The panel of the FEI Tribunal has rendered its final decision in the prohibited substance case involving the horse Rufus ridden by Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) at the 2008 Olympic Games.

The Person Responsible (the rider) is suspended for a period of four and half months (135 days), which period began on the date of the application of the provisional suspension, 29 August 2008, and shall run up to 10 January 2009. The Person Responsible (PR) is fined CHF 2,000. The horse and the rider are disqualified from the entire Olympic Games.

The justifications for the sanctions are the principles which are at the core of the FEI Equine Anti-Doping and Medication Control Rules, according to which “It is each Person Responsible’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance is present in his or her Horse’s body during an Event. Persons Responsible are responsible for any Prohibited Substance found to be present in their Horse’s bodily Samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Person Responsible’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping rule or medication control violation.”

In reaching its conclusion the Tribunal concluded the substance at issue – Nonivamide – was a “Medication Class A” rather than a “Doping” substance based on its interpretation of the list of prohibited substances.

In considering the sanctions to be given to the PR in this case, the Tribunal took into account:

– the fact that the PR is an experienced sportsman and that the behaviour of anyone at the top of the sport and particularly at the Olympic Games must be faultless;

– the nature of the substance involved which is not only a pain relieving substance, but also an agent that can be used for hypersensitisation purposes;

– the fact that the source of the presence of the substance has not been established by the PR;

– the fact that several of the PR’s suggestions regarding the presence of the substance reveal poor stable management for this level of Event; and

– the fact that the actions taken by the team to control all possibilities of contamination and actions taken following the positive finding to reveal its source were not at the same level as established by other teams at the same or similar events.

On the other hand, the Tribunal also considered

– the impeccable record and reputation of the PR;

– the PR’s assistance in the finalization of this matter and the efforts of the PR’s legal team to bring this matter to a relatively quick resolution;

– and the fact that the substance is a newly detectable substance which is often used by riders for legitimate therapeutic reasons.

Rodrigo Pessoa has 30 days to appeal this decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).


Interim decisions in the prohibited substance cases involving the horses Cöster ridden by Christian Ahlmann (GER) and Camiro ridden by Toni Andre Hansen (NOR) have also been issued. The Tribunal has decided not to lift the provisional suspensions until the final decisions are rendered.