Canada loses last bid to get showjumping team to Tokyo Olympics

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport has dismissed an appeal by Nicole Walker and Equestrian Canada.
© Mike Bain

A ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has sunk the prospects of Canada competing in the team showjumping competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

Canada’s fourth placing in team showjumping at the 2019 Pan American Games had qualified the team for Tokyo.

However, team member Nicole Walker was later found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation after a sample provided by her during the event was found to contain the prohibited substance benzoylecgonine, which is a metabolite of cocaine.

Walker’s explanation was that she had unknowingly ingested coca tea at breakfast during the Peru event on August 7, which led to her positive test result.

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.

Her explanation was accepted by the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission. However, on December 11, 2019, it disqualified her Pan Am Games results and the FEI subsequently allocated the Olympic spot to Argentina.

The bid for Canada to keep its Olympic spot went all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, which heard the matter late last year.

In a brief statement today, the court issued its decision in the appeal arbitration procedure in the case, in which the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission decision was challenged.

In the commission’s decision, the individual results obtained by Walker on August 7 and 9, 2019, were disqualified and her results from August 6 and 7, 2019, were replaced with the results of the next applicable Canadian team member for the purposes of the equestrian jumping team competition.

In her appeal, Walker requested that the challenged decision be set aside and that the results she obtained at the Pan Am Games be reinstated, thereby in turn reinstating Team Canada’s fourth-place position in the equestrian jumping team competition at the Pan Am Games.

In its own appeal, Equestrian Canada (EC) supported and endorsed Walker’s appeal, submitting identical arguments.

In its appeal, Panam Sports, on the other hand, argued that the challenged decision should be amended as according to the applicable anti-doping rules, a drugs breach committed by a team member in a competition should automatically result in the consequence that the team result of that competition is also disqualified.

All three appeals were consolidated and handled together by the same panel of arbitrators. A hearing was held by video-conference on 21 and 23 December, 2020.

The court panel issued its decision today, dismissing the appeals filed by Walker and Equestrian Canada. It partially upheld Panam Sports’ appeal in finding that the results for Team Canada in the jumping competition at the 2019 Pan Am Games are disqualified, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.

The full grounds for the panel’s decision will be notified to the parties in the coming weeks.

As matters stand, Canada will be able to enter just one horse and rider in the individual event at the Tokyo Games.

Equestrian Canada said it was “disappointed to learn of the rulings by the Court of Arbitration for Sport outlined in the operative part of the Arbitral Award concerning Nicole, EC and The Pan American Sports Organization”.

“EC will await the reasoned Arbitral Award, which is due in the coming weeks, before commenting further.”

• 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 Pan-American Games 2019, excluding the teams already qualified. The three teams that earned qualification in Lima were Brazil, Mexico and Canada.

Under Article 11.4 of the Panam Sports Anti-Doping Rules, an anti-doping violation by a member of a team (outside team sports) also leads to disqualification of the result obtained by the team in that competition.

Under the terms of Article 10.2.2 of the Panam Sports Anti-Doping Rules, responsibility for results management in terms of sanctions beyond the event itself shall be referred to the applicable International Federation. This means that any period of ineligibility would be imposed by the FEI.

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