Germany Suspends Dressage, Jumping and Eventing Teams Over Doping Scandal

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Ludger Beerbaum competing at the 2009 FEI World Cup in Las Vegas. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Ludger Beerbaum competing at the 2009 FEI World Cup in Las Vegas. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

WARENDORF, Germany, May 29–All German national teams in the Olympic sports of dressage, jumping and eventing have been disbanded and top rider Ludger Beerbaum suspended in the latest moves in the doping scandal stemming from the 2008 Beijing Games.

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has called the for resignation of Hanfried Haring, former secretary general of the German federation, Deutsche Reilterliche Verinigung, to resign from the FEI Bureau.

The FEI has announced two weeks ago that it has appointed a panel led by Britain’s former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens and including David O’Connor, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Eventing champion and president of the U.S. Equestrian Federation, to investigate the German federation’s actions at the Olympics.

The German federation said that from now any rider wishing to compete for Germany must first be vetted by an independent panel to be set up by the German Olympic Committee. The panel will meet next month to look into allegations swirling around the German Olympic teams and their management by their national federation.

It is unknown what effect it will have on German representation in equestrian sports over the next few months, including the major dressage team compeititions in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Aachen, Germany in the next month and the European Championships in Windsor, England at the end of August.

Jumping teams for the same shows plus other events that include the premier Meydan FEI Nation Cup Top League will also be affected.

The latest scandal began at the 2008 Olympics when German team member Christian Ahlmann was disqualified when his horse tested positive for capsaicin, a chili pepper compound. An FEI panel suspended him for four months but the German federation appealed against the suspension demanding an eight-month suspension. The federation’s position was upheld.

Four weeks ago, fellow team member Marco Kutscher admitted in an interview with a German magazine he used arnica and lactanese on his horse, Cornet Oblensky.

That prompted the FEI to announce the setting up of an ethics committee to investigate the actions of German show jumpers at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Earlier this week, Beerbaum who was on the same team told the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine, that he has also used illegal practices on his horses.

“In the past I had the attitude that anything that could not be detected was allowed,” he told the newspaper.

German federation President Breido Graf zu Rantzau said: “We want to take an important step towards credibility with the disbanding of the squads.”

The FEI has requested the suspension of Marco Kutscher and former dressage and jumping team vet Björn Nolting from all FEI activities until the ethics committee completes its investigation.

Haring, it said, should also be suspended from the FEI Bureau “on the basis that he had knowledge of the relevant facts and did not report them to the relevant authorities.”

To this point, only Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the fourth member of the German jumping team, has escaped the scandal.

There have been no charges or countercharges involving the dressage and eventing teams.

This is the second straight Olympics that the German team has been involved in a scandal involving use of illegal substances. In 2004 in Athens, the German team was stripped of its gold medal and it was awarded to the United States after a cortisone cream was found on Goldfever, Ludger Beerbaum’s horse. Beerbaum blamed a groom for applying the cream without approval.

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