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British Dressage (BD), British Eventing (BE) and British Showjumping (BS) are planning to test more horses for drug use at domestic competitions.

A draft national policy on doping is currently being considered by the boards of all the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) member bodies — including the non-Olympic sports — who met in August to discuss co-ordinating their approach.

The move follows an agreement made last November by the FEI to roll out doping policy to national federations by 2012 (news, 3 December 2009).

Talking to H&H, the heads of BD, BE and BS admitted that testing at national events and sanctions for violations are currently inadequate.

BE’s chief executive Mike Etherington-Smith would not disclose what proportion of affiliated horse trials are screened, but said it was “far less” than 10%.

“Our testing is limited by budget, not by desire, and we need to do more.

“Quite a lot is done by the FEI at our international events which we see as supplementary,” he said. “We all agree we need to increase the amount of testing done and we are planning to in the run-up to 2012.”

Testing only takes place at eight out of 2,000 BD competitions, and chief executive Amanda Bond said the sport has recognised more must be done.

“All the disciplines are trying to come up with one policy — how we police it and the sanctions that we have in place,” she explained. “We all have different rulebooks, but there’s real commitment to do more.”

The FEI is due to take a vote this November on whether to allow bute and six other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in international horse sport. Their decision must then be adopted in Britain by 2012.

While both BE and BD — and the BEF’s other member bodies such as Endurance GB and British Reining — have a “zero tolerance” policy on bute, BS will not reconsider its “unlimited use” rule until after the FEI vote.

“We did look at it last year, but decided to wait and see what the outcome of the FEI’s review would be,” said BS chief executive Iain Graham.

BEF spokesman Anna Greenway confirmed a draft policy is being drawn up, but declined to give further details.

“This process is still at an early stage and requires much further consultation and approval across our member bodies,” she said.

At present, the policy is also limited to FEI disciplines, so does not include showing.

“We would then look to roll it out into the wider industry,” said Ms Greenway, “depending on whether the Showing Council becomes a member of the BEF.”

While a draft policy is being reviewed by the board of each discipline, it is not likely to be “final format” until after the FEI vote on bute in November.

And Ms Greenway added: “We are in the process of exploring funding opportunities [to pay for increased testing].”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (2 September, ’10)