UPDATE: The Australian Olympic Committee has been informed that Edwina Tops-Alexander and Katie Laurie will be permitted to compete in the Individual Jumping competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games. See Equestrian Australia report here.
The loss of riders due to a late withdrawal and a cocaine positive has put Australia’s team jumping prospects into turmoil in Tokyo.
Just two riders are left from the officially confirmed squad and under the rules Australia’s last-minute inability to field a team of three does not mean the surviving pair can compete at the Olympics as individuals.
The FEI is understood to be in urgent discussions with Olympic officials over the fate of Edwina Tops-Alexander and Katie Laurie. It is too late for further Australian riders to be substituted to the team, or for another nation to send a team. That would have been Canada, as the next best-placed team at WEG 2018 not already qualified.
Definite entries were confirmed on July 5, at which point the reserve or alternate riders had to be listed. Australia named US-based Rowan Willis for this role. Four days later he announced on Facebook he would not travel when he had been told that, tactically, there was no intention for him to start. This means that his horse Blue Movie did not go into quarantine.
Then yesterday (July 21) it was confirmed that Jamie Kermond ‒ whose selection had already been controversial due to low world ranking and recent lack of FEI starts ‒ had tested positive to cocaine. He is provisionally suspended and so prevented from travelling to Tokyo. His horse Napa is already there, but under FEI rules a different rider cannot partner with him ‒ at the Olympics, horse and rider must qualify as a combination.
Tops-Alexander vented her frustration on Facebook, saying: “I never imagined our team (or what’s left of it) would ever be in this situation. At the moment I’m not sure what the overall outcome is but it’s definitely a rollercoaster I won’t forget. We stay strong, we keep going and listen to ourselves. People in life need to be responsible for their own actions and they know what they are.”
Kermond has already admitted that he ingested cocaine at a social event and expressed remorse. The reason why it has taken nearly a month for the result of the sample to be known is unclear ‒ it was taken on June 26, nine days before close of definite entries.
Under the WADA code the standard sanction for a human athlete in a banned substances offence is a four-year suspension, although a reduction is sometimes given for prompt admission of guilt.