Warning over medication exemption certificates after top rider suspended

  • Top eventer Buck Davidson hopes his recent suspension for an expired therapeutic use exemption (TUE) will act as a warning for others – as the FEI “explores options” to issue renewal reminders.

    US championship rider Buck, 47, was suspended on 2 June when a drug test at the Kentucky Three-Day Event on 30 April returned an adverse analytical finding for prohibited substance amphetamine.

    Buck confirmed to H&H the substance was a prescribed medication he has been on since childhood, and his TUE had expired without his knowledge. Under FEI rules, if a medication an athlete is required to take for an illness or condition is included in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) prohibited list, a TUE allows the athlete to take it, and comply with anti-doping rules. Each TUE has a specific duration, after which it expires automatically.

    Following the suspension, Buck applied to the International Testing Agency (ITA), which handles FEI human anti-doping cases, for a retrospective TUE. This request was referred to WADA, which needs to give its agreement pursuant to the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemption. On 15 June, Buck’s retrospective TUE was granted.

    “The case is therefore not considered as an anti-doping rule violation and no consequence will be imposed. Accordingly, the provisional suspension has been lifted with immediate effect,” an ITA spokesman told H&H.

    Buck Davidson on his suspension: a “simple, honest mistake”

    Buck told H&H it had been a “simple, honest mistake”, and he hopes by talking about it he can help other riders avoid a similar situation.

    “I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was totally fine, and I knew exactly what [the substance] was,” he said.

    “I have a secretary, doctor, team doctor, federation, and the expired TUE did not come up on anybody’s radar – we had no idea. I’m not blaming anyone, and it’s my responsibility, but something fell through. I think it needs to be made clear where riders can find out when TUEs are up; I’ve never seen it and I’ve had this TUE for more than a decade.

    “Mistakes can happen, but It sucks to be looked at like you’re a drug cheat for a messed-up paperwork issue. Why are we not innocent until proven guilty?”

    An FEI spokesman told H&H the “responsibility to apply for a TUE lies on the athlete”.

    “Athletes who require a TUE renewal must apply for it before the current TUE expires,” said the spokesman, who added that this is stated on the FEI website.

    “The ITA and the FEI are, however, exploring options to send systematic reminders to athletes (where relevant), keeping in mind that ultimately it will be up to the athlete to submit an application for the renewal (providing relevant medical records).”

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