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The FEI is shaking up how it deals with positive drug tests with the introduction of a new “specified substance” category.

The news comes at the same time as the announcement that the FEI Tribunal has lifted the provisional suspensions of 11 athletes involved in failed prohibited substance tests. These are two showjumpers, two dressage riders and seven endurance riders, plus three endurance trainers.

The decisions on the endurance suspensions were made due to the recommended reclassification of a banned substance.

Samples taken from seven horses competing at four different endurance events in Al Wathba (UAE) between the end of November 2016 and mid-January 2017 tested positive for caffeine and a number of its metabolites, including paraxanthine.

Caffeine is already listed as a “specified substance” by the FEI and the organisation’s prohibited substance list group, which reviews the FEI’s prohibited substance list annually, has recommended paraxanthine — a stimulant — should be reclassified as a controlled medication and specified substance from 1 January 2018.

“Specified substances should not in any way be considered less important or less dangerous than other prohibited substances,” said a spokesman for the organisation.

“Rather, they are simply substances which are more likely to have been ingested by horses for a purpose other than the enhancement of sport performance, for example, through a contaminated food substance.

“In the case of a positive for a specified substance, provisional suspension is not automatic.”

British showjumper Henry Turrell and Brazil’s Marlon Modolo Zanotelli also had their provisional suspensions lifted as of 27 April.

Their respective horses, Blaze Of Glory II and Sirene De La Motte, both tested positive for the banned substance sparteine while competing at separate shows in Vilamoura, Portugal, last month.

The FEI Tribunal’s decision to lift the provisional suspensions was mainly based on scientific evidence presented by the two athletes, which suggests food contamination was likely.

Sparteine, used to treat cardiac arrhythmia, is found in the lupin flower, which grows in many parts of Portugal. The FEI list group has also recommended that sparteine be reclassified as a controlled medication and specified substance from 1 January 2018.

US dressage riders Adrienne Lyle and Kaitlin Blythe also had their provisional suspensions shelved after providing evidence that a feed supplement given to both horses — Horizon and Don Principe — was contaminated with ractopamine.

The FEI Tribunal maintained the provisional suspensions of the two horses on welfare grounds and “in order to ensure a level playing field”.

However these temporary bans were overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is yet to rule on the merits of the case.

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What are the different categories on the FEI’s prohibited substance list and what do they mean?

The equine prohibited substance list is reviewed annually and is split into the following categories:

  • Controlled medications: these substances are frequently used to treat horses, but must have been cleared from the horse’s system by the time of competition.
  • Banned substances: these should never be found in the body of the horse. If a horse tests positive for a banned substance, the person responsible is automatically provisionally suspended from the date of notification. The horse is suspended for two months.
  • Specified substance: these should not in any way be considered less important or less dangerous than other prohibited substances. They are simply substances which are more likely to have been ingested by horses for a purpose other than the enhancement of sport performance, for example, through a contaminated food substance. Provisional suspension is not automatic.

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