FEI endurance committee member resigns after rule breach

  • The FEI’s new temporary committee set up to urgently review the current endurance rules has hit an early snag after one of the committee members realised she had breached the FEI rules on mandatory rest periods for horses. The committee was set up in October to try to bring the sport back to its original roots of endurance riding, as opposed to endurance racing.

    Dr Margaret (Meg) Sleeper of the USA has resigned from her role on the committee after advising the FEI last week that she could be in breach of its rules on mandatory rest periods after competing in two national events in her home country.

    Dr Sleeper competed her horse Syrocco Cadence in a national ride on 22 September. The mare completed 137.6km of the 160km distance before being eliminated for lameness (irregular gait). Dr Sleeper went on to compete, and win, a 160km national ride on 27 October on the same horse. US Equestrian then advised her she could be in breach of the FEI’s rules on rest period following lameness, which apply at both national and international rides. This was later confirmed to be the case.

    FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibáñez said: “We are sorry to lose Meg Sleeper, and we appreciate her honesty and transparency in immediately advising us of this issue, even before it had been confirmed by her national federation, but it was clear that her position on the temporary committee was untenable in these circumstances.”

    Dr Sleeper has been given 100 penalty points under FEI endurance rules articles 815.3.1 and 815.3.3, resulting in an automatic two-month suspension from competition starting on 4 December 2018.

    Dr Sleeper, who has competed in international endurance since 2005 and is also a trainer, official veterinarian and veterinary cardiologist, said: “As soon as I realised that I could be in violation of FEI rest period rules I immediately contacted the FEI and my colleagues on the temporary committee and explained the situation.

    “Once it was confirmed, I knew that the right thing to do was to resign. I made a mistake and I bitterly regret it, but the work of the temporary committee will shape the future of my discipline and that is too important to allow my mistake to deflect from that goal.”

    Valerie Kanavy of the USA, a former FEI athlete representative, will take up Dr Sleeper’s position on the FEI’s temporary committee.

    Mrs Ibáñez said: “The FEI board has agreed that Valerie Kanavy, who is an athlete, a former member of the FEI athletes’ committee and also an organiser [will take Dr Sleeper’s place]. She brings a wide range of experience to this new role.”

    Valerie Kanavy won individual gold with Pieraz at the 1994 World Equestrian Games and took the world title again four years later with High Winds Jedi in Abu Dhabi. She has been competing at the elite level of the sport for more than three decades and won her most recent FEI event, a CEI2* 120-kilometre ride with Amir El Arab AT in July, a week before celebrating her 72nd birthday.

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    Britain’s Dr Sarah Coombs, a top FEI endurance veterinarian with many years’ experience officiating at FEI endurance events, is the chair of the temporary committee. The other members are: Tarek Taher (KSA), an international endurance athlete elected by his peers as a member of the FEI athletes’ committee earlier this year; Pieter Wiersinga (NED), chef d’équipe of the Dutch Endurance team, a Police Commissioner and former head of the mounted police in the Netherlands; and Dr Tim Parkin (GBR), who was elected onto the FEI veterinary committee at last month’s FEI general assembly and who heads up the scientific research conducted at the University of Glasgow as part of the FEI’s global endurance injuries study.

    FEI Vice President Mark Samuel (CAN) will also be involved in the work of the temporary committee and will help facilitate communications between the committee and the FEI board.

    The first in-person meeting of the temporary committee is due to be held at FEI headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 12 December.

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