Horse sport keeps it clean at Tokyo 2020

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All medalists and fourth-placed horses were drug tested at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. There was also random testing.
All medalists and fourth-placed horses were drug tested at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. There was also random testing. © FEI/Christophe Taniére

All of the horses and riders competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games returned negative drug tests, the FEI says.

It is the third successive Olympic Games with no positive drug tests, for horses or humans.

FEI President Ingmar De Vos said the results validate the work of the FEI Clean Sport initiative.

“This should of course be business as usual, but it would be naïve to think that clean Games are guaranteed in any sport,” De Vos said.

“Of course, as with all sports in the Olympic Movement, the samples – including the equine ones – will be kept in storage for up to 10 years for potential retesting as improved processes are developed to test for substances that were not reliably detectable at the time of sampling.

“But, for now, this result validates all the work that has gone into the FEI Clean Sport educational campaign over the years, the buy-in of our National Federations and the uptake of equine pre-arrival testing and elective testing to ensure our horses would compete clean at the Games.”

Equine testing was conducted by the FEI at Tokyo 2020 under the FEI Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMRs) and FEI Veterinary Regulations. The FEI has a long-term agreement with the independent not-for-profit anti-doping organisation ITA (International Testing Agency), and delegates parts of its human anti-doping programme to it, including testing coordination.

At the Olympics, 38 tests were carried out on 24 horses, including all individual medallists and fourth-placed horses, plus at least one horse from medal-winning and fourth-placed teams. Random testing was also carried out, with horses selected by a random number generator app, and there was also targeted testing.

A total of 38 tests were carried out at the Paralympic Games on medal-winning horses, plus random and targeted testing.

In looking back on a successful Games for equestrian sport, De Vos noted that athletes across all sports had to perform without the support of loved ones and fans: “But at our two superb venues at Baji Koen and Sea Forest, the teams and their entourage generated a great buzz.

“There is no doubt that, despite the challenges, our sport triumphed in Tokyo and we received lots of very positive feedback. But, as always, there are plenty of lessons learned and key takeaways. There will be a full debrief, which will include a comprehensive review of the formats.

“Part of that process will be taking into account the feedback we have already received and we are also proactively reaching out to our community to ensure we get extensive input. And we will use the learnings from these Games to take forward to Paris 2024.”

Keeping it simple – and clean

The FEI’s Clean Sport campaign, started in 2010, is part of an ongoing programme designed to simplify the FEI anti-doping regulations, which are based on World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) principles.

It is aimed at athletes, grooms, team and personal veterinarians, and other support personnel and includes key information on prohibited substances, the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations, the testing process, and all related resources.

WADA’s Prohibited List identifies the substances and methods prohibited in and out-of-competition, and in particular sports. The substances and methods on the list are classified by different categories (e.g., steroids, stimulants, gene doping).

As a WADA Code Signatory, the FEI runs a testing programme for human athletes based on WADA’s List of Prohibited List of Substances and Methods and on the Code-compliant FEI Anti-Doping Rules for Human Athletes (ADRHA).

The FEI Prohibited Substances List is divided into two sections: Controlled Medication and Banned Substances. Controlled Medication substances are medications that are regularly used to treat horses, but which must have been cleared from the horse’s system by the time of competition. Banned (doping) Substances should never be found in the body of the horse and are prohibited at all times.

Information on all substances is available on the searchable FEI Equine Prohibited Substances Database.

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