Horses fail drug test ahead of Games finale

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2008, 12:00am

Four horses involved in Olympic equestrian events have failed a drug test, casting a shadow over last night's finale in Hong Kong.

Their riders - including Tony Andre Hansen, a member of the Norwegian team that won a bronze medal in showjumping on Monday - were suspended after their horses tested positive for capsaicin, a drug that increases sensitivity and relieves pain.

The others were Bernardo Alves of Brazil, Christian Ahlmann of Germany, and Denis Lynch of Ireland.

'This is certainly a serious blow to the sport,' International Equestrian Federation (FEI) jumping committee chairman Sven Holmberg said.

The equestrian events at the 2004 Athens Games were also marred by four doping cases - two of them in showjumping; Irish rider Cian O'Connor and Germany's Ludger Beerbaum lost gold medals.

Capsaicin is a derivative of the chilli plant used both in human and veterinary medication.

'In terms of the fact it produces pain relief, it can affect the performance of the horse,' FEI veterinary commission member Paul Farrington said. 'Hypersensitivity [will] make the horse jump better and improve performance.'

Irish team veterinarian Marcus Swail said last night Lynch regularly applied the muscle relaxant to Latinus as a part of his warm-up routine, and the horse had tested negative numerous times.

'It was part of his routine during the bigger wins he's had this year,' he said. 'It's a considerable surprise to us it has tested positive. Denis was so certain it wasn't a problem he didn't think to draw it to my attention.'

Lynch said: 'I'm shattered. I don't think I've done anything wrong.'

Ahlmann was informed of the positive test and his suspension on Wednesday; the others were notified yesterday. If a horse's 'B' samples confirm the positive finding, the FEI will decide on sanctions. If negative, the FEI will not pursue the case, but the rider's suspension from competition will stand.

If Hansen is disqualified, the Swiss team will be awarded the bronze.




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