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Cuckson Report | February 3, 2017
Sceptic has become my middle name. Ideally, I would prefer to think that today’s nine Dubai rider/trainer provisional suspensions for doping offences in endurance plus news of the Emirates Equestrian Federation’s (EEF) plans to reduce fatalities represent a turning point in the UAE crisis.
But while it is good news for the horses now spared contact with this unlovely bunch of miscellaneous offenders, I regretfully predict the reprieve won’t last long.
Looking at the prohibited substances involved, a contaminated-feeds defence has a reasonable chance of reduced or minimal sanctions. A hapless forage manufacturer can surely be induced to put his hands up to it – after all, this is Dubai we are talking about. And if not he, the trainers implicated might agree take the full rap, especially those with prior “form” for doping and especially because the Maktoums show fierce loyalty to disgraced employees and find them work elsewhere in the family empire.
As for the EEF’s pledge to investigate this or demand that from their stakeholders, I hope the FEI doesn’t put too much trust in second-hand reports. FEI officials are powerless to act on the rule violations that happen right under their noses at rides, so how much stock can it realistically place on information from EEF who, in turn, can only write down in good faith what they are told by the very same barns stables so often in the frame for wrongdoing?
Yes, it is progress, but only in dolly steps. The FEI says there is a much more hands-on and “transparent” approach by the new management of the EEF. I too detected an inclination to co-operate more, at least from the Abu Dhabi end, when I visited the Al Wathba venue in November. Among other bad eggs, EEF appears to have dispensed with the staffers tied-up with the mass fraud of CEI results in the “phantom rides” scandal on 2015.
But the new measures listed today – tougher sanctions for horse killers; and an in-depth study into why bones break under stress (something breathtakingly obvious to those of us with no medical training) etc, etc – bear a startling resemblance to suggestions made at the FEI endurance “crisis” conference in Lausanne exactly three years ago (February 9, 2014). How many of those were adopted? Er, none. And how efficacious were the recommendations of the Endurance Strategic Planning Group (ESPG) which was the Big Thing of 2013-2014? Not very. If memory serves me right, the ESPG cost the FEI Euros 500,000. What a bargain that wasn’t...
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