Fight to get Canadian showjumping team to Olympics goes to appeal

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Canadian showjumper Nicole Walker. Photo: Dallis Lee Ann Schlitz (CNW Group/Smithcom)

The fight to get the Canadian showjumping team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be taken to the world’s highest sporting court.

Canadian equestrian team member Nicole Walker is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the outcome in relation to the drug test she failed at the Pan-American Games in Peru last August.

The failed test is said to have arisen after she inadvertently drank coca tea for breakfast.

The Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission has since disqualified her Panam Games results and the FEI announced that the team is no longer qualified for the 2020 Olympics.

The Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission had the option to preserve Team Canada’s result, but opted not to.

“There is no basis in fact or law to disqualify Canada from the 2020 Olympics,” Walker’s lawyer, Tim Danson, said.

“Canada qualified for the Olympics fair and square even if the scores Nicole earned after she drank the coca tea are discounted.”

“I am confident that Team Canada and Nicole will receive a fair hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

Walker said her priority right now was to continue to fight for the Canadian Equestrian Team.

“The team deserves to go to the Olympics,” she said.

In a hearing before the commission on December 4, Panam Sports accepted that Walker unknowingly ingested coca tea at breakfast on August 7, which led to her positive test result for benzoylecgonine, a prohibited substance under the FEI’s anti-doping rules for human athletes.

Coca tea is a prevalent and legal beverage that is widely available and common in Peru. It has a similar appearance and taste to green tea and is packaged using similar colors and imagery.

Walker was a member of the fourth-placed Canadian team and also finished fourth with Falco Van Spieveld in the individual final at the games.

The sample that tested positive was taken on August 7, the day of the team final in Lima.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic quota places were available to the three best-ranked teams from Groups D (North America) and/or E (Central & South America) at the Games this year, excluding the teams already qualified.

The three teams that earned qualification in Peru were Brazil, Mexico and Canada. The decision of the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission means that Canada is no longer qualified. The final outcome will rest on the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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