Werth Suspended after Cimetidine Positive

After months of legal battles, the German Equestrian Federation (FN) has issued a six-month suspension of German dressage rider Isabell Werth for use of prohibited substances.

In June 2012, Werth's 11-year-old Rhinelander gelding El Santo tested positive for cimetidine, a prohibited substance in the rules of the FN, at a national competition, an FN representative said. Cimetidine is a drug used for treating or preventing digestive tract ulcers.

At the time, the gelding’s stall neighbor, 16-year-old Hanoverian Warum Nicht FRH, was being treated with cimetidine to relieve secondary effects of pain medications following a fracture, according to Werth's representative. Werth suspected that El Santo might have accidentally consumed some of the medication due to close proximity of the stalls, possibly through a failed water pipe system. Studies have proven that accidental contamination of stall neighbors is possible, though not necessarily through water pipes.

While the FN tribunal has agreed that El Santo was likely to have been accidentally contaminated, perhaps through the bars of the stalls and not the water system, the federation still declared Werth responsible. The unintentional contamination was a result of “breach of duty of care” in barn management, the FN ruled.

Werth intends to launch an appeal, said Merry Ingensand, spokeswoman for Werth.

“Isabell’s case will now continue because she does not accept the decision her national federation made against her,” Ingensand told The Horse. “She does not share the opinion that she breached her duty of care.”

Werth’s management of the two horses was the result of careful consideration of the injured gelding’s welfare, she added.

“Isabell made the decision not to move Warum Nicht, who had broken his pelvis, out of his box in her competition stable,” she said. “This box is extra large, and she did not want to cause Warum Nicht more stress than necessary by putting him somewhere new. He was on strong pain killers for a long period of time and as a result was also given cimetidine to protect his stomach.”

In addition to the six-month suspension from all competitions at home and abroad, Werth has also been fined €2,000 and must pay for the legal fees for the case, according to the FN. Werth will begin her appeal process to the FN High Court of Arbitration immediately.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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