After seven months of uncertainty, the Olympic team show jumping gold medal is to be awarded to USA, with Sweden taking silver. The decision follows the rejection of German rider Ludger Beerbaum’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against his disqualification from the competition. The German team drop from gold to bronze medal position.
Beerbaum and Goldfever 3 (pictured) were initially placed 16th individually and helped the German team to win the gold medal. But Goldfever failed a test for prohibited substances immediately after the Athens competition and counter tests on a second sample showed he tested positive to the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone. Beerbaum admitted that he had treated his horse with an ointment to cure a skin irritation.
Although the FEI Judicial Committee accepted that the medication was a “legitimate treatment” and that Beerbaum had no malicious intent to enhance performance when he administered it, they felt he had not followed the procedure required by the federation’s veterinary regulations, leaving them “no other option than to disqualify the horse Goldfever 3 from all competitions at the Olympic Games Athens 2004.”
Beerbaum was also fined CHF1,500 (£682) and another CHF750 (£341) for the costs of analysing the B-sample.
Beerbaum appealed to the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) against the FEI decision, hoping rumours that betamethasome might be declassified as a prohibited substance would come true. But yesterday the Court of Arbitration for Sport concluded that the FEI Judicial Committee had taken the only possible decision in the interest of the sport.
Despite being aware that Goldfever 3 received no unfair advantage as a result of the administration of the prohibited substance, and that the treatment was undertaken to preserve the horse’s health, the CAS underlined the indisputable consideration that Beerbaum could and should have sought authorisation before using the substance.
With so much resting on the CAS decision, the newly crowned American show jumping team and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) have been following the case closely. But throughout the proceedings they have been determined that Beerbaum should get every opportunity to appeal.
“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,” USEF spokeswoman Sarah Lane said at the time, “The USEF respectfully awaits the outcome of these legal proceedings along with the rest of the world.”
Although touched by America’s support, Beerbaum is still troubled by his error, which has cost the German team their gold medal. His spokesperson Susanne Strübel said: “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.”
The FEI has officially informed the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who will redistribute the medals.