The Fédération Equestre Internationale Tribunal today suspended U.S. show jumper Andrew Kocher for 10 years and disqualified him from eight events for using electric spurs on horses. He also has been fined $10,889 and ordered to pay costs of $8,166.
The FEI Legal Department notified Kocher on June 29, 2020, that an investigation had been opened after allegations about electric spur use were reported to the independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit. It was alleged that Kocher had used electric spurs on a number of horses in international and national events, and during training, between June 2018 and November 2019.
Following the investigation, the FEI formally opened disciplinary proceedings against Kocher in October 2020. He was suspended provisionally on Oct. 28, 2020, pending a hearing before the FEI Tribunal. That period will be credited against the full suspension, meaning Kocher is ineligible through Oct. 27, 2030.
During the suspension, Kocher is barred from participating in or attending, in any capacity, including as a spectator, any competition or event that is authorized or organized by the FEI or any National Federation. This means he may not compete at U.S. Equestrian Federation competitions.
“The U.S. Jumping Team does not tolerate any form of cheating or horse abuse and fully stands behind the outcome of the FEI Tribunal decision,” said U.S. Jumping Chef d’Equipe and Technical Advisor Robert Ridland in a USEF press release. “Horses are our willing and trusted partners in sport and deserve our ultimate care and respect in the pursuit of excellence. It is our duty as athletes and leaders in the sport to put the welfare of the horse first while ensuring a fair and level playing field at all times.”
The USEF press release also stated that the organization “unequivocally supports the decision of the FEI Tribunal.”
Kocher released the following statement in response to the decision: “In response to the charges levied against me by the FEI, I can only state that it is my intention to immediately petition [the Court of Arbitration for Sport] for review. The result was expected as the FEI Tribunal was not concerned about the truth of the matter and chose to ignore clear evidence against the FEI’s position. There was no question during the FEI proceedings that the Tribunal gave great deference to the FEI, and that the FEI relied entirely on hearsay of the current employees of a company that I have sued because they owe me a lot of money.
“The FEI’s primary evidence was a video of a device purportedly owned by me. A video of this all-important piece of evidence was presented to the FEI. The FEI did not even take this evidence into their possession for safekeeping. They allowed the witness to keep possession of the device. When I asked to examine the device, they were unable to produce it for inspection. The FEI’s witnesses testified the device did not even belong to me. It belonged to an employee of the same company that I previously mentioned I had sued. FEI witnesses testified that they used the device when they were training their own horses. Those witnesses, by information and belief, were given immunity from their own admitted actions so long as they testified against me.
“The FEI was unable to produce even one steward or show official that ever saw or witnessed the use of the alleged device. Even more astronomical was the FEI Tribunal’s refusal to allow my legal team to review the evidence firsthand when requested a month before the final hearing. They later chose to allow me an opportunity to inspect the device, after two-thirds of the evidence had been heard, and they offered my counsel one hour to examine the device. This was an offer without any real substance because the FEI knew the device was missing. They learned one month earlier that it had mysteriously disappeared and could not be located.
“Even though the FEI knew the device could not be located, they did not alert the FEI Tribunal. Instead, they allowed the FEI Tribunal and my own legal counsel to waste time fighting over an inspection that they knew full well could not take place as the evidence was missing. Interesting to note however that the FEI witness who testified that she lost the device did swear under oath that ‘I can’t find it, not for this hearing … but it could show up later!’
“There is no question there were many instances that make the appeal of this matter necessary. Everyone deserves a level playing field in these very serious and important matters and I was not afforded a fair hearing. Indeed, I was told that at the end of every FEI hearing, the Tribunal asks, ‘Do you feel you received a fair hearing?’ In my case, they never even asked!”
The sanctions include disqualification of all results obtained at events for which the FEI Tribunal was provided with photographic evidence establishing the athlete’s use of electric spurs. The eight events are: Hickstead CSI4* (Great Britain), June 21-24, 2018; Lexington CSI3* (Kentucky), May 14-18, 2019; Lexington CSI2*, May 22-26, 2019; Calgary CSI5* (Alberta), June 5-9, 2019; Calgary CSI5*, June 27-39, 2019; Traverse City CSI3* (Michigan), Aug. 7-11, 2019; Columbus CSI3*-W (Ohio), Oct. 2-6, 2019; and Toronto CSI4*-W, Nov. 5-9, 2019.
The full FEI Tribunal decision will be published here. Parties can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days of receipt of the full decision.