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Immediate suspensions and four-year bans from competition for doping offences were announced by the FEI on Monday as part of the sport’s attempt to “clean up”.

The tough new Equine Anti-Doping and Medication Control Rules, ratified by the FEI general assembly in Kuala Lumpur, take effect on 1 June.

The rules, now separate from the FEI veterinary regulations, bring horse sports in line with the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) code, and other major sports. The WADA code was adopted for riders before Athens 2004.

FEI legal director Alexander McLin told H&H: “The new system is similar to the human one in that if there’s a positive test there’s a presumption of guilt and the rider will have to demonstrate they did not intend to enhance performance.

“In the past year, there’s been a trend towards tougher sanctions, and we expect that to continue.”

Last year, the FEI admitted a need to address doping issues in horse sport. A “medicine box” and three new categories of prohibited substances were agreed.

Under the new regulations announced on Monday, doping offences carry a ban of up to four years (two years for first-time offenders); medication class A offences a ban of up to four years (one year for first-timers) and medication class B offences a minimum warning and reprimand or maximum one-year ban from competition.

Riders can be immediately suspended by the FEI judicial committee on return of a positive test for “doping”. Once the case is heard, outright doping offences will lead to fines of up to CHF15,000, with fines also possible in Medication A and B cases.

British team vet John McEwen welcomed the new rules but expressed concern over the “fine print” — differentiating medication classes A and B. “But it will penalise the cheats without catching the innocent medication cases in the same net,” he said, adding that he believed riders would take note.

  • Don’t miss next week’s issue of Horse & Hound for more on improved FEI legal processes.
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