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Drug testers will target endurance horses

Endurance is to fall under increased anti-doping scrutiny next year.

But the independent integrity unit that oversees the drug testing of elite competition horses says the move reflects the expansion of the sport rather than a recent spate of failed drugs tests in endurance.

In the year to November, horse sport’s international governing body, the FEI, had investigated 15 doping cases, eight of them involving endurance riders, seven of which were from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

There are a further 10 cases pending investigation — nine of which are in endurance.

Paul Greenwood, the manager of the equestrian community integrity unit, said: “Endurance has grown so much in the past year and is now just behind jumping [in terms of number of events].

“We have focused on jumping in past years and now we want to increase our profile in the endurance world.”

FEI director of non-Olympic sports Ian Williams confirmed that the FEI would be paying special attention to Africa and the Middle East.

“We are working hand in hand with national federations in the region, as well as athletes and all those working in the community, to ensure that everyone is fully aware of their need to comply with the FEI rules,” said Mr Williams.

Dr Hallvard Sommerseth of the Emirates Equestrian Federation said more horses were tested in the UAE than in any other country and they had more than 6,000 starters in endurance last year.

Also because of the way the UAE season runs, the 2012 figures are made up of two seasons’ results.

“We are working very hard to reduce positive cases and to educate trainers, riders and vets in the UAE,” he added.

In the latest case before the FEI tribunal, UAE endurance rider Ahmad Ali Humaid Al Razzi was suspended from competition for 10 months and fined 1,000 Swiss francs (£665) on 12 November.

His horse Mandiji was found to have been given a bronchodilator (a drug that opens the airways) and painkillers, including bute, before it competed in the CEI*** 160km race in Al Wathbu, Abu Dhabi (10-11 February).

From 1 January, athletes suspended for a drugs sanction will lose their elite status, which allows fast-track championship qualification.

Riders will have to complete 10 three-star events before they can regain it.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (22 November 2012)

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