Controversial FEI drugs list on hold for 11 months

December 19, 2009

by Neil Clarkson

The new FEI drugs list which left the equestrian world in uproar will now go to a new vote before member nations in 11 months.

The International Equestrian Federation announced early today (NZ time) that a final decision on the so-called progressive list will now go to a vote before the next FEI General Assembly, scheduled for Chinese Taipei early in November, 2010.

The decision appears certain to defuse any threats of boycott action at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, which are to be held from September 25 to October 10.

Leading European equestrian nations have been up in arms since the FEI General Assembly in Copenhagen approved a new drugs list which would allow low levels of certain anti-inflammatory drugs, including phenylbutazone, in competition horses.

National bodies have complained they did not have enough time to properly consider the issues around the progressive list, which was circulated to member nations just six days before the General Assembly.

The uproar that followed resulted in the FEI delaying the planned January 1 introduction of the list to April 5, pending further consultation. On Monday, an email vote was held among national federations to seek approval to revisit the progressive list in Chinese Taipei.

While the FEI did not refer specifically today to the email vote, it is clear a majority of nations agreed to the delay as the sport's 22-strong governing Bureau passed a resolution agreeing to defer the progressive list to the 2010 General Assembly.

The progressive list completely overshadowed the FEI's raft of Clean Sport initiatives, which received overwhelming support from member nations in Copenhagen.

Equestrian sport's governing body had hoped the Clean Sport reforms would put the embarrassment of failed drug tests at the 2008 Beijing Olympics behind it.

The FEI said the present Equine Prohibited Substance List and its accompanying rules and veterinary regulations will remain in effect until April 4. From April 5, it will implement the Prohibited Substances List, a more detailed version of the present list which received no specific objections during the four-week pre-General Assembly consultation period.

The zero-tolerance Prohibited Substances List was circulated to member nations on October 20.

The new Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMRs) and revised Veterinary Regulations, which both received strong support at the General Assembly, will also be implemented on April 5.

In the interim, it said, there will be a full review of the Equine Prohibited Substances List, with all the relevant and necessary research. It will take into account all comments from interest groups received following the 2009 General Assembly vote.

The FEI's List Group will look at non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and will further review whether the use of these substances in competition, singly and at specifically prescribed levels, is a threat to horse welfare and whether these substances, at specific levels, are performance enhancing.

"Legal concerns will be addressed by the FEI legal department to see whether the restricted use of NSAIDs in competition is in conflict with any national law," the FEI said.

"National Federations will have the opportunity to voice their opinions through their group chairs.

"The FEI President and management will also consult with other equestrian bodies, including racing authorities. Once this full consultation process has been completed, the List Group will then publish the 2011 version of the Equine Prohibited Substances List with validated levels regarding horse welfare and performance enhancement issues."

At the 2010 General Assembly, national federations will have the chance to vote on the policy issue of whether the FEI should allow the restricted use of NSAIDs, provided the levels are limited and are deemed by the List Group not to threaten horse welfare and not to be performance enhancing.

Further to the General Assembly policy choice, the question of whether the list should be adopted will be put to the FEI Bureau.

"There was a clear need to debate this issue further and the decision to put the policy choice to the vote at the 2010 General Assembly reflects that," FEI secretary general Alex McLin said.