Upgrades for horse sport's doping rules

May 30, 2009

Changes to FEI rules recommended by the Clean Sport Commission are aimed to clarify the difference between medication and banned substances within equestrian sport.

The commission, chaired by Professor Arne Ljungqvist, Chair of the IOC Medical Commission and World Anti Doping Agency Vice President, presented its recommendations this week to the FEI Bureau.

The commission's recommendations came on the same day the German Equestrian Federation dissolved its team amid doping allegations. A German FEI official has also been provisionally suspended.

One of the main proposals is that two separate lists be established: one of all known substances which are recognised as therapeutic, commonly used substances and which are considered acceptable in equine medicine; the other a list of substances that have been deemed by the FEI not to have legitimate use in equine medicine.

The substances on both lists would remain prohibited in competition, and the lists would be monitored and updated annually.

The commission noted that FEI general policy, based on very few permitted medications in competitions, was deemed appropriate. It is important to note that the FEI has never used the term "zero tolerance", rather "drug-free and medication-free competition" are more indicative of the FEI's policy, it said.

The Bureau has agreed in principle to the Commission's recommendations and has set up several smaller Working Groups to carry the work forward.

The other main proposal would be that there be two separate sets of rules established, each bearing distinct sanctions. There would be sanctions for substances that are not considered acceptable in equine medicine, resembling those of human athletes under the World Anti-Doping Code. The person responsible (PR) would continue to primarily be the athlete who rides or drives the horse during the event. Nevertheless, owner and other support personnel including but not limited to grooms and veterinarians could also be regarded as additional PRs and incur the relevant disciplinary measures.

Administrative sanctioning would apply to all medication rule violations. Furthermore, efforts at ensuring a harmonized approach to testing across FEI laboratories would continue.

The goal of this approach is to clearly distinguish for the athlete, media, and public at large, the difference between truly reprehensible rule violations that are unacceptable from the standpoint of fairness, welfare, or both, from those which more likely result from use of legitimate medication too close to competition.

A number of recommendations were made concerning the prevalence of testing and mechanisms to ensure that horses can be medication-free for competition.

Strong emphasis has been placed on educational and communications efforts necessary to improve the knowledge of these policies and the understanding of FEI's commitment to clean sport. Global education and communication campaigns addressing the sport at large are the key to success and are currently being set up.

The Commission's report has been made available to the National Federations and the FEI Associate Members. The specifics regarding legislation and the implementation of the new Medication Program will be open to consultation with the NFs on 30 June 2009.

The relevant rules will be put to the FEI General Assembly in November 2009, to come into effect on 1 January 2010.