This story was updated June 14 with a statement from the International Testing Agency.
Buck Davidson was suspended by the Fédération Equestre Internationale on June 2 after a drug test conducted April 30 at the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L revealed a stimulant in his system.
Davidson confirmed that he tested positive for a medication, which he said he has been prescribed by his doctor since he was 12 years old. He explained that the FEI Therapeutic Use Exemption paperwork, which he has been filing with the FEI since 2013, had not been renewed on time.
“I go to the doctor every quarter,” said Davidson, Ocala, Florida. “I’ve had the same doctor, same medication, same everything, since I was a kid. This was a paperwork mess-up. I get drug tested all the time. Everybody knows I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. I’ve never taken recreational drugs.”
Davidson, who represented Team USA at two world championships and earned team gold and individual bronze at the 2011 Guadalajara Pan American Games (Mexico), declined to specify the medication, but he said that he didn’t receive a notice that the TUE was due to expire, so he didn’t know he had to re-file for a new one. He said he immediately applied for—and was granted—a new TUE as soon as he found out the paperwork had lapsed. He has employed lawyer Howard Jacobs to help get the situation sorted and has applied for a retroactive TUE.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation, which has also suspended Davidson because it honors FEI suspensions, released a statement confirming what Davidson said.
“We have been notified by the International Testing Agency (ITA) that a prohibited substance was detected in a sample collected from U.S. eventing athlete Bruce O. Davidson Jr. at the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L in Lexington, Ky.,” the statement reads. “Due to a missed expiration date, Mr. Davidson is seeking a retroactive therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for a prescribed medication that he has been permitted to take since 2013 under the applicable rules, and for which he has been granted a TUE prospectively. The ITA has jurisdiction over this matter and USEF will enforce their final decision.”
The ITA issued a statement Wednesday regarding the case:
“As publicly disclosed by the athlete himself, the ITA can now confirm that the athlete filed a request to obtain a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption for amfetamine,” the statement read. “The request has been referred to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which needs to give its agreement pursuant to the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemption. If the retroactive TUE is granted, the case will not be considered as an anti-doping rule violation and no consequences will be imposed. If the retroactive TUE application is denied, the results management of the case will be pursued.”
Remembering to renew a TUE can be tricky, Davidson said, as they can last as long as four or eight years, and riders must check their paperwork to keep track of their expiration dates.
“I wasn’t trying to deceive anyone,” he said. “If it was every year or six months it’d be one thing.”
Davidson, 47, said that to the best of his knowledge he never got a “piece of paper or an email” informing him or his longtime secretary it was due.
“I’m genuinely sorry to the sport,” he said. “It gives us a black eye. It looks worse than it really was. I’m sorry to everyone. I feel bad for my family, my owners, my sponsors, the sport, FEI, everybody associated with the sport.”
In one positive outcome of his suspension, Davidson said his situation has served to remind other riders to check on the status of their own paperwork.
“I’ve saved a lot of people,” he said. “They’ve called and said, ‘Oh my God, my TUE expired. I’ve luckily not gotten tested.’ It’s not clear where to find these things. We need changes at the highest level.”
He called the lapse an honest mistake and took responsibility for the expired paperwork.
“I made a mistake on a piece of paper,” he said. “I had a super horse I was really excited about [for the Bromont CCI (Quebec)], and a bunch of students to train. But as long as my kids are healthy, I’m OK. At the end of the day there’s bigger things. I can look at myself in the mirror and know without a shadow of a doubt that I did not cheat. I messed up on the deadline.”