It is almost exactly a year ago that I arose from my China-sized guesthouse bed at the brutal hour of 4 am and made my way to the train station for a bleary eyed ride to the cross country course at Beas River. It was the shortest Olympic cross country course in history, not much more than half the length of past courses. But as far as spectators are concerned, a shorter course is an advantage – less walking to see more jumps. The Olympics in Hong Kong were a tremendous success in almost every respect. Except for one. Yup, I’m talkin’ drugs. So where is the world now in terms of doping, 12 months later? If you take a look at the somewhat incomplete FEI Case Status Table (incomplete not because names are missing, but because the information on hearings is sketchy), the list isn’t very long….but just take a look at some of the names on it:
Isabell Werth, Michael Whitaker, Eddie Macken (what is with the Irish, anyway?) hell, even the husband of the FEI Prez is on there! When Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (I’m not typing THAT again, I’ll just call him the Sheikh) did his own drug testing parallel to the FEI’s and determined before the FEI did that the endurance horse he had raced in February had forbidden substances in its system, he issued a press release announcing that he would proactively turn himself in and accept whatever consequences he had coming to him. The move was certainly PC, but did it affect the degree of punishment meted out last week? It wouldn’t appear so. A six month suspension and a bunch of Swiss Francs in fines and legal expenses seems pretty stiff – stiffer than the Olympic suspensions, in fact. You certainly couldn’t say he got favourable treatment because his wife is the Prez. Or because Meydan, the big money sponsor of the Nations Cup series, is his company.
At his hearing, the Sheikh told the tribunal that he has an interest in 700 endurance horses, and that “he cannot be involved in the medication protocols of each horse”. If I could ask the Sheikh just one question, this is what it would be: what on earth could you possibly need 700 horses for? Even if you rode 10 horses a day (and that isn’t likely, since endurance horses have to be ridden for long sessions to get and stay fit), 5 days a week, it would take more than three months to ride them all just once. I’m sure I’m doomed to eternal ignorance about all things Sheikh, because I can’t even begin to imagine the spending and lifestyle habits of someone that rich. The Sheikh has built his own city for Allah’s sake.
But enough gloom for one blog (sorry Jenn, but sometimes you just have to start a paragraph with ‘but’ – as long as it isn’t a press release). I hope I can cheer us all up with a video of my wiener dog, Chorizo, racing at Hastings Park racecourse as between-race entertainment a few weeks ago. The reason so few dogs finished the heat (Chorizo and the little bugger that beat him) is because the race organizers decided to use the horse gate to give the race some authentic horse racing flavour. When the gates banged open they scared the crap out of the dogs, most of which refused to run or were too disoriented to know which way to go. The dog beside Chorizo never even left the gate. Good times! Chorizo was popular with the crowds when he dribbled the soccer ball, so I don’t care that he didn’t win. I’ll take popularity over athleticism any time. While you’re there on youtube, check out the ‘Jasmine the fast and furious’ video. Jasmine was in the first heat, but she decided wiener racing was for pussies and took off around the infield for 10 glorious minutes of bird and pace horse chasing.