Canada’s jumping team has lost its appeal to regain a place in the Tokyo Olympics. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) gave an urgent ruling last night, dismissing appeals by Nicole Walker and Equestrian Canada against her disqualification from the 2019 Pan American Games team jumping competition in Lima, after failing a dope test.
Walker tested positive for metabolites of cocaine which she believed to have come from drinking a local coca tea, popular in South America.
Without Walker’s scores in Lima, Canada slipped out of the final Olympic qualification place, which instead went to Argentina.
The CAS judges instead upheld the Pan American Sports Organization’s request to disqualify Canada entirely for the single positive test.
The decision was fast-tracked following CAS hearings on December 21 and 23 and a full written verdict “will be notified to the parties in the coming weeks,” the court said.
Canada now has one place in the individual jumping at Tokyo.
Walker has always stressed her innocence and that she does not take illicit drugs. However, in both human and equine anti-doping, the principle of “strict liability” applies, which means the rider takes responsibility even when the positive sample can be explained by something unintentional. Where the rider can prove they bore “no fault or negligence” or “no significant fault or negligence” the punishment by suspension and fines can be waived, but disqualification from the contest is non-negotiable.
“We are extremely disappointed with the CAS conclusion,” said Walker’s lawyer, Tim Danson. “Until it releases the reasons for the decision, we cannot comment further at this time.
“Once the reasons are released and we have had an opportunity to review them, we will have more to say at that time. Nikki has always been fighting for her team-mates and their place in the Tokyo Olympics.”
In a brief statement , EC said: “Equestrian Canada (EC) 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 Walker, EC and The Pan American Sports Organization. EC will await the reasoned Arbitral Award, which is due in the coming weeks, before commenting further at this time.”
Walker tested positive for benzoylecgonine, the compound tested for in most substantive cocaine drug urinalyses, in a sample taken the day of the team final. The coca plant contains alkaloids that can be chemically extracted to concoct cocaine. Coca tea is considered an altitude sickness remedy in Peru.