Ludger Beerbaum has announced that he decided to lodge an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week because he “felt responsible for his colleagues.”
The FEI decided in December that although Beerbaum had not set out to enhance the performance of Goldfever 3 when he gave him a cream containing betamethasone in Athens, he had broken the Federation’s rules and would be disqualified from the Olympics. As a result, the German team would lose their gold medal.
Last Monday, Beerbaum appealed to the Court for Arbitration of Sport against the FEI decision. Initially, “Ludger didn’t want to do that,” explains his spokeswoman, Susanne Strübel. But she said that the German rider is distraught that his error would cost the team their gold medal and feels he should try everything to make it up to his team.
“Ludger himself thinks it’s a 1% possibility to get the medal back,” says Strübel. “[But] he doesn’t want to look back and think: ‘Oh, if I had done that.’ He says: ‘I will do everything I can, but I don’t know what the task force will decide.’”
His hopes rest on rumours that the FEI doping task force may recommend declassifying betamethasone from prohibited substance to regular medication. “If betamethasone is a regular medication then maybe this is a new thing for CAS. He discussed this with his colleagues and they came of the opinion that if there only is a small possibility to have a different result [from the FEI decision], they will try the CAS appeal,” says Strübel.
Neither Strübel nor the FEI yet know when the CAS will meet. “The usual procedure is that a session of the CAS will convene. At this session the decision will be taken and it’s final,” says an FEI spokeswoman. “When they do meet the decision is taken [but we have] no dates yet.”
The United States Equestrian Federation is also following the case closely because the American show jumping team stand to win gold if Beerbaum is disqualified. Displaying a rare fair play that it is more reminiscent of bygone Olympics, the Americans think that the German rider should be entitled to every possibility to argue his case.
“Mr Beerbaum deserves the respect afforded to every Olympic athlete throughout the entirety of this process and clearly the process has not run its course,” says USEF spokeswoman Sarah Lane. “The USEF respectfully awaits the outcome of these legal proceedings along with the rest of the world.”
American rider Beezie Madden was so supportive that she released an open letter last month where she said that Ludger and his team “won their gold medal decisively”.
“Ludger has always been a leader and a great representative of our sport,” she wrote. “What happened to him could just as easily have happened to one of us. We all need to be patient and let this situation be resolved as best it can.”
Although touched by this display of support, Beerbaum is still troubled about his error, according to Strübel. “Ludger made a mistake. It was not doping but it was still a mistake and [he] felt responsible for his colleagues. It’s really harsh for him that they lose the medal for this. It’s really hard to accept that.”