Olympic champion Steve Guerdat has been cleared of all wrongdoing by the FEI after two of his horses tested positive for banned substances.
“The FEI accepts that the circumstances of the cases were exceptional and that the presence of the three prohibited substances in the horses’ samples is consistent with poppy seed contamination,” read a statement released today (Monday, 28 September).
The FEI added that Steve demonstrated he did not bear “fault or negligence” as well as proving how the banned substances entered the horses’ system.
“I am delighted to have been completely exonerated and vindicated of any suspicion of doping,” said Steve.
“The wellbeing of my horses is the absolute priority. The judges’ decision is extremely important to me; it means that my horses and I can finally re-focus all of our energy on purely sporting aspects.”
However, he added: “As jumping riders we have diligent duties to perform in the fight against doping, for the wellbeing of animals, in our own interest and that of equestrian sport.
“However, it appears that all those responsible should consider ways in optimising procedures and currently valid guidelines so that in the future, a non-proven suspicion of error on behalf of the rider, such as in my case, would be thoroughly treated before unjustified accusations — with grave consequences for the reputation of the person — are made public.”
Steve was provisionally suspended from competition, but had his bans lifted on 27 July after he pleaded that food contamination had caused the positive test.
Samples were taken at the CSIO5* at La Baule in France on 17 May from his London 2012 gold medal-winning partner Nino Des Buissonnets, on the day the 14-year-old gelding won the grand prix.
The tests returned positive for codeine and oripavine — banned substances — and morphine, a controlled substance.
At the same show but a day earlier (16 May), samples were taken from Steve’s other ride, Nasa, after the 14-year-old grey mare finished third in the La Baule Derby. These tests were positive for codeine and morphine. The horse’s sample also showed traces of oripavine, but not at a sufficiently high level for the testing laboratory to declare a positive for the substance.
The top Swiss rider missed the European Championships because of Nino Des Buissonnets’ ban. Both horses have been free to compete since 19 September.
Samples taken at the CSIOY young riders in Deauville, France, on 8 May from the horse Charivari KG ridden by Alessandra Bichsel, also returned positive for codeine and oripavine, and morphine. She has also been fully cleared.
Both Guerdat and Bichsel had used the same feed supplier, and independent laboratory tests have proved that the feed was contaminated with poppy seeds.
“Both these athletes and the Swiss National Federation have worked in full cooperation with the FEI to secure these landmark agreements and it’s good to know that since the beginning of this year the FEI processes can facilitate such settlements so that athletes are able to clear their names when contamination is involved,” said FEI secretay general Sabrina Zeender
“Steve Guerdat and Alessandra Bichsel fully accepted that standard procedures had to be followed, but were able to provide proof that the positives were due to contamination, which meant that we could reach a settlement that was acceptable to both the FEI and to the FEI Tribunal.”
The cases are now closed.