Pessoa's Olympic Horse Tests Positive for Nonivamide

Brazilian Rodrigo Pessoa's 2008 Olympic mount, Rufus, has tested positive in both his A and B sample for the prohibited substance nonivamide.

September 5, 2008 — The 2004 Olympic individual gold medalist, Rodrigo Pessoa, whose 2008 Olympic mount Rufus tested positive for a prohibited substance at the Games in Hong Kong, said today he was “absolutely” surprised at the result of the analysis.

Rodrigo Pessoa and Rufus at the 2008 Olympics | © 2008 by Nancy Jaffer

This morning, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) reported that the results of the B sample matched the A sample tested last month. The status of Pessoa, who has been suspended, will remain the same until his case can be heard by a full FEI tribunal.

Ironically, Pessoa earned his gold medal from the Athens Games after he was elevated from the silver because gold medalist Cian O’Connor lost his title when his horse tested positive for a prohibited substance. But Pessoa’s positive result will not change the medal standings for Hong Kong, since he finished fifth there. If his violation is upheld, it will, however, change the order of finish, moving sixth-place American rider McLain Ward up to fifth.

A test carried out on Rufus following the individual final revealed an A sample that was positive for the banned substance nonivamide, part of the capsaicinoid family and classified as a doping prohibited substance given its hypersensitizing properties, and as a medication class A prohibited substance for its pain relieving properties.

Horses ridden by four other show jumping competitors, including Pessoa’s countryman, Bernardo Alves, also tested positive for capsaicin. Their cases are scheduled to be heard for final disposition by an FEI tribunal starting today. Pessoa’s hearing will be held separately later this month, and the rider declined to make further comment about the situation because of the pending appearance before the FEI tribunal. After that, the panel will, in light of all the evidence received, take a decision as to the applicable sanction.

Pessoa’s is the sixth and final positive doping test from the 2008 Games. Rufus’ sample was received by the laboratory August 23 following the individual jumping final. A preliminary hearing was held by teleconference August 28 before a member of the FEI Tribunal and the suspension was confirmed the next day.

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