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May 23, 2012

Medication Violations Mean Two Top Saudi Show Jumpers Will Miss The Olympic Games

Abdullah Sharbatly, the individual bronze medalist of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.), won't be competing at the London Olympic Games later this year. Photo by Molly Sorge.

On May 23, the Fédération Equestre Internationale Tribunal issued its decisions in the cases of the two Saudi Arabian athletes, Khaled Al Eid and Abdullah Waleed Sharbatly, whose horses tested positive for controlled medication substances. The Tribunal has imposed suspensions of eight months on both riders, which prevents them from competing in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Al Eid, the individual bronze medalist from the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and Sharbatly, the individual bronze medalist from the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, were both considered favorites for the Saudi show jumping team at the London Games.

The horses, Vanhoeve (Khaled Al Eid) and Lobster 43 (Abdullah Sharbatly), tested positive to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone (a metabolite of phenylbutazone) at two separate events.

Vanhoeve was sampled at the Riyadh CSI***-W (Saudi Arabia) on Nov. 30-Dec. 3, 2011, and the positive finding was notified to the athlete on Feb. 2. Al Eid voluntarily suspended himself without prejudice on Feb. 24.

An adverse analytical finding for the horse Lobster 43 resulted from testing at the CSI***-W at Al Ain (United Arab Emirates) on Feb. 9-11. The case was notified to Sharbatly on Feb. 24, and the athlete also put himself on a voluntary suspension, commencing on Feb. 28.

Controlled medication substances are those that are prohibited in competition but are permitted for treatment use outside competition. FEI rules provide that the suspension period for controlled medication substances can be anywhere between a warning to two years.

The final hearing before the FEI Tribunal for both cases took place at FEI Headquarters in Lausanne (Switzerland) on April 18-19. The panel for both hearings was composed of the FEI Tribunal Chair, Professor Dr. Jens Adolphsen (Germany), Pierre Ketterer (France) and Randi Haukebø (Norway).

In its final decision on the Vanhoeve case, which was issued to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia National Federation, the Tribunal found that the Person Responsible, Al Eid, failed to prove that ingestion by means of exposure to a contaminated stable environment was the likely source of the prohibited substances found in the horse’s system.

While it acknowledged the importance of the Olympic Games, which had been stressed by both the Al Eid and counsel for the Al Eid during the hearing, the Tribunal stated that considering the upcoming Games while determining the length of suspension would not provide a level playing field in a sports calendar that offers major events almost every year, and that rules have to be applied consistently throughout the four-year Olympic cycle.

The Tribunal imposed an eight-month suspension, effective immediately and backdated to Feb. 24, the day Al Eid accepted a period of Voluntary Provisional Suspension. In addition, the Tribunal imposed a fine of $1,053 and costs of $3,160. 

In its final decision on the Lobster 43 case, which was also notified to the KSA National Federation on May 23, the Tribunal found that Sharbatly failed to establish how the prohibited substances entered the horse’s system. The Tribunal rejected Sharbatly's theories on ingestion in a contaminated environment. The Tribunal also ruled that as phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone are not threshold substances, any quantity of those substances is considered a positive.

The Tribunal imposed a suspension of eight months, effective immediately and credited from the time of sample collection on Feb. 10, based on Sharbatly’s timely acceptance of the rule violations. The Tribunal also imposed a fine of $1,053 and costs of $3,160.

Sharbatly and Al Eid have 30 days from the date of notification on May 23 to appeal the findings to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

The final decisions in the two cases can be read in full here: Vanhoeve; Lobster 43.