After months of uncertainty, the Olympic team show jumping gold medal has been awarded to the USA. On Sunday, Beezie Madden, Chris Kappler, Peter Wylde and McLain Ward were presented with the medals at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club, Florida. The move follows German rider Ludger Beerbaum’s disqualification from the competition which drops the German team from gold to bronze medal position with Sweden taking silver.

Beerbaum was initially placed 16th individually and helped the German team to win the gold medal. But his horse Goldfever failed a test for prohibited substances immediately after the Athens competition and subsequent tests tested positive to the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone. Beerbaum admitted that he had treated his horse with an ointment to cure a skin irritation.

Although the FEI Judicial Committee accepted that the medication was a “legitimate treatment” and that Beerbaum had no malicious intent to enhance performance when he administered it, they felt he had not followed the procedure required by the federation’s veterinary regulations. Beerbaum was disqualified from the competition and fined for the costs of analysing the B-sample.

He later appealed to the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) against the FEI decision, hoping betamethasome might be declassified as a prohibited substance. But in September 2005 the Court of Arbitration for Sport concluded that the FEI Judicial Committee had made a fair decision in the interest of the sport.

With so much resting on the CAS decision, the newly crowned American show jumping team and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) followed the case closely. But throughout the proceedings they were determined that Beerbaum should get every opportunity to appeal.

“Mr Beerbaum deserves the respect afforded to every Olympic athlete throughout the entirety of this process and clearly the process has not run its course,” USEF spokeswoman Sarah Lane said at the time, “The USEF respectfully awaits the outcome of these legal proceedings along with the rest of the world.”

Although touched by America’s support, Beerbaum is still troubled by his error. His spokesperson Susanne Strübel said: “Ludger made a mistake. It was not doping but it was still a mistake and [he] felt responsible for his colleagues. It’s really harsh for him that they lose the medal for this. It’s really hard to accept that.”

But there were plenty of smiles at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club yesterday when the American show jumpers received their medals. The national anthem played over the loudspeakers as the team did a lap of honour around the arena. In addition to the team’s gold medals, Kappler was presented with a silver medal from the Games for the first time. In another drugs scandal, Kappler’s performance in the jump-off at the Olympics had earned him an individual bronze medal in Athens but Cian O’Connor of Ireland was later stripped of the gold medal after his horse tested positive for a banned substance, pushing Kappler into silver medal position.


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