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Battle lines are drawn in Copenhagen: general assembly blog

It feels like battle lines are drawn here in Copenhagen this morning, as the general assembly of the FEI gets underway.

Yesterday’s discussion on whether bute should be allowed in horse sport seemed to be a good outlet for underlying tensions. But the atmosphere this morning is still tense — there seems to be a move to revolt against the FEI governance, which is evidently seen as becoming less democratic.

Whether or not bute is allowed in competition was the crux of the debate yesterday, but national federations were angry that the FEI had not consulted them on the plan. On 20 October, for the last consultation with NFs, the FEI sent out the “current list”. It made no mention of the “progressive list” until yesterday.

Information was sent out on 13 November in an email, but it appears very few NFs had actually noted the changes.

The FEI insists it remains impartial on the subject. The actual rule allows for a small single dose of one of three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) up to 24 hours before competition — but they don’t appear to know whether this can be “bent” and bute given to a horse on the day it competes.

Where the idea of allowing low levels of NSAIDs in horse sport came from, no one knows. During the debate FEI chief executive officer Alex McLin said the rules and levels allowed had been drawn from the US Equestrian Federation (USEF) — which allows bute.

The discussion implied the plan had come from the USEF – to the point that USEF chief executive Jon Long stood up and said he had not proposed the idea of allowing NSAIDs in horse sport and did not support it.

Other countries were outraged the plans had been presented to them at the workshop — former FEI secretary general Bo Helander, of Sweden, seemed particularly incensed.

But the other strand of discontent was that, should NSAIDs be allowed in the sport, national federations would have to adopt them in their home countries — though with the caveat that countries that banned NSAIDs outright would still be entitled to that ban.

How can this be a fair sport, asked France. Other countries have even stricter rules than the FEI is proposing — another source of anger.

I’m looking forward to today — it’s going to be a busy one!

• To read yesterday’s blog, click here

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