The Canadian equestrian show jumping team is supporting their fellow teammate Nicole Walker after a sample she submitted during the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru tested positive for the prohibited substance benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite. Walker has been provisionally suspended by the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI). Walker has also exercised her right to request a hearing before the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission.
“I am a very big fan of Nikki Walker. She is a very serious and highly disciplined equestrian rider. As early as 16 years of age, Nikki caught my attention. Instinctively, I recognized that she had the “right stuff”. She was very focused, committed and skilled. Nikki trained hard. She stood out. I knew that one day she would proudly ride for Canada,” says Ian Millar. “Nikki continued to develop into the highly skilled and professional rider that she is today. She has represented Canada with honour and distinction. There is zero, and I mean zero chance of Nikki ever putting herself or her teammates in harm’s way. Not only does Nikki have my full support, I would be proud to ride with her representing Canada.”
“Nikki Walker has always conducted herself as a true professional equestrian rider. I have always admired her skill, discipline and professionalism,” says Eric Lamaze. “She is a very focused and serious rider and has an outstanding future. I would proudly ride with Nikki as part of Canada’s Equestrian Riding Team. She has always represented Canada with honour and distinction.”
“In the last several years, I have spent a lot of time with Nikki at competitions. I have consistently been impressed by how seriously she takes the sport and her consummate professionalism,” says chef d’équipe Mark Laskin. “I am one hundred percent certain she would never take any prohibited substance or do anything that would put the Canadian team or her career in jeopardy. Nikki is an outstanding team member and I am more than certain there is another explanation for this positive test.”
“I hold Nikki Walker in the highest regard. She is the last person that would ever put herself, her career or her teammates at risk. She is one of the most responsible, articulate and clever people that I know,” says Tiffany Foster. “I believe wholeheartedly that this situation is not one she would ever knowingly get herself into; she is simply too intelligent and responsible. I know how much riding for her country means to her and I give my complete support to her as a friend and as a teammate.”
“I have personally known Nikki for 10 years and I have been competing with her at international competitions for the past three years,” says Mario Deslauriers. “She is a great teammate – organized, professional, hard-working and always ready to help out. She is an outstanding ambassador for our sport. I believe 100% there is another explanation for these test results.”
Walker’s top priorities are to ensure that her teammates remain qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, and to find out how this could have happened.
“I have watched Nikki Walker with admiration as she has developed into an international competitor,” says Lisa Carlsen. “Nikki’s behaviour in training, in competition and socially is impeccable and there is no way she is a drug user. I would love my 17-year-old daughter to be like Nikki and have that much work ethic, confidence and integrity at 25.”
“I was Nikki’s coach from 2010-2013 and later proud to ride with her as a teammate representing Canada. I know she considers the honour of representing her country a great privilege,” says Beth Underhill. “Nikki is in top mental and physical health and I do not believe she would ever partake in drug use as it is of no interest to her and she would not take those risks. I have only ever seen Nikki in complete control of herself. Show jumping requires intense resolve and character and I have no doubt Nikki will continue to be a great ambassador for our sport and our country.”
“Nikki has been a great asset to the Canadian team for the past year,” says Erynn Ballard. “She came to Lima and put her best foot forward. Both her and her horse were amazing and helped the team tremendously. She has my full support.”
Nicole herself is also surprised by the results of the test. “I was shocked and devastated to hear about these results. I do not use illicit drugs, ever,” said Walker. “Whether in Peru, or in any competition setting for that matter, I am always fully aware of the possibility of being tested and would never expose myself to any substance that could test positive. My Canadian teammates, my team in the barn, our horses and I, have all put a lifetime of effort towards an Olympic goal and I would never do anything to jeopardise that for my teammates or for myself. I’m extremely grateful to everyone for their support and to my teammates for standing with me.”
Nikki’s family and coach are also showing their support. “Nikki has dedicated her whole life to the sport she loves. She would never do anything to jeopardize that,” says Walker’s mother, Belinda Stronach. “I love her and support her, not only because I’m her mother, but because she has great integrity and is incredibly loyal, dedicated and honest. I’m confident that there is another explanation for this and fully stand behind her.”
“I completely stand behind Nikki. I am extremely proud of her dedication, her accomplishments and I am even prouder of the person she is,” says Nicole’s father Don Walker. “Nikki is, and has always been, an honest person. I can say with absolute conviction that Nikki has never done drugs. We will do whatever is required to clarify the truth.”
“As Nikki’s show jumping coach for nearly seven years, I have witnessed nothing but her exemplary dedication, integrity and commitment to this sport,” says Cian O’Connor, Walker’s riding coach. “Nikki is a person of the highest standards, in and out of competition, and does not use drugs. I have no doubt that there is another explanation for these results and that her good name will be cleared.”
At this point in time, all that is known to Nicole and her team is that she was notified that her test in Lima was positive for the substance benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite, and that she does not do drugs. To speculate on anything beyond this would be highly premature says Nicole’s lawyer.
“It is too premature to comment on the merits of Nikki’s case at this time. As you can appreciate, we are at a very early stage of a complicated process. We will have more to say at a later date,” says Tim Danson. “What I am confident in saying at this early stage is that Nikki does not use substances prohibited by WADA. She is incredibly careful and vigilant in this regard.”
Given that this is an ongoing legal matter, Nicole and her team will not be commenting further until the process has concluded.