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The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has officially reprimanded the organising committee of the 2005 World Endurance Championships, putting an end to a two-year doping saga.

In January 2005, the World Endurance Championships ended in controversy when the results were overturned at the medal ceremony by the organising committee (Emirates International Endurance Racing) — without the FEI’s permission. France’s Barbara Lissarague was crowned World Champion instead of Sheikh Hazza Bin Sultan Al Nayan.

Afterwards, organisers said Hachim — the horse ridden to victory by Sheikh Hazza — had failed a doping test (see panel, right). But the FEI refused to acknowledge this at the time, although its laboratories later confirmed the horse had tested positive for methylprednisolone, an anti-inflammatory drug.

An extrapolated legal process ensued before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the ultimate arbitrators in sporting disputes, upheld Sheikh Hazza’s disqualification and the FEI turned its attentions to the organising committee.

“Whether or not Sheikh Hazza was ultimately found to have committed a doping offence had a bearing on certain issues raised in the protest filed with the FEI against the organising committee,” said FEI legal director Alexander Mc Lin. “It was only after that was assessed that all the issues relating to the organising committee’s actions could be looked at.”

He said: “A reprimand will go on the record,” adding that this would be “taken into consideration” if the organising committee applied to host another event.

But what actually happened in Dubai is still not clear. The plot reads more like a Dick Francis novel than a judicial process.

In the CAS judgement it is stated that Hachim was “allegedly the subject of persistent doping rumours”.

Giving evidence to CAS, organising committee vice-chairman Saeed H Al Tayer said a “reliable source” told him Hachim was doped, but refused to name that source.

He testified that, based on those rumours, the organising committee declared second-placed Ms Lissarague the winner. Sheikh Hazza was mounted at the medal ceremony but left halfway through.

Mr Mc Lin told H&H last week: “What exactly occurred is still not entirely clear. Clearly, the organising committee acted on information it obtained from a laboratory.”

Mr Mc Lin further explained that, unlike police, the FEI does not have the powers to force parties to reveal their evidence.

He added: “If the perception is that the FEI didn’t investigate this enough, I can assure you that is not the case.

“The FEI has to make a decision based on what evidence it has, and unfortunately the evidence in this case was not conclusive.”

H&H was unable to contact the organising committee, Emirates International Endurance Racing, for comment, nor the United Arab Emirates Equestrian and Racing Federation, to comment on behalf of Sheikh Hazza.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (7 June, ’07)