Has everyone completely lost their marbles? The troops are rallying behind Isabell and I am baffled. The IDRC refused to accept her letter of resignation…the former German chef d’equipe says there should be a ‘special rule’ for Isabell…even HRH has suggested (according to the open letter sent out by the riders’ clubs and FEI Athletes’ commission) it’s the fault of the testing system and not Isabell’s poor judgment that this violation occurred. I do agree on one point. The FEI’s policy of zero tolerance – regardless of therapeutic or performance enhancing effects – is a system that traps innocent people. I just spent an entire week immersing myself in research on Canada’s drug testing system, which has an extensive set of guidelines on thresholds that allows Canadians to have trace amounts of certain medications (medications, not doping substances or illegal drugs) in a horse’s system without fear of repercussions. Clearly the FEI could (and I think should) revise its rules so that a few picograms of a medication that has no effect whatsoever on the horse’s behaviour or physical state doesn’t rip medals off necks.
BUT! It seems that the argument would go like this: the FEI’s zero tolerance doping and medication policy is punishing innocent people. Therefore, everyone caught by the FEI’s testing is innocent. If you are a nerd then you know that’s called a faulty syllogism. The horse was given Fluphenazine for Cripe’s sake! As one Canadian on our drug testing committee pointed out, it’s illegal for a human being to be in possession of this drug unless it’s his or her name on the bottle. If you look at the FEI prohibited list, fluphenazine is right near the top, in the second category, listed under anti-psychotics. The drug is NAMED there. It says FLUPHENAZINE. It’s on the PROHIBITED list. Near the TOP. The Canadian Equine Medications Control Committee announced this spring that as of June 1, the withdrawal time for fluphenazine is 45 days. If you Google ‘fluphenazine equine’ the Equine Canada announcement is the third item that comes up. If you were, say, a Swiss vet or a German dressage rider with everything to lose, maybe a little Google time would have saved you a lot of grief.
Which leads to my second bafflement of the day. Why did they do it? I mean the rider and the vet – and perhaps others in consultation. Fluphenazine has no place in an actively competing horse’s system, ever. Never mind that they exercised poor judgment when it comes to withdrawal time. As I windmill my arms in shock and outrage (maybe I need to take an antipsychotic to settle down), my brain keeps circling back to the same point: what they did was plain wrong. I know some of you out there disagree with me – you can’t believe that one of the most successful dressage riders in history would take such a stupid risk, knowingly jeopardizing her reputation and her career. But my disbelief that she would do such a thing is outweighed by my disbelief that she had no idea she was doing something wrong. I’m on Soenke’s side.