The FEI Makes A Big Change

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When the delegates to the Federation Equestre Internationale?s annual General Assembly voted for a major change to the organization?s zero-tolerance drug rule in November, the vast majority of the equestrian world was completely surprised. No one had indicated such a huge change was about to take place, but that's how the FEI generally works.

John Strassburger

The new rule, which passed by five votes, allows horses? samples to contain threshold levels for a list of proven therapeutic medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. it's a gigantic improvement over the current head-in-the-sand zero-tolerance rule. But whoever came up with the threshold levels (and we don't know who that was because that information has never been shared with the world) picked levels that are too high, at least on the NSAIDS (see page 8).

It will be really maddening if this rule gets repealed because some bureaucrat didn't consult any veterinarians, researchers or federations with threshold rules (the U.S. Equestrian Federation, for instance) before picking a number. The change?s proponents probably feared the whole thing would get shot down if anyone knew about it, even though competitors in some countries (especially the United States) have been needling for change for years.

Threshold levels are the key to success, because the zero-tolerance rule prevents riders and veterinarians from treating minor injuries or sickness in the days or weeks before or between competitions.

that's because the technical improvements in drug testing around the world can find the minutest traces of hundreds of drugs. And, with zero tolerance, if they find anything, that's it. You?re nailed, even though that tiny residue is no longer having any therapeutic or ?performance-enhancing? effect.

Here's a current example of how drug tests can find the equivalent of a grain or two of sand on a mile-long beach.

In May, the FEI?s test found traces of Winstrol in the sample of Icarus, on whom U.S. eventer Michael Pollard had just won the Jersey Fresh CCI***. Pollard?s veterinarian prescribed Winstrol in December and January because the horse had colicked and lost 200 pounds. Still, the FEI is likely to eliminate him from the event and probably suspend and fine Pollard (the case is still pending).

it's ridiculous and unfair to be penalized for using a legitimate drug more than four months before the event. And it's just one example of similar cases around the world. This ultra-sensitive testing prevents riders and trainers from taking care of their horses.

And it leads to the constant search by the unscrupulous to find drugs that ?won?t test,? drugs that do heaven knows what. it's far more realistic and better for the horses? welfare to allow, through threshold levels like We've had in the USEF for 20 years, the legitimate use of proven, tested medications than to pretend they're not needed and, thus, encourage some to use exotic and potentially dangerous drugs.

We just need the right thresholds.

John Strassburger,
Performance Editor