You know, on balance equestrian sport is pretty clean (I’m talking Olympic disciplines – no hunters!), especially compared to the likes of cycling. According to a 2012 study by WADA, cycling was the worst of the 26 Olympic sports, with 3.71% of tests coming back positive for some nasty substance or other. At the other end of the spectrum, Badminton was the squeaky cleanest at all, with a positive result of 0.87%. Equestrian comes in right in the middle over the eight year period of 2003-2010, at 1.62%. Of course, the report doesn’t specify if the tests were for human or equine athletes or a combination of the two.
Nevertheless, a scan of the FEI’s naughty lists reveals a pretty meager number of doping suspensions in the Olympic disciplines. It’s not so spic and span in Endurance, however. As of March 1, there are currently 20 suspensions being carried out by the FEI Tribunal, 13 of which are in Endurance (Jumping comes in second, but they have only three). And of those 13 Endurance suspensions, 12 of them are from the Middle East, and fully seven from the homeland of HRH’s hubby, the United Arab Emirates. A couple of the UAE suspensions are rather impressive, too. A certain Ali Salman Al Sabri is on the books with no fewer than four horses at once – a dirty quartet, we might say – and the unsavory activities of Ali Mohammed Al Muhairi have left him with a five year ban, the first year of which is a bonus because he continually broke the terms of a provisional suspension by turning up at FEI events as a trainer.
The list of ongoing cases points further fingies at Endurance as the dirtiest equestrian discipline, claiming nine out of ten cases awaiting decisions. The Middle East connection is strong again, with a total of seven. Of course, it must be mentioned that Endurance racing, which favors a breed that goes by the same name as do the denizens of such countries as Qatar, Jordan and the Kingdom (not queendom) of Saudi Arabia, probably has a relatively high percentage of participation compared to the rest of the world. But that doesn’t excuse these fellas from giving their horses testosterone. Or Bute. Or Boldenone, Nandrolone, and Estranediol (whatever those are), a cocktail of which was found in the system of the horse ridden by Brunei guy Ahmed Jaffar Abdulla Abdulrahim. Nope, no doubt about it. Endurance ought to clean up its act.
A couple of things pop out on the human side of the naughty lists too. In the yellow card department: I had no idea Rodrigo Pessoa got yellow carded in London. That somehow didn’t make it onto anyone’s radar, what with Tiffanygate taking up all our attention. According to the FEI yellow card jumper list, Rodrigo was given the amber slip for ‘incorrect behavior’. What do you suppose he had to do in order to have been deemed behaving incorrectly? I wonder if it included cussing at an official. Something tells me the Rod might be tempted to be just a bit imperious from time to time, and he wouldn’t take kindly to his demands not being met. Do Brazilians flip the bird, I wonder?
The one human doping suspension that strikes me as odd is that of Canadian Jonathon Millar, son of world record holding ten time Olympian Ian. Jonathon initially tested positive at the Spruce Meadows Masters way back in 2011, and it puzzles me why he is still in detention. The drug that caused the trouble is called Prasterone, which according to my favorite lazy researcher’s source, Wikipedia, is used to dubiously useful effect in women with adrenal insufficiency and the elderly. Not exactly a male equestrian athlete’s first go-to for performance enhancement, surely. According to the FEI, a final hearing was held on February 12, which is just three weeks ago. I’m not sure why the foot-dragging over the past year and a half, but as a Canadian I do hope Jonathon (yes, it’s with an ‘o’ to complement the ‘a’ in his last name) is cleared so he can stop hiding out at unsanctioned shows in Ocala and come back to the world of ‘real’ competition.
All in all, I found this week’s fake investigative journalism into the world of FEI athlete sanctions to be satisfyingly unsatisfying, if you get my drift. I have just one other little item to share with you today, which hereby launches a new series on this blog which I will call ‘Typo of the Week’. The inaugural award winner comes to us compliments of Horse International magazine, which has a full page ad in its current issue for a device called the Aquatrainer. Here is how the text of the ad begins: “The Idiots aquatrainer is a unique concept for training…” The company that makes the Aquatrainer is Idots.