Isabell Werth 'deeply regrets' horse doping incident

June 25, 2009


Isabell Werth and Whisper at the 2009 CDI Wiesbaden, where the combination won both the Prix St Georges and Intermediare I.
© WBFSH/Ridehesten.com

Suspended German dressage rider Isabell Werth says that a veterinarian-recommended treatment given to her horse to alleviate the symptoms of Shivers contained a banned substance.

Werth was suspended yesterday by the German Equestrian Federation following a positive doping test to her horse, Whisper, at an event on May 30.

She said in a statement that the horse in question, Whisper, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding, had a condition known as Shivers.

"Shivering syndrome ... affects the central nervous system and causes imbalances if the horse has to stand on three legs for a longer while, for example when being groomed, bandaged or shod. Feeling insecure, the horse begins to shiver and lunges uncontrollably for fear of losing its balance and keeling over. This illness is not painful and does not influence a horse's ability to compete, but it entails an increased risk for the persons working with the horse (farrier, groom, rider)," Werth said.

She then asker her veterinarian Dr Hans Stihl about treatment, but learned there was no cure "but that several horses in his care had showed positive reactions to a drug called Modecate.

"This drug contains Fluphenazine as an active substance. So we treated Whisper once, on May 16, 2009, with this drug, in order to find out if he responds to it. This was the case, the shivering was reduced, and there was less uncontrolled movement when we raised one of his legs."

Fluphenazine is a sedative, and in humans is used as an antipsychotic drug for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Fluphenazine has a history of unlabeled use in horses. Neuroleptics differ from other sedatives in that patients are easily arousable and will respond when stimulated. Neuroleptics suppress spontaneous motor activity, conditioned avoidance, and aggressive behaviour.

Werth says she was advised that a withholding period of six days should be enough, "but one could never be completely sure".

"So, to be on the safe side, we decided to let Whisper compete again on May 30, 2009, in Wiesbaden. I took this decision to the best of my knowledge. In spite of this, the FEI doping lab has now found traces of said substance. One reason may be that the lab has used new analyzing methods."

Werth says only ineffective traces of the drug were found ... but that this "does not matter according to (FEI) rules.

"I deeply regret this incident, but I was convinced that I had acted correctly. I wish the rules were revised as quickly as possible in a way that allows reasonable treatment of sport horses without risking long suspensions because the settling times change constantly with each new method of analysis and become literally 'incalculable'.

"I am aware that I have given reason to doubt the honesty and cleanness of my person and of our sport. I herewith apologize to everyone who is close to me and to equestrian sports. Of course I will do everything to help clarifying any questions that still remain."

At the time the German Equestrian team was disbanded over doping allegations, Werth said "My horses belong to Madeleine Winter-Schulze. What I give or not give to my horses only concerns me, the owner and my stable crew."

Madeleine Winter-Schulze also owns horses ridden by showjumper Ludger Beerbaum, whose comments about horse doping in the media prompted the German Equestrian Federation to disband its top-level teams and clean up the "acute doping problem" within the sport.