It is for Mario, anyway. Here’s what’s dope about Urico’s positive test for cocaine at the WEF Olympic trials in March, which resulted in stable manager/trainer Bruce Burr receiving a two year suspension from the USEF (you can see it yourself at this link, but use Explorer. This part of the USEF site is Chrome-incompatible it seems):
Mario’s good fortune is twofold: It was a USEF competition and not an FEI competition. (That leads to the question of why other Olympic trials were forced to pony up the big bucks to go CSI in order to host their stages of the trials, but I’m not as interested in that as I am in how a horse ends up with coke in its system at a competition where drug testing can be expected to be robust.) See, if it had been an FEI competition, the ‘person responsible’ for any positive doping is always the rider, unless the rider can prove how the forbidden substance got into the horse’s system by some means other than his own hand and without his knowledge. When I saw the USEF ruling on Urico, I was immediately taken aback that Mario – you know, the patriotic American with the Quebecois accent – was not named anywhere. It’s like he had not even been there, piloting Urico over the jumps from afar, by remote control perhaps. I then took a gander at the USEF rules and discovered, to my great surprise, that whenever someone signs on the dotted line beside the word ‘trainer’ at a USEF competition, he or she takes full responsibility for any doping violations for the horse on that entry form.
I’m Canadian, and I always thought it was really weird that I had to put down a trainer’s name and get a signature for the occasional show I went to across the world’s longest unguarded border. I always put my own name down, because I was too lazy to get my actual trainer to do so. Now I’m glad I did, because she has absolutely nothing to do with how my horse gets taken care of at shows. Another feature of my quaint Canadian naiveté is that I don’t have an army of grooms and servants, Mexican or otherwise, looking after my horse at home or at shows. I always thought the requirement that a trainer be on my entry form led to the assumption that you didn’t dare turn up at an American horse show without your trainer. Heaven forbid! Who would wipe away my tears or soothe my bruised ego after a judge told me that my braid job was where my talents began and ended? But I digress.
Something else I found curious about the USEF decision was that in this case the horse was not suspended. And that is definitely out of the ordinary for any doping related violation. It says right in the rules that the horse is typically suspended, the duration depending on the severity of the violation. Urico was found with nose candy in his blood stream. That’s not just something on the FEI’s prohibited list, it’s highly illegal to possess. Period. Surely that’s severe enough to warrant at least a little suspension, even if just for form’s sake?
One little reason for the lenient sentence on the horse just might be the name of his owner. Jane Clark is one of the most generous supporters of equestrian sport in the US, and she steps up to the plate over and over not just with her deep pockets, but with her time. She is the President of the USET Foundation that raises amounts of money for its teams that has us poor cousins to the north drooling bucket loads, and she has supported riders in never fewer than three FEI disciplines at a time. I suppose that strictly speaking, since Urico belongs to her and not to Bruce Burr, it could be argued that she should not be unfairly punished. Because I’m pretty certain she isn’t the one to have slipped a little blow into Urico’s stud muffins.
You may be wondering why I know so many street names for crack. Well, I did just finish reading Keith Richards’ totally awesome memoir, LIFE. But the reality is, cocaine is so prevalent in society that if you are reading this right now, you also probably know someone who is snorting, shooting or gumming some right this minute. And therein lies the real shame of this shameful tale. It’s beyond probable that Urico’s positive test was due to contamination, rather than deliberate dosing (sabotage being the most likely scenario in that case). Race horses test positive for coke on a regular basis, not because it makes them run faster but because it made their grooms run faster on their way to the barn that morning. Heck, even American money is tainted with Devil’s dandruff. In some urban areas, as many as three out of four bank notes are contaminated. Well, Jane IS rich. Maybe they were feeding Urico money and that’s how he was contaminated.
This whole story is being hush-hushed, but of course it’s leaking out like antifreeze from the 1964 Valiant I drove when I was at university. And that’s a problem because people, especially the people I call the ‘dribblers’ – anonymous know-it-alls on places like HorseShowDiva and CoTH forums – love nothing more than to sink their sharpened teeth into a tasty bit of scandal. If I were Jane Clark I would come right out with a public statement that said the USEF has to do what it has to do, that she feels very unfortunate that it happened to a horse she owns, and that she looks forward to putting it behind her.
Actually, Jane could take a page from American dressage’s book today. I expect many of you saw the Stephen Colbert rip-on-Romney via Rafalca’s participation in the US Olympic team selection trials. But did you also see the awesome video that dressage made in rebuttal? Who says dressage queens can’t take a joke? Just watch this if you ever had any doubt (and I don’t blame you if you did).
I had a little disagreement with a friend over the Colbert piece, which you can see here if you have been off the grid for the past week. My friend was angry at the way Stephen took the piss out of dressage, but I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as the best media exposure the sport has ever had in the mainstream North American media. I won’t reinvent the wheel here – I’ll just show you what I replied to her:
I disagree. I thought Stephen was hilarious. Like it or not, the sport is perceived exactly as he portrayed it by the vast majority of the North American population. There is no point in denying that. Stephen gave dressage more mainstream media exposure than it’s ever had in its entire history. The gang at Gladstone turned it around to their advantage, by buying 500 foam fingers and passing out Budweisers. During the prize giving they all chanted ‘dressage is #1!’ while waving their beers and foam fingers in the air. Even Jan Ebeling put one on as he went around the ring on Rafalca. They showed that dressage people can take a joke and that they can appreciate the exposure. Since the Colbert feature dressage has been all over the media. It didn’t hurt that Jan made the team too of course, but whether or not you think Stephen’s piece was in poor taste, it’s really true. Sometimes there is no such thing as bad publicity.