A Tokyo 2020 contender has been provisionally suspended by the FEI after testing positive for a prohibitive substance.
Nicole Walker, a member of the Canadian showjumping team which finished fourth at the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru (26 July to 11 August), tested positive for Benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine. The substance is prohibited under the FEI’s anti-doping rules for human athletes.
A spokesman for the FEI said a sample was taken from Nicole on 7 August, the day of the team final.
“The athlete has the option to request a preliminary hearing before the FEI Tribunal to apply for the lifting of the provisional suspension,” said the spokesman.
“Disqualification of the athlete is a separate proceeding that is part of the results management process dealt with by Panam Sports, the organiser of the Pan-American Games. The athlete has exercised her right to request a hearing before the Panam Sports disciplinary commission.”
Canada, Brazil and Mexico picked up the three Tokyo 2020 Olympic quota places available at the Pan-American Games. Under Panam Sports anti-doping rules, article 11.4 states an anti-doping violation by a member of a team (outside team sports) also leads to disqualification of the result obtained by the team in that competition.
Under article 10.2.2, the responsibility for results management in terms of sanctions beyond the event itself shall be referred to the applicable international federation meaning any period of ineligibility would be imposed by the FEI.
The FEI spokesman added once the disciplinary commission had made a decision on the disqualification of Nicole, and team Canada’s final placing, the FEI will be in a position to make any necessary reallocation of the Olympic quota place.
“In order to maintain the integrity of the ongoing legal process, the FEI will not comment further on this case at this time,” said the spokesman.
In a statement Nicole said she was “shocked and devastated” to hear about the results [of the sample].
“I do not use illicit drugs, ever. Whether in Peru, or in any competition setting for that matter, I am always fully aware of the possibility of being tested and would never expose myself to any substance that could test positive.
“My Canadian teammates, my team in the barn, our horses and I, have all put a lifetime of effort towards an Olympic goal and I would never do anything to jeopardise that for my teammates or for myself.
“I’m extremely grateful to everyone for their support and to my teammates for standing with me.”
A spokesman for Equestrian Canada (EC) said the association is firmly committed to clean sport.
“We believe in standing behind our athletes, and fully support Nicole during the challenging situation. EC will be working closely with Nicole and her legal team as appropriate next steps are determined,” said the spokesman.
“In order to maintain integrity of the ongoing legal process, EC will not comment further on this case.”
Article continued below…
Nicola’s showjumping coach, Cian O’Connor told H&H he had been her coach for nearly seven years.
“I have witnessed nothing but her exemplary dedication, integrity and commitment to this sport. Nikki is a person of the highest standards, in and out of competition, and does not use drugs,” he said.
“I have no doubt that there is another explanation for these results and that her good name will be cleared.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.