Changes to Anti-Doping Rules Could Lead to Review of Olympic, Championship, Nations Cup Team Penalties

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Steffen Peters on Ravel at the 2008 Olympics. The pair competed in the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle after the United States team was disqualified when one horse on the team of three combinations was found to have violated anti-doping rules in the Grand Prix. File photo. © Ken Braddick/

April 24, 2020


Disqualification of a nation’s entire team if only one horse is found to have been doped in Olympics, world championships and even Nations Cups is among proposals that will be put to member countries of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) after a review of anti-doping rules.

A suggestion to extend the enforcement of doping rules came out of the FEI Sports Forum that was held  this month, online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among other proposals from the review of the list of 1,244 prohibited substances included penalties for dealing with “street drugs” such as cocaine in athletes and rationalizing penalties for doping violations.

For teams, different approaches were described in the FEI report on the forum:

__At Olympics, Paralympics and World Equestrian Games if one so-called “person responsible” on a team is found to have violated equine anti-doping rules the entire team will be automatically disqualified and

–At all other events, such as Nations Cups the “person responsible” (meaning the rider/horse combination) may be disqualified in all competitions and will be subtracted from the team result, to be replaced with the results of another team member.

If the blanket team disqualification is approved due to the results of a violation in one horse, the other combinations on the team could not compete in to other levels in the event–such as the Grand Prix Freestyle.

The impact at the Olympics was on display at the 2008 Olympics when the United States dressage team was disqualified after the Grand Prix that decided team medals after one horse was found to have violated doping rules.

Under the rules then, the team was disqualified as there were only three combinations and all needed to complete the competition as there was no drop score. Individual combinations other than the pair found to have committed the violation could move on to the next competition if qualified.

Steffen Peters on Ravel went on to compete in the Grand Prix Special in which they placed fourth and the Freestyle in which they were third. The combined scores of the Special and the Freestyle decided individual medals and the American pair came within a fraction of bronze.

The Tokyo Olympics provide for teams of only three combinations for all three disciplines–dressage, eventing and jumping–so a doping violation would mean disqualification of the team.

However, world championships and Nations Cups typically provide for four combinations with three scores counting for the team’s final result.

The issues from the sports forum will go through comment and reviews by national federations and the FEI board before a final draft is prepared for the FEI general assembly in November.

Decisions made at the general assembly will come into effect Jan. 1, 2021, ahead of the deferred Olympics to be staged in Tokyo in July next year. Team medals will be decided by the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle for individual medals.