King's doping charge upheld, US Olympic team loses place

September 23, 2008

The US dressage team has lost its fourth place position at the Olympic Games after the FEI issued its decision yesterday on the positive medication case involving Mythilus and Courtney King-Dye.

King also lost her 13th individual place in the event. The FEI said the decision was automatic, and that the behaviour of anyone at the top of the sport must be faultless.

Mythilus was sampled at the Olympic Games on 19 August 2008 and tested positive for Felbinac. Felbinac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to reduce inflammation and pain and, accordingly, is classified as "Medication A" Prohibited Substances under the FEI Equine Prohibited List (VR Annex III).


Courtney King and Mythilus © 2007 Terri Miller
King had argued that the substance must have been exposed to Mythilus during his treatment for another condition on arrival in Hong Kong. But while the Tribunal noted King's "impeccable record and reputation, and her cooperation in the investigation", it said she had not been able to demonstrate how the substance entered Mythilus's system. "While elaborate, the explanations furnished by King were only speculations," the FEI said.

The Tribunal did not accept King's argument that the exception contained in Equine Anti Doping and Medication Control Rules ("EADMCR") Article 2.1.3 to a medication rule violation in case of an environmental contamination should apply, since Felbinac did not appear on the Equine Prohibited List as a threshold substance and no specific criteria was established for it on such List as a contaminant.

The one-month suspension imposed on King ended on 21 September 2008, and she was also fined and ordered to pay costs.

However, the FEI Tribunal found the evidence of King and the US Dressage Team Vet to be credible and believed that neither King nor anyone on her behalf or related to the USEF had knowingly administered the medication to the horse.

The Tribunal further accepted King's and the US Equestrian Federation's arguments that they have done almost everything in their power to prevent any rule violations. The Tribunal repeated its stand that the FEI policy in regard to doping and medication not only intends to ensure a level playing field but also ensures that the welfare of the horse is maintained and that horses compete only when they are physically fit and capable of competing. This requires doping and medication rule violations to be strict liability or no fault offences. The FEI said King's arguments that she had gained no competitive advantage and that the findings did not constitute any maltreatment of the horse, due to the nature of the substance and the minimal concentration detected, were therefore not relevant.

As a result, the US Dressage Team with its remaining two competitors - Steffen Peters and Debbie McDonald - was also disqualified. The Tribunal did not accept the arguments of the USEF that the resulting disqualification of its team, when the sampling was carried days after the end of the team competition, was a "sanction" which was inappropriate in this case and should not be imposed. The Tribunal noted that the resulting disqualification was automatic.

In regard to sanctions, the Tribunal considered the fact that King is an experienced sportswoman and that the behaviour of anyone at the top of the sport and particularly at the Olympic Games must be faultless since the eyes of the world focus on performances at such events.