Rider values credibility over medal

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

His appeal was rejected but Ludger Beerbaum's has his credibility and reputation intact.

On Monday the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a decision that found Beerbaum and his horse, Goldfever, guilty of a doping offence at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

But the CAS said Beerbaum made "a mistake by administering a medication containing a prohibited substance."

Show jumping's governing body, the FEI, accepted Beerbaum had not tried to enhance the horse's performance or gain any unfair advantage when his groom gave it a cream, containing betamethasone to treat a skin irritation.

For the German rider, who launched the appeal in February, it closes a long battle with the sporting authorities.

"The ruling was disappointing even though I was expecting it a little bit," said Beerbaum, who is competing at the Masters this week with Goldfever, one of the best show-jumping horses in the world.

"After being involved in this thing for 10 months, and proving my innocence, proving it was not a doping case and proving that the horse didn't have any advantage and proving I made a mistake in not announcing we used this cream, I think we've lost the medal but not the credibility."

The medal in question is the gold the Germans won in the team competition in Athens, which, without Beerbaum's score, becomes a bronze and gives the U.S. top spot on the podium with Sweden moving up into silver position.

Beerbaum, who won team gold in the 1988 and 2000 Olympics, as well as the individual title in 1992, acknowledged it's "sad" for the Germans to lose the gold but added that's not necessarily the most important aspect of the controversy.

"There's no question the German team, with me, was the best on the day. We performed the best and because of this rule, we cannot change it," said Beerbaum, who will not get a bronze medal as his score is disqualified. "It's disappointing ... but in the end, the credibility is maybe more important than the other way around.

"I was really worried about it when this came out ... and to be honest still having my credibility is acceptable. That's why it's not so painful," said Beerbaum, who won the 2002 CN International at Spruce Meadows with Goldfever.

"I'm still in a lot easier situation than Ben Johnson or even Lance Armstrong. I wouldn't like to swap with him."

In Athens, Beerbaum's longtime groom gave Goldfever a cream for eczema and nobody thought to question what was in the ointment, which is widely available for human use as well.

"When this came out, I thought, 'What's going on here?' Then we looked into this thing and found the cream," said Beerbaum, adding he wasn't prohibited from riding Goldfever after the incident.

"In the end, they found one-tenth of a billion grams on a horse that weighs 600 kilograms."


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