Richard Davison says . . .
“I have long admired the super-cool Ulla Salzgeber as she stacked up multiple wins in World Cup finals and international championships over the past few years. Most of us have envied her riding and her horse, Rusty. But we do not envy her present predicament.
“How many of us could have handled the strain if we had found ourselves at the centre of a doping scandal? But Ulla has handled it, creating a protective bubble around herself as she gritted her teeth and won double gold at the European Championships at Hickstead with displays of superlative riding.
“But nevertheless, I am troubled and bemused. In dressage and most other horse sports we are desperately trying to stand shoulder to shoulder with other modern Olympic sports. So the way that the whole situation has been handled is bizarre.
“The Olympic movement and international sport famously have a zero-tolerance policy towards athletes testing positive. So why are we so far from a conclusion? For some reason, the FEI seems to be sanctioning a gentlemanly pace whereby the rider can delay the proceedings for a long period of time.
“I can see that the FEI is being fair to the competitor and it is good from a human rights point of view to be allowed extensions to the deadline in order to prepare a case. But this slow pace leaves the FEI, as a regulator, open to the charge of neglecting its duty to be fair to all competitors.
“All riders could be vulnerable to unintentional doping. But the system for dealing with these positive tests has to work and has to be seen to work. Our sport must be clean from both intentional and unintentional doping and we must accept the consequences.
“When you look at the handling of high-profile positives like this and then compare it with other Olympic sports, it is embarrassing. Both sides have their evidence, and the paperwork is now with the FEI judicial committee. For the good of the sport, lets get the file closed on this one.”
Richard’s first H&H column can be read in full in the 30 October issue of Horse & Hound, available at your newsagent now!