Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Centre, Markopoulo
Date Started: August 24, 2004
Date Finished: August 24, 2004
Format: Two rounds. Four rider teams. Best three scores in each round determined team total. Separate competition.
Germany, the champions in both Atlanta and Sydney, would enter this competition as marginal favourites but their domination of dressage was not mirrored in the jumping events. The German team had won the 2003 European Championships but France held the World Equestrian Games title and at least half the teams involved were expected to mount some sort of medal challenge.
The surprise of the first round was the poor performance of the French team, a serious injury to one of their horses in the middle of its round left them with only three team members to score. Placed ninth and distanced from the medal contenders, they opted to withdraw from the second phase. The first round ended with just four penalty points covering the first six teams with The Netherlands and USA sharing the lead on 8.00 faults. A single time penalty separated the leaders from the German team with Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium level on 12 faults in fourth.
The Swiss, Dutch and Belgians fell away in the second round leaving Germany, USA and Sweden to dispute the medal positions. Only four combinations achieved clear rounds in both phases of the event, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson of Sweden, the USA’s Beezie Madden and importantly, the German pair of Marco Kutscher and Ludger Beerbaum. With Germany counting [Otto Becker]’s four-faulter and discarding the round of Christian Ahlmann this left the team on a grand total of 13 faults and seven clear of the Swedes and Americans tied in second. A jump-off for silver between three nominated members of each team finished with all six riders performing faultless rounds but the total aggregated times revealed the US to be seven seconds faster and placed them ahead of Sweden.
For Beerbaum this was to be his sixth Olympic gold — or so it seemed. A few weeks after the Games the Fédération Équestre Internationale announced that Beerbaum’s horse [Goldfever] had tested positive for the prohibited substance betamethasone. Beerbaum argued that the corticosteroid may have been present in an ointment given to the horse to treat a skin irritation, and whilst the FEI agreed that the substance provided no competitive advantage they were left with no alternative but to disqualify the pairing. Beerbaum later appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but they upheld the ruling of the FEI.
The United States were then upgraded to the gold medal position and Sweden to silver. Although Ludger Beerbaum’s record was expunged from the final results, Germany were not disqualified from the team event but had now to count the previous discarded scores from both rounds. This gave them a total of 21 penalties, which was still good enough for the bronze medal. The disqualification of [Cian O’Connor] meant that the Irish team, that had originally placed seventh, were removed from the official placings.