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A new FEI rule could prevent riders suspended for doping offences from continuing to make a living in the sports horse industry. But very few riders are aware of it, according to research undertaken by Horse & Hound’s sister magazine Eventing.

Most riders, trainers and owners consulted did not know about the “professional association” regulations effective from 1 January 2015.

Riders competing in any FEI sport can, in theory, no longer work with riders tarred by a doping ban. Practical examples include being trained by suspended persons, or paying them to ride out, manage a yard or broker horse sales.

The rule has not yet been applied to riders suspended prior to 1 January. It will only be deemed to have been broken if parties affected have been written to by the FEI, which is deciding on a “case-by-case basis”.

“Professional association” is now banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). As the FEI adheres to the WADA code, it had to follow suit.

David O’Connor, the Sydney Olympic eventing champion and now performance director of the US team, told H&H he did not think equestrians “quite realised [the potential effect of the ban]”, and that the US equestrian federation is questioning the legalities.

“You can understand the intention, but you have to work out the practicalities,” he said. “What jurisdiction does the FEI actually have off the showground?”

Cathy Butler, chairman of the Event Horse Owners Association, was concerned about the absence of prior consultation.

“If this rule was operated to prevent, say, owners from continuing to keep horses in a ‘contaminated’ yard, that could be very damaging,” she said. “It should be for owners to take all factors into account in deciding whether to take their horses away; not be the automatic result of an FEI ruling against the rider who ran the yard.”

Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 April 2015