Endurance deal reached: UAE returns to FEI fold

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gallop-endurance400The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has had its FEI suspension lifted after an agreement was reached with the world governing body over the running of endurance in the country.

The UAE National Federation was provisionally suspended last March following an investigation by the FEI into what it called major horse welfare issues and non-compliancewith the rules in endurance.

The UAE subsequently appealed the suspension, but later withdrew it and opted to cooperate with the FEI in resolving the issues between them.

The FEI, in a statement on Monday, said the FEI Bureau had unanimously approved the immediate reinstatement of the UAE National Federation to full membership.

The FEI said a legally binding agreement between the two parties had been reached.

The agreement will remain in force for three years. The FEI can reimpose the suspension for non-compliance with the terms of the deal. It also reserves the right to withdraw the 2016 FEI World Endurance Championships, which are due to be held in Dubai in mid-December next year, should the UAE not honour the agreement.

The Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) has guaranteed that horse welfare will be fully respected and that FEI rules will be stringently enforced at all endurance events, both national and international.

The agreement was signed by FEI President Ingmar De Vos and Secretary General Sabrina Zeender, and by EEF President Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Secretary General Taleb Dhaher Al Mheiri, and Mohammad Al Kamali, Secretary General of the UAE National Olympic Committee.

The Emirates body, in its push to have the suspension lifted, had proposed a list of actions to address the issues. These were integrated into a draft agreement that the EEF sent to the FEI in early June.

The FEI Bureau welcomed the proposals, but told the EEF that more areas needed to be covered before it could be signed and the provisional suspension lifted.

The two parties have spent the intervening weeks reviewing and revising the terms of the agreement.

Under the key terms of the agreement, the EEF must ensure that:

  • Protocols are put in place to avoid equine fatalities;
  • Applicable rest periods are respected;
  • Horses on rest periods are blocked from entry in national events (the FEI system already blocks entries in international events);
  • Use of prohibited fluid administration and any substances prohibited under the FEI Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMRs) in and around the Field of Play and at the Vet Gate is prevented;
  • Prohibited substitution of horses is prevented;
  • Prohibited vehicles on the field of play are prevented;
  • Any individual or horse suspended by the FEI is automatically blocked by the EEF IT system from competing at national events;
  • The role and authority of officials in carrying out their duties is respected at all times;
  • Training and education of athletes, trainers, support personnel, national federation staff members and stable veterinarians will be conducted before the start of the 2015-16 endurance season in October;
  • FEI rules on post mortems are adhered to and, where possible, the same procedure is applied in the event of fatalities at national competitions;
  • A national independent governance adviser, approved by the FEI, is appointed;
  • Conflicts of interest are avoided;
  • Distribution of prize money is in accordance with the FEI approved schedule;
  • Rules for national endurance events in the UAE are fully compliant with the FEI Rules and Regulations.

The Emirates federation has undertaken to provide monthly written reports during the 2015-16 season on steps taken to ensure ongoing compliance with FEI’s rules and regulations, and has agreed to abide by any further recommendations put forward by the FEI.

Following completion of the 2015-16 season, the national federation will provide reports whenever requested by the FEI.

Additionally, the EEF will support a research project to evaluate the causes of injuries linked to the design of desert endurance courses. Endurance trainers will be obliged to cooperate with this research project.

The agreement also details the new legislation that has been introduced in the UAE prohibiting the trade or use of banned substances in horse racing and equestrian sports in the country and the sanctions that will be imposed for breaches.

FEI Secretary General Sabrina Zeender said the agreement was the result of four months of hard work.

“The United Arab Emirates have demonstrated with the signature of this agreement that they are fully committed to ensuring horse welfare and complying with FEI rules at both international and national level in the country.

“They are absolutely committed to making this work so that they can return to playing an active and leading role in endurance once again and, to demonstrate that commitment, they have included the UAE’s highest sporting body, the National Olympic Committee, in the agreement.”

EEF Secretary General Taleb Dhaher Al Mheiri said his federation was pleased that the FEI Bureau had unanimously agreed to lift the suspension. It was based, he said, on the considerable actions and solutions the parties had put in place.

“We will continue to work with them to ensure all their requirements are applied in endurance racing across the UAE.

“As the governing body of equestrian sports in the UAE we take our responsibility seriously. It is our goal to pursue excellence while promoting the growth of the sport and safeguarding the welfare of equine and human athletes.”

Separately, the FEI had commissioned the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU) to conduct an extensive inquiry into allegations of fake events and duplicate results in the UAE.

These allegations were not taken into account when the FEI Bureau imposed the suspension, and were dealt with independently, but provisions have been included in the agreement to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

The EEF cooperated fully with the inquiry and the detailed report is currently being reviewed by the FEI.  and a file will be submitted to the FEI Tribunal for further action.

Sanctions will be taken against any FEI Officials found to be involved. In addition, the FEI will annul all duplicated results and review any connected results.

At the same time, the EEF Endurance Committee conducted its own investigation into the allegations and has authorised sanctions on any organisers and EEF staff found to be involved.

The EEF is currently restructuring its organisational policies to ensure that similar events cannot occur again and will put rules in place for all future FEI events under which either the national federation or the organising committee must provide all equipment, including the timing system.

The EEF accepts that the FEI will be entitled to impose sanctions in case of non-compliance with all the terms of the agreement.

These sanctions would include, but are not limited to, the immediate reinstatement of the suspension and withdrawal of the allocation of the 2016 FEI World Endurance Championships, which are due to be held in Dubai in mid-December next year.

The agreement will remain in effect for three years.

During that time, the FEI and EEF will meet at least once a year for an in-depth review, in addition to the monthly written reports required under the agreement. The FEI reserves the right to extend the term of the agreement if appropriate.

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