Now that we’ve had a few months to digest the highs and lows of the Olympic Games in Hong Kong—from the phenomenal performances of our North American medalists to the doping incidents that are currently being settled by the Fédération Equestre Internationale Tribunal (p. 60)—we can reflect on their impacts.
Certainly, our U.S. and Canadian show jumpers have reveled in their glory this fall, making appearances and proudly wearing their gold and silver medals before appreciative audiences. It’s a far cry from the 2004 Athens Olympic show jumping team members from the United States, who earned their gold medals after a positive drug test disqualified the winning German team. Their silver medals—still a wonderful result—were exchanged for gold more than a year later during a small ceremony in Florida.
But I felt the 2004 team had missed a huge opportunity to return home on top of the world and to celebrate that huge milestone—a 20-year gap between team Olympic gold medals—with their adoring fans. Thankfully, our 2008 team, which included repeat gold medalists Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, has received that golden opportunity, and the future support of our high performance show jumpers looks bright.
On the other hand, we’ve also followed the FEI’s judicial process as the six riders whose horses tested positive for banned substances have received their hearings and most their subsequent punishments.
Last week the FEI Tribunal announced Christian Ahlmann’s result (p. 60), and curiously the German FN filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport the following day saying that the FEI’s four-month punishment was too lenient.
German FN officials are also taking additional steps to prevent Ahlmann from representing his country for two years in an effort to show how seriously they consider this drug infraction. And the German Olympic Committee is reportedly billing Ahlmann for the accommodation and transport costs he and his horse incurred in Hong Kong. German-based reporter, Birgit Popp, also notes that the German Federation is proposing to work more closely with show organizers to strengthen the country’s oversight process.
In our own country, Courtney King-Dye, whose Mythilus tested positive for the banned substance felbinac, expresses her thoughts about her elimination and the dressage team’s subsequent disqualification this week in her letter “Thank You For Your Empathy And Caring” (p. 63). She writes that the support she’s received from the
dressage community has helped her to make it through this difficult time.
Ironically, the same day I received Courtney’s letter another well-known dressage trainer and author, Paul Belasik, sent a letter expressing his disappointment in the lackadaisical response he’s seen to Courtney’s positive drug test “How Serious Are We About Doping?” (p. 63). The dichotomy of these two letters certainly speaks volumes about the wide-ranging feelings people have regarding the FEI and Olympic Games zero-tolerance policy.
As we look forward to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the next major international championship, I hope that the sport’s leaders will constructively analyze the situation in Hong Kong and employ any needed improvements so that the golden moments are the ones that we’ll remember most clearly, not a tarnished footnote.