Isabell Werth Positive Doping Test. Suspended from all Competitions

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Isabell Werth and Satchmo at the World Cup in Las vegas. © 2009 Ken Braddick/
Isabell Werth and Satchmo at the World Cup in Las Vegas. © 2009 Ken Braddick/

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, June 24–Isabell Werth, Germany’s top dressage rider, was suspended from all competitions Wednesday following a positive doping test of her developing small tour horse, Whisper.

The German equestrian federation that announced the suspension under rules introduced in 2008 described as “a catastrophe” the positive “A” test for the psychotropic drug Fluphenazine that is typically used to calm a horse.

The International Equestrian Federation will meet Thursday to review the suspension. The FEI said that Werth has asked for immediate testing of the second or “B” test that is required to confirm the positive “A” test.

If the suspension is upheld it means that Werth will not be able to compete at the CHIO in Aachen, Germany, the premier competition in her homeland that starts this week and where she has been named to the German team. She was entered at Aachen on her 2008 Olympic team gold medal horse Satchmo, 2007 World Cup champion Warum Nicht FRH and Whisper, a 10-year-old chestnut gelding by Wolkentanz I, in the small tour.

“This is a catastrophe for equestrian sport, but we will not let ourselves be discouraged by the bad news and will continue along the road for fair equestrian sport,” German federation president Breido zu Rantzau said after the news broke.

“It is dreadful,” Madeleine Winter-Schulze, the owner of Whisper and the other top horses ridden by Werth, told the sports information service, SID.

“I am not angry at her (Werth). She was able to do nothing.”

Winter-Schulze said Whisper had been treated “some days before” Wiebsaden but the veterinarian “had given the green light for the tournament in Wiesbaden.”

She also owns top horses ridden by Ludger Beerbaum, the German jumper rider who is embroiled in the doping issue.

The 39-year-old Werth won team Olympic gold medals in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2008, and an individual gold in 1996. She also has three Olympic silver medals.

With the horse sport world already reeling from the suspension of several European jumper riders and U.S. dressage team member Courtney King-Dye for the use of banned substances on their horses at the 2008 Olympics, the latest revelation was headline news in Germany and other nations where equestrian sports are among the most popular activities.

As a result of the doping scandal, Germany disbanded all its national dressage, show jumping and eventing teams, and suspended show jumper Beerbaum from competition less than a month ago.

On May 28, the German federation stated all teams had been shelved and that any rider wishing to ride for Germany would be vetted by an independent panel to be set up by the German Olympic committee.

Germany's Olympic teams for dressage, eventing and jumping in happier days at 2008 CHIO Aachen. Photo: © 2008 Ken Braddick/
Germany's Olympic teams for dressage, eventing and jumping in happier days at 2008 CHIO Aachen. Photo: © 2008 Ken Braddick/

Frank Kemperman, chairman of the Dressage Task Force that is examining ways to overhaul the sport and Chairman of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein e.V. (ALRV) that organizes the CHIO Aachen, reiterated the implementation of a pioneering and tough program against doping of horses with more stewards and more testing at the world’s premier horse show beginning Thursday and running to July 5.

The heightened testing–including the use of thermographic cameras that can detect any externally applied drugs–were announced in support of stern new measures announced by the German Equestrian Federation (FN) and the German Olympic Equestrian Committee as a result of the controversy swirling around the German 2008 Olympic jumping team.

“The FN has our full support in its battle against doping in the equestrian sport,” Kemperman said.

Frank Kemperman
Frank Kemperman

This year 42 stewards, experienced and with top qualifications, will be in action — an average of one steward for every 11 horses. The stewards carry out supervisory and control functions during the event. They are responsible for insuring compliance with the FEI “Code of Conduct” which defines general rules of conduct for protection of the horses. The stewards will primarily be stationed at the warm-up arenas and in the stable area. They have extensive powers of authority regarding horse inspections.

The entire stable area will be monitored 24 hours a day by stewards supported at night by the “Horse-Watch-Service.” The service is unique to Aachen and is designed to provide exceptionally good monitoring around the clock. Nineteen CHIO vets will also carry out control and supervisory functions parallel to their veterinary activities.

With immediate effect, doping samples will be taken from the top three placed horses as well as a from a horse picked at random for all competitions that are relevant for the world ranking lists, in addition to the normal doping samples. Statistically that means every third show-jumper can anticipate being tested. Taking all five CHIO disciplines into account, this means that every eighth horse in Aachen will be tested. All inspections will be carried out by the independent doping inspector of the Medication Control Program to guarantee maximum quality and also the non-appealability of the samples.

Thermographic cameras will also be in operation. These cameras can accurately determine the surface temperature of a horse’s skin down to 1/100th of a degree so the cameras can detect any possible externally applied influences.

The organizers said the internationalization of the anti-doping fight is essential.

“We made the proposal to the FEI to use the CHIO Aachen 2009 as a pilot project for all measures,” Kemperman said.