Case Decision: Pessoa Disqualified from 2008 Olympics

The panel of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Tribunal has rendered its final decision in the prohibited substance case involving the horse Rufus ridden by Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Pessoa and Rufus placed fifth individually in the show jumping event.

Pessoa has been suspended for a period of four and half months (135 days). The suspension is considered to have begun Aug. 29, and will continue until Jan. 10, 2009. He was also fined 2,000 CHF (Swiss francs, which converts to $1,768 USD). The horse and the rider were disqualified from the entire Olympic Games.

The Tribunal concluded that the substance Rufus tested positive for--nonivamide--should be considered a "Medication Class A" rather than a "Doping" substance, based on their interpretation of the list of prohibited substances.

In considering the sanctions to be given to the rider in this case, the Tribunal said it took into account:

  • "The fact that Pessoa is an experienced sportsman and that the behavior of anyone at the top of the sport and particularly at the Olympic Games must be faultless;
  • The nature of the substance involved which is not only a pain relieving substance, but also an agent that can be used for hypersensitization purposes;
  • The fact that the source of the presence of the substance has not been established by Pessoa;
  • The fact that several of the Pessoa's suggestions regarding the presence of the substance reveal poor stable management for this level of event; and
  • The fact that the actions taken by the team to control all possibilities of contamination and actions taken following the positive finding to reveal its source were not at the same level as established by other teams at the same or similar events."

The Tribunal also considered

  • "The impeccable record and reputation of Pessoa; 
  • His assistance in the finalization of this matter and the efforts of the his legal team to bring this matter to a relatively quick resolution;
  • And the fact that the substance is a newly detectable substance which is often used by riders for legitimate therapeutic reasons."

Rodrigo Pessoa has 30 days to appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The full text of the decision is available on the FEI Web site.

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