Update: WEG Organizers “Closely Monitoring” FEI Drug List Debate

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FEI Clean Sport Logo Concepts 14th September 2009

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Dec. 3–The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games organization said Thursday it was “closely monitoring” the debate over the controversial FEI Drug List that will directly impact competitors at the Kentucky event in 2010.

Jamie Link, Chief Executive Officer of the World Games 2010 Foundation, Inc., said in a statement to dressage-news.com:

“We are closely monitoring the global discussion regarding this matter and are waiting to see what impact, if any, it may have on the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Any further questions should be directed to the FEI.”

Jamie Link
Jamie Link

WEG competitions include eight international disciplines: dressage, eventing, jumping, driving, endurance, reining, vaulting and paralympics. The quadrennial competition is being held in the United States for the first time, Sept.-25-Oct. 10, 2010 and is expected to attract more than a half million visitors from around the world.

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) announced Tuesday that implementation of the controversial new “Progressive” drug list allowing the use of anti-inflammatory drugs has been delayed at least until April 5, 2010.

The list could become an issue before WEG, however, as the World Cup of Jumping Final is scheduled to be held in Geneva April 14-18.

The new list was approved at November’s annual FEI General Assembly to be implemented on Jan. 1, 2010, reversing the previous policy of zero tolerance. It has caused an uproar in the global equestrian community. Some countries whose national laws prohibit the use of the drugs in horses have threatened not to participate at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky if the new list is in force.

The so-called “Progressive” list was approved over the opposition of  Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand and some other nations.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation issued a statement Monday saying it favored the new list but asked for ia delay in its implementation.

The controversy has focused on allowances for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including 8mcg/ml of phenylbutazone in plasma and serum, 750 mcg/ml in urine and up to 6.5 mcg/ml in plasma and serum of salicilyic acid, up to 500mcg/ml in plasma/serum of flunixin and allows acetycysteine/dichloracetate and isoxuprine.

U.S. veterinarians who have spoken out in favor of the new list as against the current schedule that essentialy allows no drugs include U.S. team vet Timothy R. Ober of Gordonsville, Virginia who was instrumental in drawing uo the new list, and Midge Leitch, a former U.S. equestrian team veterinarian who is the staff vet in radiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s world famous New Bolton center near Philadelphia.

Tuesday’s announcement said that the FEI Bureau passed a resolution “delaying implementation of the new Equine Prohibited Substances List and the accompanying Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations until 5 April 2010. This Resolution has been passed in order to allow for broader debate and consultation on the policy change approved at the recent FEI General Assembly regarding the restricted use of a small number of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

“The FEI recognizes that a number of issues arise as a result of this policy change, which was voted in by a majority of 53-48 at the meeting in Copenhagen on 19 November. The change in policy will affect National Federations and organizers who must comply with state laws as well as international competition rules. It has implications for the breeding industry and the selection of horses and may impact on all those concerned with animal welfare. It also affects the laboratories involved in the testing procedures. The decision, which reversed the 1993 ban on phenylbutazone, has provoked considerable debate among FEI stakeholders.

“The FEI acknowledges that these concerns are all legitimate and feels that there is clearly a need for further debate on the issue. The delayed implementation of the new Equine Prohibited Substances List will also allow for supplementary research to be carried out on the use of NSAIDs in the competition horse.”

Princess Haya said: “The FEI has been criticized for not providing sufficient time for consultation on the substances that differentiate the new policy from the old and there has also been widespread unease about the late publication of the progressive list.

“Views that have been expressed since the vote are being taken extremely seriously by the FEI as legitimate welfare concerns and we give similar importance to our membership’s decision to effect a policy change. In light of both these considerations, we felt it was only fair to delay implementation of the new list to allow everyone to have their say and let other veterinary experts look at the science behind this policy change.

“The controversy surrounding the List has almost completely overshadowed the clean sport campaign, which received overwhelming support at the General Assembly. Now we can allow the focus to return to the wonderful work that has been undertaken by the Joint-Commissions chaired by Professor Arne Ljungqvist and Lord Stevens, which has provided a clear roadmap for the delivery of clean sport.”

The FEI explained that under the FEI Statutes, the FEI Bureau may, by a two-thirds majority, pass Resolutions which are normally passed by the General Assembly.  In such cases, the National Federations can ultimately override the Bureau’s decision so long as a majority of NFs indicate their opposition within 30 days of the Resolution.

To date no specific requests regarding this issue have been directed to the FEI by the National Federations.

On Monday, it said, the U.S. and British federations forwarded press statements highlighting their positions–Britain opposed with the U.S. in favor, but both seeking delayed implementation.