‘We are a sports federation, not the police’: out-of-competition dope-testing could be on the cards

  • Out-of-competition testing could be introduced for FEI-registered horses, with the aim of ensuring a level playing field for all.

    A session at the FEI Sports Forum (29–30 April) focused on the equine anti-doping and controlled medication regulations (EACMRs), which are undergoing a full revision this year. Out-of-competition testing was a key talking point, following the Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission’s (EEWC) recommendation that the FEI implement a process for ensuring “high standards of welfare and investigating risk practices” for horses when outside of competition.

    The aim would be to test for banned substances – not controlled medications.

    The EACMRs already allow for out-of-competing testing, but this does not currently take place. The FEI said this is because of the challenges around establishing who is responsible; the rider, owner, trainer, support personnel – or all four. In endurance it was agreed that in most cases the trainer is responsible, but in other disciplines this was less clear.

    An EEWC recommendation was to introduce a “testing pool”, similar to the World Anti-Doping Agency system for humans.

    “A pool could allow us to put athletes on notice that they [their horses] are subject to out-of-competition testing so they understand their obligations, and maybe it’s a way to potentially then test in private properties,” said FEI legal director Mikael Rentsch, adding that gaining property access is one of the biggest challenges.

    “We are a sports federation, not the police. And depending on the country, you are not allowed to enter private properties, so we need to find a way to be able to test anywhere.”

    Mr Rentsch said the key to any testing pool is knowing where horses are, and a suggestion was that a daily slot could be declared in the FEI HorseApp when the horse is available for testing.

    The floor was opened for discussion and FEI president Ingmar de Vos raised concerns over the costs involved – and why it should be down to the FEI, and not national federations. Some federations, including Britain and Germany, already have out-of-competition testing programmes for squad horses.

    The International Jumping Riders Club believed responsibility should not fall solely on riders and raised questions over how it would be decided which horses should be tested – while a Jumping Owners Club representative said it would be difficult to make an owner responsible for presenting a horse for testing when horses might be kept with a rider in another country.

    Mr Rentsch said the FEI “needs to start somewhere” and acknowledged there would be “challenges”.

    “It has to be based on risk assessment; testing for [the sake of] testing is not what you need. You need intelligence and risk factors, and looking at the FEI framework we would probably start with endurance where the risk factor is probably a bit higher,” said Mr Rentsch, adding that showjumping would be the next discipline considered to have a higher risk factor, owing to the amount of competitions and prize money involved.

    “We are putting out ideas and need to look at what system we want to build, and at what cost.”

    Discussions will continue, with a first draft of any proposed changes to the EACMRs due 26 June.

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