Endurance world champion retains gold

  • The FEI Judicial Committee has dismissed the positive medication case against the reigning World Endurance Champion, Sheikh Hazza Bin Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who keeps his gold medal.

    The Sheikh and his mount, Hachim, finished first in the recent World Championships, which took place in Dubai on Thursday, 27 January. However, a test on Hachim’s urine sample, which was carried out at the Equine Forensic Unit of the FEI Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in the Emirates after the end of the competition, revealed the presence of Methylprednisolone, an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid banned under FEI rules.

    Without consulting the FEI headquarters in Switzerland, the local organising committee took the unprecedented step not to present the gold medal to Sheikh Hazza at the official award ceremony on Saturday 29 January, giving it instead to runner-up Barbara Lissarague from France. This was against standard FEI procedure, which enables riders involved in alleged doping cases to state their position and request a counter test, and only allows a medal to be stripped if a competitor is found guilty at the end of a proper judicial process.

    The Sheikh lodged an official protest against the Championships’ organising committee. He also asked for a counter medication test, which was carried out at the Laboratoire des Courses Hippiques, in France, on 24 March 2005 and confirmed the presence of Methylprednisolone in Hachim’s urine. However, the Sheikh had not been advised of the time and place where the counter test would take place, despite specifically requesting to be present at the lab, together with his experts and lawyers, in a letter to the FEI.

    On this basis, the FEI Judicial Committee decided that “there [was] a procedural error that is of the nature to compromise the limited rights of the [Sheikh] to such an extent that the results of the B-sample analysis, and therefore the entire urine test, should be disregarded.”

    The FEI’s verdict referred to three specific precedents — two in equestrianism, the other in gymnastics — where the Court of Arbitration of Sports ruled in favour of athletes involved in positive medication cases because their confirmatory samples had been opened and tested without their knowledge or authority.

    The FEI have therefore confirmed the Championships’ official results, as signed off by the President of the Ground Jury after the event and published on the FEI website. Sheikh Hazza remains the winner of the FEI World Endurance Championship and he will receive the gold medal and the relevant prizes. Lissarague will receive the silver medal and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum the bronze.

    A separate FEI inquiry is looking into why the organising committee of the FEI World Endurance Championships did not invite Sheikh Hazza to receive his medal at the official ceremony, and their findings may be examined by the Judicial Committee at a later stage.

    “The enquiry is currently going on,” says Muriel Faienza of the FEI. “But I cannot give a timeline of when it will end.”

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