand is working at the continental games for the first time, after being a vet with the international equestrian federation (FEI) events in Australia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Parsons says that, "A horse has to compete on its own ability. We don't want any unnatural stimulants or, in dressage, any calming agents. The rules say that say that a horse should compete on its inherent merit and should be drug-free at the time of competition. Drugs or prohibited substances are broadly defined as substances that have a pharmacological action on a horse's system and may influence its performance or mask an underlying health issue and so could falsely affect the outcome of the competition," he explains.
"FEI rules say that the use of herbal or natural products affects the performance of a horse or pony in a calming or energising manner and is expressly forbidden." He also has a word of caution for the riders. "In all cases, it is the responsibility of the rider to ensure the horse is drug-free at the time of competition."
The samples he collects are sent to the Jockey Club Laboratory in Hong Kong, which is a two-hour drive from Guangzhou, for testing and results are out next morning. “Any positive result is reported to FEI.”