Some nations unaware of depth of opposition

December 2, 2009

Some national federations voting on the FEI new drugs policy may not have realised the depth of European opposition to the progressive list, Equestrian Australia chief executive Franz Venhaus believes.

Venhaus, who was in Copenhagen for the FEI General Assembling meeting, explained the circumstances leading up to the vote which narrowly approved the controversial list.

Vehnaus said the Clean Sport workshop the day before the actual General Assembly had been well attended, during which there had been intense debate about the late notice the FEI had given of the so-called 'progressive list'.

"All major equestrian national federations spoke against this list and warned that the introduction of limited use of medication during competition would completely overshadow any gains from the 'clean sport' campaign, harm the image of the sport and lose sponsorship.

"At the end of the session the general feeling was that the original list would be favoured by national federations over the 'progressive list'.

During the General Assembly, national federations first voted overwhelmingly for the Clean Sport initiatives which arose out of two commissions of inquiry.

"When it came to the decision on which list to adopt, there was - amazingly - no further discussion of the pros and cons of the two lists before the vote was taken, not even in the form of a summary statement.

"The vote, a choice between the 'current list' and the 'progressive list', had 53 national federations vote for the 'progressive list' and 48 for the other. A change of three votes would have produced the opposite result.

"The vote caused many national federations to stand up and deplore the decision.

"Various attempts ensued to have the vote re-taken, none of them successful.

"It became obvious, however, that many national federations had not attended the forum held the day before and were not aware of the strong opposition of European nations to the 'progressive list'.

"There had also been some lobbying and vote-trading by a group of national federations that supported the 'progressive list', and other factors may also have played a role.

"The fact is that a vote was taken and that the 'progressive list' was adopted, however narrowly. The joys of democracy."

Venhaus described the fall-out in the European press as substantial. "It remains to be seen what the real consequences of the 'list' are going to be.

"Let's hope that what started as a very positive process, namely to have a 'clean sport', will in the end deliver the right result.

"We in Australia will need to decide our own destiny regarding the 'progressive list' and allowing low levels of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during competition, at least in national competition," he said.