German Equestrian Team Being Investigated by FEI — Updated

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Marco Kutscher and Cornet Obolensky of Germany at the 2008 Olympic Games. © 2008 Ken Braddick
Marco Kutscher and Cornet Obolensky of Germany at the 2008 Olympic Games. © 2008 Ken Braddick

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, May 4-The International Equestrian Federation announced Monday it is establishing a high-level Presidential ethics panel to assess and further investigate practices among members of the German equestrian team.

“This action is a step in an investigation being conducted further to information that has recently been made available to the FEI, supplemented with recent media reports including admissions by Marco Kutscher, a German jumping rider, and Björn Nolting, the former team veterinarian,” the international federation that is known by the acronym FEI for its name in French said in a statement.

Former German team veterinarian Björn Nolting after being told that Christian Ahlmann was suspended at the Beijing Olympics. © 2008 Ken Braddick
Former German team veterinarian Björn Nolting after being told that Christian Ahlmann was suspended at the Beijing Olympics. © 2008 Ken Braddick

“The formation of this panel is in line with the FEI’s ongoing and comprehensive efforts on ensuring clean sport and horse welfare. It is an exceptional measure which reflects the potential involvement of representatives of a National Federation in behavior that could constitute violations of the FEI drug rules.

“The objective of the ethics panel will be to thoroughly investigate this evidence and the surrounding circumstances and make recommendations to the President as to further action. The composition of the panel will be announced shortly.”

Nolting resigned several months ago as the German jumping team veterinarian but remains as the German dressage team vet.

Kutscher is employed and trained by Ludger Beerbaum who was also a member of the 2008 Olympic team and who led to the German team losing the team gold medal in 2008 when his horse was found to have been treated with a cortisone cream that was a banned substance. Beerbaum blamed his groom for applying the cream.

The latest controversy erupted over the weekend when Kutscher disclosed that after the first round of the 2008 Olympic team competition in Hong Kong Kong in which Cornet Obolensky incurred 13 faults that Nolting suggested an injection of a muscle relaxant might help. However, before Nolting could discuss the case with the FEI, a groom reportedly injected the horse with the drug. The drug was not detected, but it is not known whether the horse was tested.

Nolting and the German federation have confirmed the basic outlines of the incident.

The German federation did not report the case to the FEI.

Officials who did not want to be identified said the issue most likely will not directly impact Kutscher as no illegal drug use was detected under the rules, but the issue is the apparent coverup by the German federation.

The case also casts a spotlight on the German federation’s treatment of Christian Ahlmann, also a rider on the 2008 German team, whose horse, Cöster, was one of five jumping horses found to have traces of capsaicin–a chili pepper compound–a substance banned by the FEI . Ahlamann was initially suspended for four months. He appealed against the severity of the penalty.

The German federation doubled the the penalty to eight months then appealed against the four-month penalty imposed by the FEI.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed Ahlamann’s appeal and upheld the German federation’s decision to increase the suspension to eight months.

The German Olympic team that comprised triple World Crown winner Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, her brother-in-law Ludger Beerbaum, Kutscher and Ahlmann finished out of the medals. The United States won gold and Canada silver. Switzerland was awarded bronze after Norway, which finished third in the competition, was stripped of its medal when one of its riders was suspended, also for the use of capsaicin.