This page looks different to our usual site because it is from our back catalogue. More recent articles are here.


Horse doping scandal puts Germany's equestrian team in tatters

Ludger Beerbaum, pictured at right with fellow German team member and sister-in-law Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum at the 2007 European Championships. © Dirk Caremans/FEI

May 29, 2009

by Robin Marshall

Germany's reputation as a top equestrian nation is in tatters after further revelations of horse doping and growing concern over a "win at any cost" culture permeating the top level of riders.

In a shock move aimed at cleaning up equestrian sport in the country, the German Federation has disbanded its entire team of top level riders in the three Olympic equestrian disciplines.

The reported comments of top showjumper Ludger Beerbaum - the most prominent casualty of the federation's move - appear to be the final straw in the ongoing saga of doping allegations that have plagued Germany since the Olympic Games.

Aiming to restore credibility after recent doping allegations in the media, the German Equestrian Federation has dissolved the team, which will be built up again from scratch under the watch of the DOSB - Germany's Olympic Committee.

Beerbaum was quoted in the respected German Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeinen as saying that over the years his aim "was to exhaust everything possible ... I had the attitude that anything that will not be detected is allowed ... I can do what I like as long as I don't get found out."

The four-time Olympic champion also gave a frank interview on German television.

The revelations have shaken the equestrian world, and Beerbaum has been suspended from taking part in this week's Nations Cup event.

"I have to accept this," Beerbaum told German Press Agency dpa. "I want us to have clear rules which are understood by eveyone."

In a release this week the German Federation noted the "acute doping problem" in horse sport.

Starting next week an independent panel set up by the Olympic committee will probe all aspects of the Olympic equestrian disciplines. It will also look into the positive tests at the Olympic Games last year. Germany's Christian Ahlmann, riding Coster, was among four showjumpers suspended following positive tests to the substance capsaicin.

The special commission is to make recommendations to the Olympic Committee and to the German Federation on how to manage the problem of doping in horse sports.

The first results of the special commission are expected within a month. "We would rather do a good job than be quick," said federation president Breido zu Rantzau.

DOSB general director Michael Vesper welcomed the move. "It is a radical step by the Federation," he said.

Also, riders looking to return to or be selected for the team would be assessed by the special commission. A rider "must speak about his attitude and behaviour as a top rider," said Breido zu Rantzau.

Only after satisfying the commission can a rider be recommended for the team.

"With this dissolving of the team we want to take step in the direction of credibility," said Breido zu Rantzau. "We had to do something to wake them up."

The FEI yesterday provisionally suspended FEI Bureau member Hanfried Haring, former secretary general of the German Equestrian Federation. The move came after a request made by a majority of the FEI Bureau members and then a protest by FEI headquarters with its Tribunal. The suspension was based on admissions by Marco Kutscher and Björn Nolting concerning the undeclared treatment given to Marco Kutscher's horse, Cornet Obolensky, at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Both Kutscher and Nolting are also to be provisionally suspended from any FEI activities pending the results of the investigation being carried out by a recently formed Ethics Panel.

German equestrian athletes won three gold, one silver and one bronze medal in Beijing. Ludger Beerbaum's sister-in-law, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, tops the show-jumping world rankings.



Affiliate disclaimer