However Canadian Equestrian Team remains disqualified for Tokyo Olympics
AURORA, ON, May 4, 2021 /CNW/ - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has concluded that Show Jumper and Canadian Equestrian Team Member Nicole Walker inadvertently ingested a single cup of coca tea at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, believing it to be green tea.
The Pan Am authorities did not warn the Canadian team that coca tea is legal and commonly served in Peru and that the "coca" is a derivative of cocaine. Coca tea has a similar appearance and taste to green tea and is often packaged using similar colours and imagery as green tea.
In a very technical interpretation of the applicable rules, CAS declined to overturn the Pan Am Sports Disciplinary Commission's decision disqualifying Canada from the 2020 Olympics. CAS found that regardless of the innocent circumstances of the "doping" offence and the complete absence of any cheating or performance enhancement, it had no discretion but to disqualify Canada.
"I am very pleased that CAS accepted what I said as factually and scientifically correct. I take my health, competitions, and duty as a team athlete very seriously," said Walker. "While I appreciate the personal vindication, that is not as important to me as the team being able to compete."
"It's very unfair that my teammates are barred from competing at the Olympic Games when the truth has been accepted. Team Canada competed fairly and has earned the right to be in Tokyo."
In a hearing before the CAS, the Panel accepted Walker's statement that she unknowingly ingested coca tea on the morning of August 7 at the breakfast service of the hotel in which she was staying.
The arbitration award concludes:
Ms. Walker impressed the Panel as an intelligent, sincere, and honest witness. She was the subject of careful cross-examination by PANAM Sports, but, in the Panel's view, that cross-examination did not undermine her credit.
Based, therefore, on the evidence of Ms. Walker supported by the evidence of Professor Uetrecht the Panel concludes that … Ms Walker's AAF [adverse analytical finding] was not the result, in whole or in part, of the inadvertent ingestion by her of cocaine prior to August 7 2019.
Did Ms Walker unintentionally consume cocaine by drinking tea made by using a teabag provided by the hotel on the morning of August 7 2019?
In the Panel's view, the evidence which has been led confirms that this question should be answered in the affirmative.
For the reasons given the Panel:
Accepts that Ms Walker did not intentionally ingest cocaine at any relevant time on or prior to August 7, 2019;
Accepts that there was no unintentional ingestion of cocaine by Ms. Walker at any relevant time prior to August 7, 2019;
Finds that the AAF was the result, and only the result of, the unintentional ingestion of cocaine by Ms Walker on the morning of August 7, 2019, as a result of her using a teabag containing cocaine which she took from the breakfast service area of the Los Incas Lima Hotel.
"The CAS Panel concluded that Nicole Walker impressed them as an intelligent, sincere and honest person, who unknowingly ingested a banned substance that was in a teabag served at the hotel she was staying at" said Walker's lawyer Tim Danson. The Panel clearly saw "Nicole Walker as an athlete of absolute integrity, who is fully committed to the principles of drug-free sports."
"This case has nothing to do with cheating or gaining any competitive advantage. On the contrary, the CAS Panel found that if the coca tea had any effect on Nicole, it would have been detrimental to her athletic performance and consequently only beneficial to those teams competing against Canada," said Danson.
"Canada won fair and square. It is wrong that Canada is out of the Olympics and is replaced by Argentina. There is an appeal route to the Swiss Federal Tribunal in Lausanne, Switzerland. The grounds to appeal are very narrow. We are looking at this very seriously."
"I am thankful for my family, friends, the team in the barn, and my Canadian teammates that have supported me throughout this process. I really can't put into words how much their support means to me, and I will forever be grateful to them," said Walker.
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