Equestrians nations, vets and welfare organisations from around the world have welcomed “time out” on the bute row — and plans to put off the re-introduction of painkillers in horse sport for at least a year.
The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) last week bowed to increasing pressure from vets and national federations (NFs) as the row over the issue of allowing non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) in competition threatened to split the federation.
FEI president Princess Haya has now asked NFs to support a 12-month delay that could result in a complete U-turn.
“At last some common sense prevails,” said endurance vet Fred Barrelet, who wrote a damning letter to Princess Haya after Copenhagen. “This was pushed through far too hastily, so now people can sit back and discuss this properly.
“To my mind this is the first step in ensuring NSAIDs remain prohibited, not just for veterinary reasons, but for sporting fareness.”
If NFs agree to the delay, Princess Haya has promised a year-long period of consultation and scientific research, before offering a “policy choice” at the general assembly in December 2010. The rest of the clean sport initiative, also passed in Copenhagen, will be introduced on 1 January.
Although a firm decision has not yet been announced, every equestrian nation H&H has contacted — including those in favour of allowing NSAIDs in sport — agreed to the delay.
The British Equestrian Federation described the U-turn as “very good news”. Chief executive Andrew Finding said he expected the majority of NFs to agree.
“This must be the right way to go and we welcome the change of heart,” he said.
Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Isreal, the Netherlands and Germany also said they agreed fully with the proposal.
And although Belgium, Russia and the US are in favour of NSAIDs in horse sport, these federations have agreed to the delay.
Belgian secretary general Ingmar De Vos told H&H: “We support the demand for a delay. We are not against the principle but believe more time is needed to examine the scientific and judicial consequences.”
• To read more reaction, see this week’s edition of Horse & Hound.