This article was originally published Jan. 13, 2021, and was updated twice May 4 to include the final decision and a response from Equine Canada.
On Jan. 12, the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed appeals lodged by Canadian show jumping athlete Nicole Walker and Equestrian Canada against her disqualification for an anti-doping rule violation at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
A sample taken from Walker, who was a member of the fourth-placed Canadian team and also finished fourth with Falco Van Spieveld in the individual final, tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, which is a prohibited substance under the WADA Prohibited Substance List. The sample was taken Aug. 7, the day of the team final in Lima.
In its decision on Dec. 11, 2019, the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission disqualified Walker’s individual result obtained Aug. 7 and 9, 2019, and her results from Aug. 6 and 7, 2019, were replaced with those of the fourth Canadian team member for the team final, meaning that Argentina earned a team quota place for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The appeal to CAS was heard via videoconference Dec. 21 and 23, 2020, with the FEI as one of several parties involved. Both Walker and Equestrian Canada requested that the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission decision be set aside and that the results she obtained in Lima be reinstated. A successful appeal would have meant Canada’s reinstatement to fourth place in the team competition and qualification for the Canadian jumping team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Updated: May 4, 3:30 p.m.
On April 22, the Court of Arbitration for Sport released its final decision on the appeal made by Walker and Equestrian Canada.
The CAS panel accepted Walker’s statement that she “did not intentionally ingest cocaine” on or prior to August 7, 2019, and that the positive result was due to “her using a teabag containing cocaine which she took from the breakfast service area of the Los Incas Lima Hotel.”
Equine Canada issued a statement expressing disappointment in the ruling and highlighting the accidental nature of the violation, saying the panel exonerated Walker:
“EC is pleased that the CAS Panel accepted that Nicole innocently drank of cup of coca tea, believing it to be green tea. EC is further pleased that CAS found that the Canadian Show Jumping Team was not warned about the prevalence of coca-based products in Peru and that neither the Canadian Show Jumping Team nor Nicole had any knowledge that coca meant cocaine.”
Despite accepting Walker’s reasoning, the panel decided that because she signed the Minimum Eligibility Form including a statement agreeing to all anti-doping procedures, that her result must still be voided.
As a result, Team Canada’s disqualification from the 2019 Pan American Games stands, and the team will not regain its qualifying result for the Tokyo Olympics. Argentina’s jumping team quota place for the Tokyo Olympic Games is now confirmed.
“I am very pleased that CAS accepted what I said as factually and scientifically correct. I take my health, competitions, and duty as a team athlete very seriously,” Walker said in a press release. “While I appreciate the personal vindication, that is not as important to me as the team being able to compete.
“It’s very unfair that my teammates are barred from competing at the Olympic Games when the truth has been accepted,” she continued. “Team Canada competed fairly and has earned the right to be in Tokyo.”