FEI Chief Haya Declares Support for Suspended German Rider Isabell Werth
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AACHEN, Germany, July 8–Princess Haya bint al Hussein, president of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), has come out in support of Isabell Werth, the Olympic gold medalist and top German rider who was suspended for competing a horse that tested positive for a banned medicinal substance.
“I don’t believe that Isabell Werth is a cheater,” Haya told the German broadcaster WDR during a visit to the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen. “Obviously, she was badly misadvised by her veterinarian.
”She had everything to lose, but nothing to win. She never would have thrown away her entire career for something like that.”
Haya’s statements, in contrast to previous demands by the FEI for stiff sentences in doping cases, appeared to surprise the German equestrian national federation (FN).
FN President Breido Graf said: “This is the pleading of a woman, a friend.”
And in anticipation of such support amidst the turmoil surrounding Germany’s international jumping and dressage teams over doping, FN Secretary General Soenke Lauterbach said in an interview over Werth’s suspension:
“Finally, it shows us… that everywhere, where it’s a matter of power, a matter of money, a matter of success, there also is practiced manipulation.”
Whisper is owned by Madeleine Winter-Schultze, who owns the top horses ridden by Werth and also those ridden by top German jumper rider Ludger Beerbaum.
Lauterbach warned that the German federation will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) if Werth is given a suspension that the federation regards as too low. The federation successfully appealed against a 90-day suspension for 2008 Olympic jumper rider Christian Ahlmann and doubled the suspension period.
Werth admits that her vet, Dr. Hans Stihl, advised that the treatment for shivers of her small tour horse, Whisper, would not test positive longer than six days, but she waited more than twice that length of time before a competition.
The suspension for the positive test prevented her from competing at Aachen and the German team finished second behind The Netherlands in the CDIO for only the second time in modern history.
Werth, widely admired around the world, has publicly apologized for the positive test.
A formal hearing by an FEI tribunal to determine the length of her suspension will be conducted next week. The length of the suspension is considered certain to extend beyond the European Championships at Windsor at the end of August.
Along with the freak lameness of Ulla Salzgeber’s Herzruf’s Erbe during last week’s Grand Prix Special CDIO, the German team is considered no match for the powerful Dutch team and may be surpssed by strong Danish and British teams.
Princess Haya admitted that she has no say over any legal action against Werth but, “It’s my personal wish to support somebody who really deserves it.”
“Isabell has done so much for the sport during the past 20 years.”
She was quoted as sayong: “I am sure everybody would hear with pleasure that we punish every positive case very strictly. But it is not always right to do what is expected, particularly in cases where people are personally innocent or where I think that they are personally innocent.”
She said she has a “personal wish to support a person who has really earned it.”