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Canada’s show jumping team expelled from Tokyo Olympics for doping violation

Canada's Nicole Walker rides Falco van Spieveld, during the Grand Prix event of the National at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Saturday, June 8, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh.
Canada's Nicole Walker rides Falco van Spieveld, during the Grand Prix event of the National at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Saturday, June 8, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Canada’s show jumping team has been expelled from next summer’s Tokyo Olympics because of a doping violation.

Nicole Walker of Aurora, Ont., is appealing the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, saying she inadvertently ingested a cocaine metabolite by drinking coca tea during last summer’s Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

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“The team deserves to go to the Olympics,” Walker said Tuesday in a statement. “My priority right now is to continue to fight for the Canadian equestrian team.”

The 26-year-old placed fourth in the individual event.

She then helped Canada qualify for the 2020 Olympics with another fourth in the team event alongside Eryn Ballard, Lisa Carlsen and Mario Deslauriers.

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The Pan Am Games was Canada’s last chance to qualify for Tokyo.

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The team had to finish in the top four to be among the 20 countries competing for Olympic team gold in 2020.

Walker tested positive for Benzoylecgonine in a sample taken the day of the team final Aug. 7 in Lima.

She had a hearing Dec. 4 with the Pan Am Sports disciplinary commission, which disqualified her scores in the individual and team events, the international governing body of equestrian (FEI) said in a statement.

In team show jumping, the lowest score among four riders is dropped from the team total. Walker’s disqualified scores were replaced by Carlsen’s.

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Canada tumbled from fourth to seventh. Argentina moved up from fifth to claim the last Olympic berth.

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“There is no basis in fact or law to disqualify Canada from the 2020 Olympics,” Walker’s lawyer Tim Danson said in a statement.

“Canada qualified for the Olympics fair and square even if the scores Nicole earned after she drank the coca tea are discounted.”

The coca plant contains alkaloids that can be chemically extracted to concoct cocaine.

While coca and coca leaves are illegal in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, coca tea is legal and consumed in several South American countries.

Coca tea is considered an altitude sickness remedy in Peru.

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If Walker is unsuccessful in her appeal to CAS, Canada can send only one rider to Tokyo to compete in the individual event.

Equestrian Canada is backing Walker’s appeal.

“EC remains firmly committed to clean sport and to standing behind our athletes,” the organization said in a statement.

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“We fully support Nicole’s decision to bring an appeal forward to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”

Walker is the daughter of Belinda Stronach, president and chairman of The Stronach Group and former member of Parliament from 2004 to 2008.

The Canadian team of Yann Candele, Tiffany Foster, Eric Lamaze and Amy Millar lost a jump-off for the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Lamaze, Ian Millar, Jill Henselwood and Mac Cone won a silver medal in 2008.