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A German rider at the Beijing Olympics
It will be some time before German riders compete againImage: AP

Teams disbanded

May 29, 2009

The German Equestrian Federation has unprecedentedly disbanded its national teams in three disciplines, in response to a string of accusations of illegal doping and medication use.


“We had to do something so that our riders wake up.” This was how the head of Germany's Equestrian Federation explained the decision, which marks the first time in the history of the sport that German equestrian teams have faced sanctions.

The national teams will be disbanded until each member is deemed fit to return to competition by the Federation and the Olympic Committee.

“Together with the German Olympic Committee we have decided that our national teams in the events show-jumping, dressage and three-day should be disbanded with immediate effect," said Sönke Lauterbach, the Federation's general secretary.

“Those who wish to perform for the national teams in the future will have to appear before and be examined by a special commission. We've established this independent commission to give German equestrian sport a new beginning and to create a way to control the use of doping substances in the future,” he added.

The commission is to probe the teams' doping practices and also the attitudes of the riders. Until the riders have faced the commission, Germany will remain without a national team, Lauterbach said.

“This means, at least for the moment, that we simply won't have a national team," he explained. "Once the commission gets up and running and begins its work, at least for the next few months we won't be able to reinstate the riders. For that time, we will be without a team.”

Ludger Beerbaum
Beerbaum has been Germany's top rider for over two decadesImage: AP

Top rider published confession

Leading up to the 2008 Beijing games, where Germany won three gold, one silver, and one bronze, German teams tested positive for several forbidden medications.

Though that in itself doesn't lead to sanctions, or to the medals being withdrawn, the German Equestrian Federation decided to implement the sanctions after its undisputed top rider, Olympic gold medalist Ludger Beerbaum, admitted to years of “dubious practices” in a newspaper interview published two weeks ago.

In the interview, Beerbaum was quoted as saying he previously had the attitude that "anything that wasn't found out was allowed.” In response, the national Federation suspended him from team events indefinitely.

However, Otto Becker, Germany's national trainer, is confident that Beerbaum will return to competition in the near future.

“I've spoken with him and I get the impression that he accepts the decision. He told me he wants to clear up the situation as soon as possible. He is very optimistic and says he just wants to get the facts straight and give the public his side of the story. I think that, once this is all over, he'll return to active competition, for many years to come," Becker said.

The Federation has yet to comment on whether it will reinstate its riders in time to compete in events later this year. The 2009 European Championships will be held in Great Britain in August and in France in September.


Editor: Susan Houlton

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