Sunday, April 19, 2009

FEI to tidy up doping regulations

Sarah Tregoning

April 19. 2009

LAS VEGAS - A high-ranking International Equestrian Federation (FEI) official yesterday outlined steps that the governing body is taking to clarify its doping regulations in the wake of a number of prominent positive drugs tests, including one case in the UAE.

Sven Holmberg, the FEI's First Vice President & Jumping Committee Chairman, yesterday said a commission had been established in conjunction with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to thrash out rule clarifications.

The commission has been in existence for a number of years but achieved greater significance in a spate of the recent, high-profile doping cases.

It emerged this month that Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will face an FEI tribunal after one of his endurance horses tested positive for a banned substance.

In a statement issued on April 6, Sheikh Mohammed asserted that a horse he had ridden in international competition tested positive for guanabenz, used to treat hypertension, and a metabolite of stanozolol, an anabolic steroid.

"While completely unaware and utterly condemning the administration of these substances, His Highness has volunteered his acceptance that he is legally the person responsible," read the statement.

The test, administered by Sheikh Mohammed's staff, influenced his decision to pull out of a recent UAE endurance race and report the findings to the FEI. He has now received a suspension pending results from the tribunal.

This incident comes after four horses, one a bronze medallist, all tested positive for the banned pain reliever, capsaicin, on the same day at the Beijing Olympics last year.

Although Holmberg, speaking from the Thomas and Mack Centre in Las Vegas, venue of the Rolex FEI Showjumping World Championship, could not comment on individual, he said work was being done to clarify the distinction between substances administered for medicinal reasons and others given to horses as performance enhancers.

"There will be changes to the rules," said Holmberg, who is number two to FEI President, Princess Haya Bint Hussein, wife of Sheikh Mohammed. "We have a separate set of rules for doping and medication. It’s a problem of striking a balance between legal requirements on one side and veterinary science on the other.

"If a horse is sick then they need to be treated properly - violations for medical substances can mean the rider has come back to competition too early. That’s a much less serious offence than if you are giving the horse performance enhancers."

The vast majority of positive tests, said Holmberg, fit into the medical category.

"Out of 2,800 tests per year, we only have one per cent that are positive and that includes the relatively large number of positive tests that we have seen in the Middle East." he added. "And of the positive tests, 90 per cent are for medical violations."

The World Championship concludes on Sunday.

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