British Showjumping (BS) has reassured members that spot checks for drugs are taking place at national competitions under the new British Equestrian Federation (BEF) anti-doping rules.

The announcement comes after a small group of BS members began a leaflet campaign, complaining that misuse of drugs is rife.

On 1 April, BS became the first British equestrian sport to impose rules that mirror those in international sport and forbid horses from competing on some 1,200 different drugs (news, 17 March).

The crucial change for showjumpers is a ban on bute and other non-steroidal anti-inflamatories, which was permissible under BS rules but banned internationally.

However, the BEF did not start conducting tests immediately.

BS chief executive Iain Graham told H&H: “There is testing of horses at all levels, both random tests and based on intelligence. I can’t say how many tests, but they have been going on for a couple of months.”

Amateur showjumper Claire Bossons said: “There are horses that have a horrendous weekend and then are jumping out of their skins. It seems obvious to me that they are being given drugs. It’s not fair.”

She distributed around 200 leaflets at shows calling for more testing. But the BEF’s Andrew Finding wrote to Ms Bossons, saying: “An increasing number of anti-doping tests [are being undertaken] across the sport.”

He added: “It is not our intention to indicate where or when tests will be made, nor do we wish to publish how many. To do so would break down the element of surprise so important in the process.”

  • There is concern among Irish riders about the accuracy of drugs tests by Showjumping Ireland (SJI) at qualifiers for the Dublin Horse Show.

    The Irish Equine Centre in Kildare, which carries out the testing for SJI, found nine samples tested positive for the steroid betamethasone, but four were reversed when sent to Newmarket for confirmation.

    There was a similar outcome with three of four other samples sent to laboratories in Paris for validation.

    Horse Sport Ireland takes over responsibility for drug testing in Irish horse sport next year to comply with FEI rules.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (8 September, 2011)