Swiss show jumpers Steve Guerdat and Alessandra Bichsel have been acquitted by the FEI Tribunal of wrongful or negligent behaviour concerning anti-doping proceedings initiated against them earlier this year. Both horses returned positive for the banned substances Codeine and Oripavine, and the controlled medication substance Morphine, following the CSIO5* at La Baule in France, in May.

Based on conclusive and detailed evidence given by Steve Guerdat, the FEI has recognised, as suspected from the start, food contamination due to poppy seeds as being the cause for the positive testings in the three horses in question. The FEI also confirmed within the agreements, which have been approved independently by the FEI Tribunal, that the riders bear no fault or negligence and have also established how the substances entered the horses’ systems. Therefore the cases are now closed. Steve Guerdat and his entire team, just like Alessandra Bichsel and the Swiss Equestrian Federation FSSE, react with relief at this decision, but also mention the potential for improving guidelines and procedures.

“We are very happy that the decision of the FEI Tribunal confirms that all positive samples taken from the three horses in question are clearly due to food contamination. Thus our two athletes Steve Guerdat and Alessandra Bichsel, are not at fault and did not make any mistakes, since they did not “dope” their horses” said Charles Trolliet, President of the Swiss Equestrian Federation. “For the world of equestrian sports, the FEI and the national federations, as well as for the animal feed sector, we now have to draw the right lessons from this unpleasant story and take appropriate measures.

Steve Guerdat said: ”I am delighted to have been completely exonerated and vindicated by both the FEI and the FEI Tribunal of any suspicion of doping. And I am happy and satisfied that the evidence confirmed absolutely that the circumstances of the food contamination were exceptional and that we, the riders, acted at all times in a highly professional and diligent manner and not at fault or negligent at all. For me, the well being of my horses is the absolute priority in my daily work as horse owner and jumping rider. The judges’ decision is extremely important to me; it means that my horses and I can finally re-focus all of our energy on purely sporting aspects.“

“As jumping riders we have diligent duties to perform in the fight against doping, for the well-being of animals, in our own interest and that of equestrian sport. I fully agree with the FEI’s position in the fight against doping and have always been in its favour as a sportsman and horse owner. However, it appears that all those responsible should consider ways in optimising procedures and currently valid guidelines so that in the future, a non-proven suspicion of error on behalf of the rider, such as in my case, would be thoroughly treated before unjustified accusations – with grave consequences for the reputation of the person – are made public.”