Accidental contamination rules under review as riders ‘live in fear’ *H&H Plus*

  • H&H speaks to the International Jumping Riders Club and the FEI to find out to find out more about the issue, and what is being done to try to alleviate concerns around positive tests for prohibited substances caused by accidental contamination...

    Changes could be on the cards for certain aspects of FEI anti-doping rules, as riders are “living in fear” of accidental contamination.

    The International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) is asking the FEI to simplify its complex rule system, and the “huge list” of prohibited substances, as part of a review of human and equine anti-doping regulations planned for this year.

    A new World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code is to be introduced on 1 January 2021 and the IJRC believes that while some changes will be needed to ensure the FEI stays WADA-compliant, “the FEI has scope in some areas to adapt the rules to reflect the specificities of equestrian sport”.

    The IJRC sent a survey to all national federations and riders for feedback on the subject, as it states: “The athletes know it is not possible to ask the FEI to change all the legal issues that are not under its control, but they can ask to have the correct conditions to be sufficiently protected.

    “Despite the FEI’s best efforts to explain its procedures and rules, riders clearly underlined how the risk of contamination and lack of stable security cause sleepless nights, and even worse, enormous harm, and the worst thing is that they cannot control everything.

    “All riders live in fear that a great result will be tainted by a positive drug test that, after a lengthy and arduous process, is proven to be a case of contamination.”

    H&H has reported on numerous cases of positive dope tests caused by contamination – from hay bought from show venues that proves to contain naturally occurring plant-based prohibited substances to contact with a human who is contaminated with a banned drug.

    Riders have asked for screening levels to be set, or increase, so picograms of a banned substance, far lower than a level that could have any effect, would not mean automatic elimination.

    IJRC director Eleonora Ottaviani told H&H contamination is a big issue.

    “Riders are responsible for their horses 24 hours a day and we have to follow WADA in that, but how can they be? You can’t stay with a horse all the time; if it’s travelling, it’ll stay in an airport stable, then flies on the plane, normally without even its own groom, to another airport, and then it goes in a lorry – how can you be responsible through all that?

    “We see so many cases of contamination [resulting in a positive test]; it’s a rider’s nightmare.”

    Mrs Ottaviani raised concerns over stable security and the fact some temporary stabling travels from one show to another, “and who guarantees they’re disinfected?” she asked.

    She pointed out that there are more than 1,200 substances on the FEI’s prohibited list, compared to 400 for humans on WADA’s, adding that screening levels are “dangerously low”.

    The IJRC has asked that, in cases of accidental contamination when a panel recognises the rider is not at fault, and when the quantity of the substance has not enhanced performance, the athlete should suffer no sanctions or disqualification. The club also plans to hold a round table discussion, including experts in different fields.

    “The FEI is taking the subject forwards,” she added. “We’re working hard with them; I’m satisfied with the relationship with the FEI on this.”

    An FEI spokesman told H&H it invited federations to give feedback as part of the rule review.

    “The FEI is very conscious of the concerns regarding contamination within the equestrian community and has therefore included a dedicated section on contamination,” she added.

    “Based on the feedback already received, including input from the IJRC, the FEI is proposing certain changes. These will be presented to the FEI board during its three-day videoconference [this week], after which the first draft of the new [anti-doping rules] will be finalised, and shared with national federations and stakeholders on 13 July for further feedback.

    “National federations and stakeholders will have seven weeks to make comments and/or propose any additional changes. The proposed final draft of the proposed rules changes will be provided to national federations and stakeholders on 20 October prior to the federations’ vote during the 2020 FEI general assembly.”

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