The Queen is a cheat!

race horses

Horse racing, like equestrianism relies on ‘strict liability’ in the fight against doping.

Of course she is no such thing and you do not have to be a staunch monarchist to say so.  However the way that doping rules are written in sports where one of the athletes is non-human, horse racing for instance, mean that even she can be treated as one, even without proof of moral culpability.  This is because there is no consideration of whether the person in the ‘dock’ has deliberately or in legal terms, intentionally, given the prohibited substance to the animal.  Proof of completely innocent cross contamination might affect the length of any ban but the ‘conviction’ remains as does the stain on the sportsperson’s character.  I am not alone in thinking this is wrong, it is the way of things in human only sports, modelled on criminal offences like speeding and contravening a red stop light.  After all there is no point in saying to the magistrates that you just did not realise you were travelling over the speed limit, you will be convicted anyway, based on strict liability which takes no account of your thought process at all.  Human athletes have lost their livelihoods over taking Ibuprofen and a Vicks Inhaler product, both taken completely innocently.  This is bad enough, some academic commentators go as far as to say ‘repugnant’ but to take the same approach with non-autonomous animals means somewhere in pursuing the Corinthian Ideals we took a wrong turn and it is time we turned back.  This is why  I decided to focus much of my doctoral study on the construction of these kinds of rules in disputes involving sport horses, particularly over prohibited substances.


Last  year I was asked to do a short piece for ‘The Conversation’ about the Queen’s horse Estimate who in a post race test was found to have traces of morphine, probably from feed contaminated by accident during the manufacturing process.  Her Majesty the Queen is not a cheat but the rules as they are currently written take no account of that and punish anyway.  If that is the case for the Monarch, what hope do ordinary folk just starting out in equine -based sport have?…

The British Horse Racing Authority has revealed a total of seven racehorses have now tested positive for morphine in post-race samples. Unremarkable perhaps to a public jaded by reports of human athletes failing drugs tests, or even seeing drug abuse as a way of sporting life…. (Read the whole article at )


About Dr Jonathan Glen Merritt

Senior Lecturer in Sports Law and Criminal Justice, and a member of the Sports Law Unit at Leicester De Montfort University School of Law, UK. PhD in Equine sports law governance, especially disciplinary structures. Also competing as an owner and rider with British Dressage. Obviously all views expressed are author's alone except where a guest author has contributed.
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2 Responses to The Queen is a cheat!

  1. Liz says:

    Spot on! Nicely written!!

    Liked by 1 person

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