New drugs row hits equestrian world

John Tynan

The sheikh, representing the United Arab Emirates, won the competition in Dubai on Friday.

However, a day later, French rider Barbara Lissarague, riding the mare Georgat, was presented with the gold medal in Dubai, the competition organising committee saying that the sheikh’s mount, Hachim, had tested positive for a banned substance.

It is believed thought the riders were only informed of the disqualification 10 minutes before the medal ceremony.

But in a surprise twist yesterday, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) confirmed they didn’t know about the shock decision, despite some of its prominent officials being in Dubai.

“In our view there is no change to the official result and the Sheikh keeps his gold medal,” said spokeswoman Muriel Faienza.

She said the FEI had sent a letter seeking explanation.

“We do not know how they could unilaterally change such a result,” she said, adding that the head of the FEI endurance department was yesterday meeting officials of the UAE federation to investigate what happened.”

She also confirmed the FEI had no knowledge who had tested the A blood sample taken from the horse.

“We don’t even know who took the sample, so we are waiting to see if the sample was done properly and has a value,” she said.

However, the President of the UAE Equestrian and Racing Federation, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, was quoted in the Khaleej Times as saying:

“A second blood sample will be done on the horse and if that was negative, Sheikh Hazza bin Sultan will be reinstated as the winner and returned the gold medal.”

It is understood that Sheikh Hazza is considering a protest, believing that in presenting the medal to Lissarague, the FEI deviated from protocol.

Sheikh Hazza’s win came in dramatic fashion. Aboard the 10-year-old bay gelding, he was fifth going into the final section of the 160km marathon race.

However he broke away with a few kilometres to go and, overturning a deficit of one minute and 35 seconds, he clinched the sixth and final stage to finish in a record seven hours, three minutes and 22 seconds.

Lissarague, competing in her first championships, crossed the finish line a minute adrift (average speed 22.63kmh).

Dubai’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was third on his eight-year-old gelding Nashmi, but, after Sheikh Hazza’s disqualification, he was upgraded to a silver medal. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan was presented with bronze.

Meanwhile, Ms Faienza confirmed no date has been set for Cian O’Connor’s oral hearing with the FEI Judicial Committee, at which the Olympic Champion will outline his explanation for the positive drugs test on his horse, Waterford Crystal.

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