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Equestrianism: Britain to miss Sydney Olympics

GREAT BRITAIN yesterday found themselves out of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney after a horse failed a drugs test for a substance that occurs naturally in hay.

Polly Phillipps' 11-year-old mount, Coral Cove, failed the test at last year's World Equestrian Games. This automatically disqualifies her from the competition, resulting in the forfeiture of the team's three-day event bronze medals and Britain's Olympic qualification. Phillipps also faces a suspension of one month and a bill for pounds 2,100 towards the costs of the case.

Coral Cove was given a urine test on 4 October last year at the World Games in Italy. Both the A and B samples were found to contain the anti- inflammatory substance salicylic acid above the permitted threshold. This, according to the International Equestrian Federation, constituted "a prohibited substance".

Salicylic acid is a naturally occurring substance in hay, willow herb, horse feed and other plants. Though imposing the "mandatory disqualification", the FEI "concluded that there was no deliberate attempt" by Phillipps to "affect the performance of Coral Cove".

Having lost the Olympic qualification that had seemed to be safe after the World Games, British riders will now be looking to secure one of three places on offer at the European Championships, to be held at Luhmuhlen in Germany from 16 to 19 September, when they will also be defending their team title.