German Equestrian Teams Go Kaput in Wake of Drug and Med Scandals

Want to become a member of the German jumping, eventing, or dressage team? Even if you have a medal on your mantelpiece, you'll have to reapply for consideration by the German Olympic Sports Federation.

That's because, as of May 28, there are no German teams for the three Olympic equestrian disciplines. The German Equestrian Federation (aka the German FN) disbanded those teams in an effort to sort through the pile of dirty laundry German competitors have accumulated and to weed out the really stinky stuff.

The allegations of impropriety center around doping (administering a performance-enhancing substance to a horse) and violations of Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) rules forbidding other substances that, although not performance-enhancers, per se, might affect a horse in such a way as to make the playing field unlevel.

German team rider Christian Ahlmann was suspended prior to the individual jumping final at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong after his horse, Cöster, tested positive for the forbidden substance capsaicin, a skin-sensitizer that's sometimes also used as a pain reliever.

Then, in May 2009, Ahlmann's 2008 Olympic teammate Marco Kutscher confirmed during a television interview that Cornet Obolensky, his mount in Hong Kong, had been injected with lactanase and arnica after the first round in the jumping competition. Lactanase is an enzymic modulator administered to reduce lactic acid (a byproduct of strenuous exercise), stave off fatigue, and reduce the incidence of "tying-up" (equine exertional rhabdomyolysis). Arnica is an herb most commonly used in topical liniments and creams to ease the pain of strains, sprains, and bruises in both horses and humans.

German Olympic jumping team and individual gold medalist Ludger Beerbaum added to the mix, telling the Sunday edition of a Frankfurt-based national newspaper, "In the past, I had the attitude: What cannot be found is allowed." That statement, and one like it made to German public television, got Beerbaum relegated to persona non grata status; he won't be competing for Germany anytime soon, at least until he convinces the German Olympic Sports Federation otherwise, according to a May 28 Associated Press wire report.

The FEI is taking an active role in trying to sort out the mess. On May 30 it announced the formation of an ethics panel to investigate the possibility of wrongdoing on the part of the German teams, with potential ramifications including the redistribution of past Olympic medals if findings warrant. The FEI also sought provisional suspensions of Kutscher; German team veterinarian Björn Nolting; and FEI Bureau member Hanfried Haring, who is also former secretary general of the German FN. An FEI Tribunal June 5 denied the suspension requests for Kutscher and Haring; no decision has yet been rendered in the case of Nolting because he was unable to attend the hearing.

About the Author

Jennifer O. Bryant

Jennifer O. Bryant is editor-at-large of the U.S. Dressage Federation's magazine, USDF Connection. An independent writer and editor, Bryant contributes to many equestrian publications, has edited numerous books, and authored Olympic Equestrian. More information about Jennifer can be found on her site, www.jenniferbryant.net.

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