Appeal of bans by Saudi Arabian riders on fast-track

Abdullah al Sharbatly, pictured on Jalla De Gaverie.
Abdullah al Sharbatly, pictured on Jalla De Gaverie.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport says it will fast-track the appeals of two top Saudi Arabian riders whose recent FEI bans rule them out of competing in the London Olympics.

The court confirmed today that it has received the appeals by Khaled Abdullaziz Al Eid and Abdullah Waleed Al Sharbatly.

The pair are challenging the decisions taken by the FEI Tribunal on May 23 in which they were found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation.

Both were suspended for eight months, ruling them out of the Olympics.

At the request of the riders and with the consent of the FEI, the cases have been referred to a sole arbitrator and are being conducted on an expedited basis, the court said.

A hearing will take place on June 7, and the court says the decision will be issued by June 15, which would allow the pair the compete at the Games is their appeals prove successful. If unsuccessful, the bans will not expire until October.

Al Eid, 43, is the 2000 Sydney Olympics bronze medalist in showjumping. Al Sharbatly, 29, won silver at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in showjumping..

The FEI bans were a result of their horses testing positive for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Al Eid’s horse, Vanhoeve, and Al Sharbatly’s mount, Lobster 43, tested positive to phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone (a metabolite of phenylbutazone) at two separate events.

Vanhoeve was sampled at the Riyadh CSI3*-W in Saudi Arabia (30 November-3 December 2011), and the positive finding was notified to Al Eid on February 2. The rider voluntarily suspended himself without prejudice on February 24.

An adverse analytical finding for the horse Lobster 43 resulted from testing at the CSI3*-W at Al Ain in the UAE (9-11 February 2012). The case was notified to Abdullah Al Sharbatly on February 24, and the athlete also put himself on a voluntary suspension, commencing on February 28.

The Saudi Equestrian Federation  has expressed its disappointment over the FEI Tribunal decision that resulted in the bans.

The final hearing before the FEI Tribunal for both cases took place at FEI Headquarters in Lausanne in Switzerland in April.

Khaled Al Eid, left, and Abdullah Al Sharbatly
Khaled Al Eid, left, and Abdullah Al Sharbatly.

Al Eid appeared before the Tribunal on April 17, and Al Sharbatly the following day.
The panel for both hearings comprised the FEI Tribunal Chair, Professor Dr Jens Adolphsen, of Germany, Pierre Ketterer, of France, and Randi Haukebø, of Norway.

In its final decision on the Vanhoeve case,  the tribunal found that, as the Person Responsible, Al Eid failed to prove that ingestion by means of exposure to a contaminated stable environment was the likely source of the prohibited substances found in the horse’s system.

While it acknowledged the importance of the Olympic Games, which had been stressed by both Al Eid and his counsel during the hearing, the tribunal stated that considering the upcoming Games while determining the length of suspension would not provide a level playing field in a sports calendar that offers major events almost every year, and that rules have to be applied consistently throughout the four-year Olympic cycle.

The tribunal imposed an eight-month suspension, effective immediately and backdated to February 24, the day Al Eid accepted a period of voluntary provisional suspension. In addition, the tribunal imposed a fine of 1000 Swiss francs and costs of CHF3000.

In its final decision on the Lobster 43 case,  the tribunal found that Al Sharbatly failed to establish how the prohibited substances entered the horse’s system. The tribunal rejected his theories on ingestion in a contaminated environment. It  also ruled that, as phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone are not threshold substances, any quantity of those substances is considered a positive.

The tribunal imposed an eight-month ban effective immediately and credited from the time of sample collection on February 10, based on Al Sharbatly’s timely acceptance of the rule violations. The tribunal also imposed a fine of CHF1000 and costs of CHF3000.


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