April 11, 2008

Figures from the FEI's Medication Control Programme for 2007 reveal that more horses were tested but fewer returned positive tests.

The FEI said that over its eight disciplines it is guided by one fundamental principle - the welfare of the horse.

A key effort in recent years has been in the field of medication control and anti-doping, with a variety of programmes and initiatives aiming to clarify the rules at play, provide meaningful research data, identify substances and detection times, and educate the athletes.

There has been a substantial increase in the number of horses tested on a yearly basis with the Medication Control Programme active within Groups I and II as well as worldwide testing. In 2007, a total of 3270 horses were tested in FEI events as opposed to 1646 in 1996 - although, it should be noted that the rate of increase was particularly steep in the earlier years, with only a slight increase over the past two. Interestingly, the rate of positive test results in relation to the number of horses tested has shown a noteworthy decrease over the past two to three years, now sitting a little over 1% as opposed to just under 5% in 2004 (for a full breakdown please see figures below). This leads to the conclusion that all the initiatives put in place coupled with increased testing have led to a decrease in anti-doping and medication violations.

"This is not and should not be considered as a finite success in itself, but rather a path to be pursued so that the rules and regulations in place to protect the welfare of the horse and competition integrity are respected and enforced," the FEI said.

Particularly in view of the increasing number of international events held annually (2153 in 2007 as opposed to 542 in 1997) and the greater demands made upon horses in response to the busy calendar year - there can be an increased pressure to use medication. The FEI has always advocated that instead of accelerating the horse's recovery by medication with the next event in mind, a rest period should be provided (perhaps also accompanied by veterinary treatment), allowing for mental and physical improvement away from the competition site.