FEI: Kutscher 'Person Responsible' for Doping at 2008 Olympics

Two-time Olympian Marco Kutscher might not have known his horse Cornet Obolensky received injections of a prohibited substance during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but the German equestrian was still named the "primary person responsible" and, thus, negligent, according to the decision of the Tribunal of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).

His sanction includes the highest fine for doping violations in the history of the FEI, but he will not be suspended, the federation’s general counsel stated.

"The Tribunal reiterates that it is the responsibility of competitors to ensure that their horses do not have any [p]rohibited [s]ubstances in their systems," the FEI panel reported in the proceedings from its June 15 decision.

The use of Lactanase in the Belgian Warmblood stallion was revealed nearly a year after the close of the Olympic Games, the FEI reported. Lactanase is an enzymic modulator generally administered to reduce lactic acid, a byproduct of strenuous exercise; stave off fatigue; and reduce the incidence of "tying-up"--equine exertional rhabdomyolysis. Kutscher mentioned the drug, referring to it as a "sports medical treatment," during an interview on Sport Inside, a German television show, and the FEI was alerted.

In a statement provided by the German Equestrian Federation, German team veterinarian Björn Nölting, DVM, said he had ordered the treatment, along with arnica, "for optimal regeneration of the muscles". However, his assistant administered the injection before he had the chance to request approval by the FEI for this controlled substance, he said. Nölting has since stepped down from his role as show jumping team veterinarian, a decision because of this incident.

Kutscher stated he had entrusted the treatment decisions to his team veterinarian, signing a declaration transferring that authority to Nölting, according to the proceedings. As such, he was entirely unaware of any possible violations, he said. Nonetheless, the FEI Tribunal insisted he was still the responsible party in the doping issue. "As the primary person responsible, [Kutscher] takes on full responsibility over the horse and cannot 'hide' behind reliance on national declarations or experienced veterinarians," the Tribunal said in its proceedings. "[He] was at least negligent by not inquiring fully about the exact treatment given to the horse and authorization for that treatment."

Kutscher has been fined 10,000 Swiss Francs ($9,400 USD) and ordered to pay 5000 Swiss Francs ($4,700) towards legal fees, but he has not been suspended due to the "very unique circumstances" of the case that the Tribunal said have affected Kutscher's career and earnings over the past nine months.

"It seems that the Tribunal felt, given the timing (with the case going on for more than a year), ... it would be very unfair to suspend him now, right before the World Equestrian Games, Aachen, and a lot of high-level tournaments," said Lisa Lazarus, JD, general counsel for the FEI. "My understanding is that instead of suspending him, they decided to transfer the suspension to the highest-ever fine. It wasn't that he was any less responsible or culpable than other riders who have been suspended. It was just a matter of the timing."

Both horse and rider have been disqualified from the 2008 Olympic Games.

The decision is an ironic twist following the events of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, in which Kutscher placed fourth in show jumping on his horse Montender. Kutscher was later advanced to the bronze medal when the FEI stripped Cian O'Connor of his gold medal due to a positive doping test on his horse Waterford Crystal.

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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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