From high-tech security to anonymous tip-offs, the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU) — charged with cleaning up equestrianism 18 months ago — is making its presence felt.
Since the unit was formed, the number of riders committing violations of International Equestrian Federation (FEI) rules has dropped and no positive drugs tests were recorded at the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
The unit is run by former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force Lord Stevens, who was also responsible for high-profile investigations into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and corruption in British football.
“We were there in Kentucky and deployed our CCTV cameras, but we shall be using a greater number and more advanced cameras at the 2012 London Olympic Games in Greenwich,” said Lord Stevens.
Spies in the stalls?
The ECIU team, which includes two former detective superintendents from the Met, will be using advanced spy technology to detect for cheating in Greenwich.
“We are liaising at the highest level with the 2012 organisers and have FEI permission to put cameras in all places to ensure the integrity and security of the Games,” said Lord Stevens.
The ECIU was set up in January 2010, bringing horse sport into line with sports, such as football, cricket and snooker and is ‘the most advanced in the world’, says Lord Stevens.
The unit has become vital in the fight to clean up the sport’s act in the wake of the 2008 Olympic Games, when an unprecedented and six riders were investigated for doping issues.
Lord Stevens and Professor Arne Ljungqvist, vice-chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, conducted an investigation, which led to the FEI Clean Sport Campaign and the ECIU.
24-hour tip-off line
The ECIU is run from the offices of Lord Stevens’ company Monitor Quest in central London and has a confidential phone and email service, where anyone involved can report concerns and tip off the team about corruption.
“In the short time we have been up and running we have gained respect and credibility across the sport, including big support from the riders — they don’t want to be accused of cheating or wrongdoing,” said Lord Stevens.
And he denies that the line is a place for riders to cause trouble anonymously for their rivals.
He said: “We are pleasantly surprised by the number of calls to the hotline and information forwarded to us that have all been genuine calls with a genuine reason behind them.”
Monitor Quest could not say how many calls and emails it has received in the past 18 months, but it revealed that 22 of those calls have resulted in an ‘active investigation’.
These include the ongoing investigation into methods in reining and other issues of abuse and doping, said Lord Stevens.
A level playing field for all
There are currently 25 cases of suspected doping being investigated by the FEI tribunal.
FEI Secretary General Ingmar de Vos said: “The ECIU has played a valuable and important role in the FEI’s Clean Sport campaign.
“Having an integrity unit is now seen as best practice and more and more international federations are following suit.
“It is a key element in establishing a level playing field for our athletes, human and equine.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (4 August, 2011)