|FEI Statement, October 15, 2008|
In response to the alleged participation of Rodrigo Pessoa at the upcoming Global Champions Tour Final in Sao Paolo (BRA) to be held from October 15-19, the FEI stands by the decision of the Tribunal which stated that Rodrigo Pessoa "is suspended for a period of four and a half months (135 days), which period began on the date of the application of the provisional suspension, August 29, 2008, and shall run up to January 10, 2009." In order to have the suspension lifted, Rodrigo Pessoa must obtain a decision from the the Court of Arbitration for Sport, however, as this has not been the case, the above decision still applies and Rodrigo Pessoa remains suspended and is therefore not permitted to compete at any international event. "We understand that he has obtained an injunction from a national court compelling the Brazilian National Federation to enter him in the event," said Alexander McLin, FEI Secretary General, of Pessoa. "That he should take such action is highly disappointing and inappropriate for a sportsman in his position. We will take all necessary further disciplinary action should local court orders or circumstances allow him to take part in the competition. Any result obtained by him in an international competition while under suspension would be void."
Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 16, 2008 -- Despite permission from a Brazilian court that would have enabled him to ride in the $2.6 million Global Champions Tour Final today, former Olympic gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil decided at the last minute against entering the competition, thus continuing the suspension imposed by the FEI (international equestrian federation) after his horse tested positive for traces of a prohibited substance at the Hong Kong Games.
Pessoa wanted to compete on Rufus, his 2008 Olympic mount, during the high-profile meet in his homeland. That action would have defied the FEI's decision to ban Pessoa from competition for four and one-half months, until January. The ruling also eliminated him from the Olympics, where he finished fifth.
An angry Pessoa, who serves as the riders' representative on the FEI show jumping committee, is calling for changes in the FEI drug regulations, which he maintains are not fair the way they are currently written.
Reacting to Pessoa's intention to compete, the FEI warned that if the former World Cup titleist and world champion did participate, there would be "further disciplinary action" and any result he had in the competition would be "null and void."
This morning, Pessoa spoke for an hour with Princess Haya of Jordan, president of the FEI, and then discussed his situation with colleagues and advisors before bowing out.
Explaining why he didn't ride, Pessoa said, "I decided not to because I thought I proved the point strongly enough and gave a wake-up call to the FEI that we have a real problem and need to solve the problem."
Following his conversation with the Princess, he believes there is now "a bit of comprehension on the other side. What was important for me was that I had the authorization and that if I wanted to jump, I could have."
He warned, however, "We're going to need more than an hour on the phone to solve the problem. We want to help the FEI fix those problems, because they don't have the 100 percent capacity to do it. We can give them the winning formula because we know what we need and what is good for the sport."
Rufus tested positive for Nonivamide, a capsicum derivative that both hypersensitizes and relieves pain during various stages as it is metabolized by a living organism. Think chili pepper--where the initial hot reaction gives way to numbness. While the FEI tribunal that handled Pessoa's case noted the substance is only newly detectable and often given for therapeutic reasons, it is still banned, even in the tiny amount found in Rufus' samples.
Pessoa said Nonivamide had been used by one of his grooms to treat a broken collarbone, adding, "one day, he probably did not wash properly." He said another man in the stables was also using the substance on himself and there was contamination from an ice machine used on the horse, as well as possibly from some feed.
"All of this was proven, but they don't listen to consideration," Pessoa said of the tribunal.
The panel differed on that point. Although it noted Pessoa had "an impeccable record and reputation," it said he could not prove the source of the contamination, citing "poor stable management for this level of event."