The FEI Tribunal has published its Final Decision in the case against Canadian Jumping athlete Nicole Walker. A sample taken from the athlete on 7 August, the day of the team final at the Pan-American Games 2019 in Lima (PER), tested positive for the cocaine metabolite Benzoylecgonine, a prohibited substance under the WADA Prohibited Substance List.
In its Final Decision, the FEI Tribunal noted that the FEI accepted that, on a balance of probability, the Athlete bore no significant fault or negligence for the anti-doping rule violation after drinking coca leaf tea on the day of the team final.
In a settlement reached between the athlete and the FEI, which has now been approved by the FEI Tribunal, a one-year period of ineligibility was agreed, commencing on 26 September 2019 and ending on 26 September 2020. A provisional suspension imposed by the FEI on 8 November 2019 was lifted on 26 September 2020 on appeal to the FEI Tribunal. As the athlete did not compete between the Pan-American Games 2019 and the start of the provisional suspension, the full period of ineligibility has now been served.
The athlete has been ordered to pay a fine of CHF 1,500. Each of the Parties must bear their own legal costs.
In addition, the athlete has to complete an anti-doping education course within the next 12 months and provide certification to both the FEI and Equestrian Canada on completion of the course.
In its decision of 11 December 2019, the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission had disqualified the individual results obtained by Nicole Walker on 7 and 9 August 2019, and her results from 6 and 7 August 2019 were replaced with those of the fourth Canadian team member for the team final, meaning that Argentina earned a team quota place for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The athlete and her National Federation, Equestrian Canada, appealed the disqualification to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but in an operative award published on 12 January 2021, the CAS dismissed that appeal. The CAS published its full reasoned arbitral award in April of this year, allowing the FEI Tribunal to decide on the merits of the case.
Under the terms of Article 10.2.2 of the Panam Sports Anti-Doping Rules, responsibility for results management in terms of sanctions beyond the event itself is referred to the applicable International Federation, meaning that any period of ineligibility had to be imposed by the FEI.
Full details of the FEI Tribunal Final Decision are available here.