Drug test costs U.S. Olympic dressage team

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The United States was disqualified Monday from its fourth-place finish in the Olympic team dressage event for a positive drug test.

The International Equestrian Federation said rider Courtney King's horse Mythilus tested positive for the banned substance felbinac. The medication is used as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever.

The FEI said the disqualification was automatic despite a plea from the U.S. Equestrian Federation on behalf of King's teammates Steffen Peters and Debbie McDonald.

"The behavior of anyone at the top of the sport and particularly at the Olympic Games must be faultless since the eyes of the world focus on performances at such events," the FEI said in a statement.

King also lost her 13th place in the individual dressage class and received a one-month ban already served since she was suspended during the Beijing Games.

A hearing on the case was held Sept. 7 at FEI headquarters in Lausanne. King argued that she gained no competitive advantage and had not mistreated her horse because of the nature and small amount of the substance found. The FEI classes felbinac as a banned medication, not a doping product.

While noting King's "impeccable record and reputation," the FEI said she had not explained how the substance entered her horse's system. The tribunal repeated FEI policy of ensuring that horses compete only when fit.

"This requires doping and medication rule violations to be strict liability or no fault offenses," the governing body said.

The U.S. equestrian team was praised for its "excellent stable management" at the Olympics, and for its efforts trying to find out the source of the positive test.

The FEI said it believed neither King "nor anyone on her behalf or related to the USEF had knowingly administered the medication to the horse."

King's case is one of six positive tests from the Olympics being heard by the world federation this month. The equestrian events at the games were held in Hong Kong.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-09-22-08 1335EDT