Out-of-competition testing, tougher penalties, the requirement for medication logbooks for horses, and holding trainers accountable alongside riders are among measures to clean up endurance that have gone out to member nations of the FEI for consideration.
The world governing body’s Endurance Strategic Planning Group has taken its next step toward reforms aimed at cleaning up welfare issues in the sport, sending its detailed proposed recommendations to national federations.
The planning group, formed after several European nations raised concerns over drug infractions and excessive fracture rates in endurance centred on the Middle East, has requested rapid feedback on the proposals.
The proposals are specifically geared towards reducing the incidence of doping and injuries, as well as putting in place a strategic plan to support the long term sustainability of the sport.
The seven-page document is said to contain 37 recommendations, and is a follow-up to the group’s presentation of its proposals during the FEI General Assembly in Montreux, Switzerland, early this month.
The recommendations are grouped into four categories: Foundation for Growth; Culture and Behaviour; Structure and Governance; and Communications and Marketing.
Both immediate and longer-term actions are detailed, and the group, while agreeing that consultation is a necessary part of the process, is also keen that much of the proposed plan should be put into action without delay.
It urged immediate action be implemented as soon as possible.
The group noted that important projects such as the Injuries Surveillance System and increased levels of testing were already in place. But it also wants national federations to provide leadership and drive culture change in anti-doping and horse welfare.
The Structure and Governance section has the highest number of proposed actions – 12 in the immediate action category and a further three in the longer-term.
Key among them is the proposal to enforce out-of-competition testing, a review of disciplinary procedures for athletes, trainers and officials and severe penalties for transgressors, a register and ranking list for trainers, the requirement for a medication and treatment logbook for all horses, and a proposal for trainers to becomes Persons Responsible with their riders.
Feedback from national federations will be incorporated into a final set of proposals which will be further debated at the Endurance Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, on February 9.
A special session on endurance will be included in the FEI Sports Forum, on April 28-29, at which national federations will be asked to support the strategy in its final form before it is approved by the FEI Bureau in May.
“It is our hope that all National Federations will accept our final proposals, take ownership of the plan and, together with the FEI, provide the leadership we believe is necessary for it to succeed,” the group’s chairman, Andrew Finding, said.
“It will not be easy for all to accept. There will be costs to bear for us all but we believe our proposals must be implemented to secure the long-term sustainability of the sport.
“Success in implementing these proposals depends on the willingness of everyone involved in the sport to be self-disciplined and to take personal responsibility.”
Finding reiterated one of his most powerful messages from the endurance session in Montreux. “Apply these values of clean sport, welfare, integrity and partnership and we live and work together. If you do not subscribe to them, our message is, simply, leave us.”
Failure was not an option, he said.
“We believe there is a bright future for the sport. Together we must grasp it and move on with a determination that we should never again have to face these challenges.”