On Sept. 2, officials of the Fédération Equestre Internationale issued their decision on the doping case of Isabell Werth and Whisper 156. Werth received a six-month FEI suspension, from June 23 to Dec. 23, and has to pay a fine of just more than $3,300.
Whisper tested positive for the drug fluphenazine during the Wiesbaden CDI (Germany) in May. Werth immediately requested a preliminary hearing, explaining that Whisper had been administered fluphenazine by her veterinarian, Hans-Georg Stihl, to treat the condition of shivers, which made it difficult to groom or shoe the horse.
A press release composed by Werth also questioned whether the drug testing lab had new testing practices and asked, “I wish the rules were revised as quickly as possible in a way that allows reasonable treatment of sport horses without risking long suspensions because the settling times change constantly with each new method of analysis and become literally ‘incalcuable.’ ”
According to Werth’s initial testimony to the FEI, Stihl had advised her that the appropriate withdrawal time for fluphenazine was six days, so Werth competed the horse at Wiesbaden 14 days after the dose of fluphenazine. But while preparing her case for the FEI, Werth consulted the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Guidelines for Drugs and Medications, which published a 90-day detection time period for fluphenazine, so she withdrew her request for a preliminary hearing and acknowledged the violation.
The FEI decision said, “[Werth] explained that she was relying entirely on the erroneous advice of Dr. Stihl” and that she argued that “her actions in this case were an honest mistake as it is common within equestrian sport for a Person Responsible to rely entirely on a veterinarian for instructions related to medicating horses.”
In their decision, the FEI Tribunal Panel of Erik Elstad, Patrick A. Boelens and Pierre Ketterer referred to statements by John McEwen, the chairman of the Veterinary Committee, which said, “This medication has no place in the performance horse close to competition due to its potent mind-altering affects as a dopamine receptor blocking agent.”
The FEI decision also noted that Stihl had been the treating veterinarian in two other positive medication cases resulting in FEI suspensions, most notably the 2003 case of Rusty 47, which stripped German Ulla Salzgeber of the FEI World Cup Final title.
“[Werth] should have been aware of Dr. Stihl’s former involvement with riders who were found to have [doping violations] based on his advice. Also, it is quite shocking that Dr. Stihl believed the detection time for fluphenazine to be a mere six days, Dr. Kent Allen [vice chairman of the FEI Veterinary Committee] confirmed that the significant withdrawal time for fluphenazine was well-known in the veterinary community,” the decision read.
The panel also denounced Werth’s assertion that varying testing methods contributed to the positive result. “Statements like these made by [Werth], without any supporting evidence, publicly denigrate the FEI’s anti-doping program and cause harm to the sport,” they said in the decision.
Panel members took into consideration Weth’s decision to acknowledge the violation, her submission of a detailed explanation of how the drug entered Whisper’s system, her cooperation with the tribunal, and her history in the sport, and decided to reduce her suspension. According to Article 10.1 of the FEI Equine Anti-Doping and Medication Control Rules, suspensions may be up to two years.
Dennis Peiler of the German Equestrian Federation stated that they “accept the decision of the FEI and will not initiate national proceedings.”