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FEI drugs squad determined to stamp out horse doping

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has vowed to leave no stone unturned in its quest to rid horse sport of doping.

FEI president Princess Haya, FEI secretary-general Alexander McLin and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens met at a central London hotel last week. The three are members of the FEI ethics panel, set up in May to investigate practices among members of the German equestrian team — and the rest of the world.

In London last week, Princess Haya said that despite the FEI increasing random dope testing in competitions, the number of positive tests has gone down.

“The threat of doping to our sport has never been underestimated and the meeting here is to recognise there is a public debate going on, but what’s happened recently is a media-fuelled bonfire,” she said.

After the meeting, chair of the panel Lord Stevens told H&H: “This is not just an investigation but a total restructure of doping rules within the FEI. This is massive.”

Lord Stevens has headed a number of high-profile enquiries, including an investigation of police corruption in Northern Ireland, the death of Princess Diana and allegations of British football corruption.

He is now international security adviser to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“Asking me to get involved is an indication of how seriously the FEI is taking this,” he said, adding that the investigation will go wherever in the world that the evidence takes them.

“If we uncover criminal practices, we will report them to the authorities,” he said.

“Lots of people are getting in touch with us, we are interviewing many people and they are being entirely cooperative. There is real energy behind this — the sport knows without doubt its integrity could be impinged.”

With nine doping cases in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the past six months, including one involving Princess Haya’s husband, Sheikh Mohammed, Lord Stevens hinted the investigation is likely to involve the UAE.

Princess Haya agreed, saying she is very clear on her responsibility as president, believing her position to be in no way compromised by allegations surrounding her husband.

“I am an athlete and have friends and colleagues who compete, so when I took the decision to stand for presidency, I understood this was always something I knew I would have to deal with — but I didn’t realise it would be so close to me,” she said, adding: “I’m very clear on what I have to do.

“I stood on a platform for clean sport when I became president. I understood there was a problem in 2005. Since then there’s been massive change which all preceded Sheikh Mohammed’s case.”

For this story in full, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (9 July, ’09)

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