The FEI and the Continuing Fight against Doping in Equestrian Sport

Article excerpt

Introduction - The New Rules

Over the last decade there has been a continual fight against doping in sport. Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made the fight against doping his number one priority. (1) It is based on the fundamental assumption of athletes want to compete on a fair and level playing field free of performance enhancing substances. However, there have been crises and equestrian sport has not been immune. Either because of confusion or deliberate actions, a number of horses have tested positive and have been disqualified with embarrassing results. The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) is the international governing body for equestrian sport. Under its current president, HRH Princess Haya Al Hussein, the FEI has made tremendous strides not only as an organization but also in anti-doping efforts in recent years. Equestrian sport is also unique because it involves animal and human athletes working together as a team and there is recognition that horses are competitive athletes who deserve the greatest care and whose welfare is paramount.

Anti-Doping efforts in the FEI are governed by the new Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMR) and the Equine Prohibited Substances List which went into effect for all FEI events on April 5, 2010. These new regulations attempt to clarify the responsibilities and sanctions for riders and support personnel. FEI Secretary General Alex McLin, a leader in the anti-doping movement stated,

  Today, 5 April, is a landmark day for our sport, the
  beginning of the Clean Sport Era ... Today marks the
  culmination of a collective effort by the entire equestrian
  community to protect the integrity of our sport and the
  welfare of our horses. Under the new Equine Anti Doping and
  Controlled Medication Regulations, anything prohibited in
  competition, no matter how the substance is classified, is
  called a "Prohibited Substance". Doping substances, which
  have no place in equine sport, are called "Banned
  Substances," while medication substances that are commonly
  used in equine medicine but prohibited in competition, are
  called "Controlled Medication Substances." (2)

To educate riders and support personnel, the FEI has also created a new site dedicated to FEI anti-doping efforts (FEI Cleansport.org), which is similar to the websites created by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for human athletes. One of the main advantages of the website is that it includes a Prohibited Substances Database to aid veterinarians and riders to quickly and easily determine whether the substances that they are using are prohibited.

Past Crises in Equestrian Sport

Throughout the years there have been allegations of doping in sports, including equestrian sport. But recent crises in horse sport have brought the issue to the forefront. (3) In equestrian sport, the rider is designated as the "Person Responsible" (PR) for the horse and is held strictly liable whenever a Prohibited Substance is found in the horse's sample. (4) It is not necessary to establish that there was an intention to cheat or gain a competitive advantage - the mere presence of a prohibited substance in the horse's system is sufficient. The PR has the opportunity to reduce or eliminate their sanctions, including the period of ineligibility, if they can establish that they bear no fault and no negligence or no significant fault and no significant negligence. Some of the equestrian violations at Games may have been inadvertent as there was substantial confusion between therapeutic medication and deliberation doping.

At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens there were record number human doping violations. Equestrian sport was not immune and also had a record number of doping violations including two gold medal winners, Goldfever ridden by Ludger Beerbaum of Germany, and Waterford Crystal ridden by Cian O'Connor of Ireland. …