The equestrian events at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong last month were marred by six cases of possible banned substances, all amid rather unusual circumstances.
The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) acted so quickly to suspend four riders and horses that tested positive for capsaicin after the team jumping competition on Aug. 18 that they weren’t allowed to compete in the individual competition three days later.
The four included: Bernardo Alves, Brazil, on Chupa Chup; Christian Ahlmann, Germany, on Coster; Denis Lynch, Ireland, on Latinus; Tony Andre Hansen, Norway, on Camiro. If Hansen’s suspension is upheld, Norway will lose the bronze medal it won in team jumping.
U.S. dressage rider Courtney King-Dye learned Aug. 22 that her horse Mythilus tested positive for a minute amount of felbinac on a sample drawn Aug. 19 after the individual competition where she finished 13th. And Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil learned his horse Rufus tested for nonivamide five days after he finished fifth in the individual jumping competition on Aug. 28.
All the drugs are used in topical solutions. A second sample for each horse has also tested positive.
Alves, Lynch and King-Dye attended FEI hearings in Switzerland the first weekend in September. Lynch and Alves were given extensions for additional statements. A final decision for King-Dye case was expected Sept. 19. All three riders remained under provisional suspension from FEI competition.
Hearings for Hansen, Ahlmann and Pessoa were scheduled for the last week in September.
The FEI has an ”accelerated procedure in place for the Olympic Games” for testing both samples, in stark contrast to 2004 when both team and individual jumping medals were redistributed months after the end of the Athens Games due to positive drug tests. The FEI has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and medications.
In the case of the four team-jumping horses, which all tested positive for the same drug, only 15 of the 49 horses in the competition were tested. They were chosen by random selection, including one horse from each winning team.
The specific test for capsaicin has existed for only two years. This was the first time the drug has tested positive in sport horses, according to Paul Farrington of Great Britain, a member of the FEI Veterinary Commission.
Equi-Block and anti-chew products that contain capsaicin have been mentioned as possible culprits for the team jumping horses.
Mythilus was treated in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Clinic for artrial fibrillation as a result of stress from his trip there, in close cooperation with the FEI Veterinary Commission. King-Dye and USEF team vet Dr. Rick Mitchell believe the horse came in contact with the drug during that treatment.
King-Dye said neither she nor her vets had ever heard of the drug and since learned it’s unavailable in the U.S. The FEI stated: ”There are circumstances in this case that makes it difficult to clear out how the prohibited substance entered into the horse’s system.”