Concerns over proposed additions to FEI banned substances list

  • H&H finds out which substances may be added to the FEI’s prohibited list, what that may mean for riders and what the industry’s response is to the proposals

    CONCERNS have been raised about a proposed change to the FEI equine prohibited substances list that could mean a widely used herb is no longer allowed under competition rules.

    The FEI has reviewed the list and proposed changes include the addition of chasteberry (vitex agnus-castus) as a controlled substance, making banned substance cannabidiol a controlled medication, and banning 32 antihistamines.

    The FEI’s list group, made up of 10 members including vets, pharmacologists and researchers, proposed that chasteberry should fall under the definition of a controlled substance. Controlled medications are substances deemed to have therapeutic value and/or be commonly used in equine medicine. They should not be present in a horse during a competition under FEI rules, without a valid veterinary form. Chasteberry is used in many supplements aimed at helping mares with hormone-related behaviour issues.

    “At this stage, it is a proposal and following the thorough consultation and review process which is currently under way with the national federations and stakeholders. A final decision will be published on 1 October 2021 and any accepted changes will come into effect as of 1 January 2022,” said an FEI spokesman.

    British Equestrian director of equine sports science and medicine John McEwen told H&H BEF is reviewing the proposal with member bodies, stakeholders and veterinary representatives.

    “The proposal is complex and therefore is reliant on input from several parties so the best interests of all concerned are represented,” he said. “At this stage, it’s too early in the process to make any specific observations but we will make a full submission to the FEI in due course.”

    The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), through its feed committee, is preparing a case to put to the FEI.

    “We have asked initially for an indication of the reasons behind it being added to the list. It is a feed material listed on the UK register of feed materials and used primarily to help support hormone balance in order to reduce behavioural signs associated with oestrous,” BETA executive director Claire Williams told H&H.

    “The concern is that should the herb be placed on the list of controlled medications, mares would no longer be able to compete while being fed products containing it.”

    Ms Williams said BETA had noted some other changes to the list that are “of interest” to the feed sector but none that have the “potential impact” that chasteberry would.

    Equine supplements and products brand NAF, which uses chasteberry in some supplements, is working as part of the BETA feed committee and is “disappointed” about the inclusion of chasteberry.

    “We note the FEI has raised concerns about its use in regulating mares’ behaviour. However, that makes the decision all the more difficult to understand, given the FEI allows the control of mare’s behaviour through use of altrenogest Regumate,” NAF head nutritionist Kate Hore told H&H.

    “Given the considerable, and recognised, risks to equine carers – most notably women, but men – from skin exposure to altrenogest, we feel it would be a negative move by the FEI to be moving riders from chasteberry, which carries no known risks, over to altrenogest.”

    “If riders, or grooms, are concerned about the proposal we would advise them to put those concerns directly to BEF, as soon as possible, so those concerns can be passed to the FEI.”

    A spokesman for Nettex Equine, which uses chasteberry in a supplement, said the company is aware of the proposals and is working closely with BETA.

    “Nettex Equine will continue to monitor these developments and will respond accordingly in due course,” he said.

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