Swiss Dressage Riders have caused a great upheaval in Europe by announcing that they will not participate in the 2008 Olympic Games for the welfare of their horses. Swiss anchor rider Silvia Ikle took the initiative by announcing her withdrawal from Olympic participation because she does not want to put her horses Salieri CH and Romario under physical strain caused by travelling and competing in Hong Kong.
Ikle listed several reasons for her withdrawal citing the heat and humidity as well as the long flight and five and a half weeks travelling as main reasons for not going. "I don't want to put my horses through this," Ikle explained. "This is a hard decision for me as I know it has consequences for the results of the Swiss dressage team, but in my entire career as dressage rider I have always chosen for the welfare of my horses as highest priority and have put aside my personal desires and ambitions for this (e.g. I withdrew twicefrom competing at the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas).
In Ikle's wake, the Swiss Equestrian Federation announced that none of the Swiss team members will go to Hong Kong. "The fourth place in the nations' cup at the 2007 European Championships and its consequent placing for the Olympic Summer Games was achieved by the exceptional performance of Silvia Ikle and Salieri CH. Her individual third place in the Grand was decisive for the team ranking," the SVPS stated. "The Swiss Dressage Selection Committee has, therefore, decided that no team, nor any individual Swiss rider will be sent for dressage to Hong Kong." The SVPS decided to spend the funds meant for the Olympics on the development of the Swiss Elite Dressage Team so that in the future the withdrawal of one team member can be recovered by replacing it with another strong combination.
In response to the withdrawal of the Swiss team, German Jurgen Koschel announced his resignation as Swiss dressage team trainer. "The flight time as well as the climate in Hong Kong were known as soon as it was announced that the Games were going to be held there and they were accepted by all international riders, who also competed at the Olympics in Seoul, Atlanta or Los Angeles, which were successfully held under the same circumstances," Koschel stated.
Koschel continues his argument that "top teams such as the German and the Dutch team will send their best riders to Asia. The presence of the best dressage athletes in the world is essential because the last few years the discipline of dressage has been under fire as an Olympic discipline. The withdrawal of a rider because of physical strain on his/her horse would be acceptable, when these would have been communicated from the start. The withdrawal of a nation is in my opinion totally against the Olympic spirit. For each athlete, it is great honour and life achievement to participate in this global highlight."
Strict Doping Policy to be Carried Out at 2008 Olympic Games
Horse and Hound reported that the organisation of the 2008 Olympic Games has announced that strict and quick doping tests will be carried out in the equestrian discipline at the Games. "Horse samples always take longer to test than human ones and we're trying to get more in line with human testing," said Frits Sluyter, head of the International Equestrian Federation's (FEI) veterinary department. " We try to make the testing time as short as possible, and we are lucky that in Hong Kong all the staff at the FEI laboratory [already situated there] will be dedicated to working on the Olympics."
Sluyter referred to Dr. Terence Wan's research laboratory where a staff of 43 members work for the racetrack of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It is one of four laboratories which is recognized by the FEI. This Chinese lab tests about 150 horses with each race event and has a history of 37 years of correct testing.
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