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CAS dismisses Canadian appeals against Pan-Am Games disqualification

Wednesday, 13 January 2021
CAS

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued its decision in the appeal arbitration procedures between Canadian showjumper Nicole Walker, Equestrian Canada and the Pan American Sports Organisation (Panam Sports). The CAS Panel issued its decision yesterday – Tuesday 12th of January – in which it dismissed the appeals filed by Walker and Equestrian Canada, and partially upheld Panam Sports’s appeal in ruling that the results for Team Canada in the jumping competition at the 2019 Pan Am Games are disqualified. The Arbitral Award with the grounds for the Panel’s decision is not yet available. 

In 2019, Walker was a member of Canada’s showjumping team at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. The event served as an Olympic qualifier for North America and Central & South America (Group D and E). After finishing 4th in the team competition, Canada earned one of the three Olympic quota slots available. Walker finished 4th individually, with Falco van Spieveld. 

In November that same year, the FEI announced that Walker had been provisionally suspended after she had tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, which is a prohibited substance under the FEI’s Anti-Doping Rules for Human Athletes (ADRHA). The sample had been taken on the 7th of August, the day of the team final in Lima. 

Walker said she “was shocked and devastated” to hear about the results. “I do not use illicit drugs, ever,” she added. Along in the legal process, Walker has had support from Equestrian Canada as well as from her team members. 

However, a month later, the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission found Walker to have committed an anti-doping rule violation.

In a statement, Walker informed that she unknowingly had ingested coca tea at breakfast on the 7th of August – which had caused the positive test result. “Coca tea is a prevalent and legal beverage that is widely available and common in Peru. It has a similar appearance and taste to green tea and is packaged using similar colours and imagery,” the statement explained. Nevertheless, the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission disqualified Walker’s results. Her team results were replaced with those of the fourth Canadian team member. The recalculation of the results meant that Canada dropped from 4th to 7th on a finishing score of 84.07. Canada’s Olympic team quota slot was reallocated by the FEI to Argentina, that was promoted to the 4th place after originally finishing fifth in Lima.  

Following the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission’s decision, Walker and her legal team announced that it would be appealed to CAS. “There is no basis in fact or law to disqualify Canada from the 2020 Olympics,” Tim Danson, Walker’s lawyer, said at the time

The CAS hearing was held by video-conference on 21st and 23rd of December 2020, with the FEI as one of a number of third parties. Both Walker and Equestrian Canada requested that the Panam Sports Disciplinary Commission decision be set aside and that the results she obtained in Lima be reinstated.

A statement from CAS on their decision reads:

“In her appeal to CAS, Nicole Walker requested that the Challenged Decision be set aside and that the results she obtained at the Pan Am Games be reinstated, thereby in turn reinstating Team Canada’s fourth-place position in the equestrian jumping team competition at the Pan Am Games. In its appeal, Equestrian Canada supported and endorsed its athlete’s appeal, submitting identical prayers for relief. In its appeal, Panam Sports, on the other hand, argued inter alia that the Challenged Decision should be amended as according to the applicable anti-doping rules an ADRV committed by a team member in a competition should automatically result in the consequence that the team result of that competition is also disqualified. All three appeals were consolidated and handled together by the same Panel of arbitrators. A hearing was held by video-conference on 21 and 23 December 2020. The CAS Panel issued its decision today in which it dismissed the appeals filed by Nicole Walker and Equestrian Canada and partially upheld Panam Sports’s appeal in ruling that the results for Team Canada in the jumping competition at the 2019 Pan Am Games are disqualified, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes. The Arbitral Award with the grounds for the Panel’s decision will be notified to the parties in the coming weeks.”

The CAS ruling means that the results for Team Canada in the jumping competition at the Pan American Games 2019 are disqualified. Argentina’s jumping team quota place for the Tokyo Olympic Games is now confirmed, the FEI announced yesterday

Following the CAS decision, Equestrian Canada has released the following statement on their website: 

“Equestrian Canada (EC) was disappointed to learn of the rulings by the Court of Arbitration for Sport outlined in the operative part of the Arbitral Award concerning Nicole Walker, EC and The Pan American Sports Organization. EC will await the reasoned Arbitral Award, which is due in the coming weeks, before commenting further at this time.”

While the CAS decision on disqualification of the Canadian team results is final, the FEI stated yesterday that the full merits of the case still need to be heard by the FEI Tribunal – which will decide on any further sanctions to be imposed on Walker. 



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