Please excuse the forthcoming expletive, but a truck load of German shit has hit the proverbial fan. Thursday was quite a day in the ongoing doping drama. An item hit my inbox that morning which got my immediate attention. It was an FEI press release titled “FEI suspends Hanfried Haring, former Secretary General of German Equestrian Federation and FEI Bureau member.” That release was followed an hour later by an amended release titled “FEI seeks suspension in German Olympic Team investigation.” Oops. Someone got a little carried away with their headlines and hit ‘send’ too quickly. You can read the ‘corrected’ release here:
What you can’t read is the original release, but it doesn’t differ in substance from the amendment – only the title was changed. And I thought Equine Canada had the corner on sending out double releases – an original, followed by a correction.
While I was sitting here thinking about how I was going to make a proper meal out of the FEI finding a perfect villain in Haring (being German AND an FEI Bureau member, he fits the bill no matter who you want to blame for the Cornet Obolensky cover-up), something so enormous in the sport took place in Germany that I still can’t wrap my mind around it: the entire German Equestrian Team was disbanded. Between the A and B lists of the three Olympic disciplines, that’s 78 souls. The news was so big it even made it to the CBC, a news source that usually has, at best, a passing interest in our beloved sport:
The fact that the story was filed under ‘amateur sports’ is evidence enough that the CBC is woefully out of touch with equestrian sport these days. But enough whining about the Canadian mass media. Let’s talk about the German bomb. It’s been described as a ‘wake up call’ to the German riders, and was precipitated by the growing doping scandal, the unhappy outcome of the head-banging session the German team had a few weeks ago regarding the doping scandal, and the breaking off of negotiations with two German TV networks who don’t want to renew their annual contract while the doping scandal continues to darken German skies. The final straw just might have been the statement Ludger Beerbaum made in last Sunday’s Frankfurt news paper. He confessed that his past attitude had been if a substance was not detectable it was therefore not wrong to use it. Ludger’s statement puts me in mind of a wonderful chat I once had with a Mormon. The Mormon was sipping on a Coke while explaining to me that the reason Mormons can’t drink coffee is because it has caffeine in it. When I asked him why Coke – caffeinated as it is – was not off limits to him, here is what he said: “Coke is ok because it hadn’t yet been invented when the Book of Mormon was written.”
Sorry to get all philosophical on y’all, but I think Ludger is confusing his epistemology with his ethics. You know that age-old question about a tree falling in the forest and no one being there to hear the crash? You can’t take an ethical situation and apply that kind of argument: If I give my horse a performance-enhancing substance and the technology doesn’t yet exist to detect it in his system, it’s therefore not unethical to give him the substance (or even more cynical – I therefore didn’t give him an illegal substance)…hm, no. Doesn’t work for me. And I don’t believe for a minute that Ludger hasn’t the grey matter to have known that his thinking was fundamentally flawed, unless he had ‘gold fever’ so badly it clouded his ability to think straight. It has always been wrong and it will always be wrong to cheat with foreign substances applied on or under a horse’s skin. It’s not just wrong from an athletic point of view, either. How many times does it have to be said? Horses are innocent, generous and heroic animals whose welfare is entirely the owners’ and riders’ responsibility. Why are these people, who benefit most from what a horse has to give, so wanton with their morality when it comes to that same horse’s best interests? They have conveniently forgotten that horses couldn’t care less if they win a medal. Horses like grass and carrots, and some of them like sex. Some might say greed is the cause. I think it’s more complicated than that – even wiener dog racing has doping scandals, and there can’t be much money in that. www.wienertakesall.com/
I could go on and on, but let me wrap up with just one more observation. Isabell Werth didn’t help matters or win any new friends in the federation at the BIG MEETING , when she basically said the care of the horses she rides is the business of the horses’ owner and no one else’s. That doesn’t sit too well with those who see Isabell’s responsibility as being also to her team and country.
Now the federation has thrown everyone off the team, and no doubt most of those affected are innocent. It’s like that school teacher who punishes the whole class when just one or two kids set off a stink bomb. I think I’m glad I didn’t go to elementary school in Germany.