FEI NSAID UPDATE: Possible Use of Meds Between (But Not During) Competitions Proposed

The Jurga Report is probably the only publication that will show you sport horses in their least elegant moments. The FEI’s internal discord over medication is much like this photo: a unified philosophy and effort could launch the last piece of the puzzle and a complete and universally accepted “Clean Sport” program could fly in 2011. Premature and uncoordinated efforts rarely succeed. Do you think these two cleared the Grand Prix obstacle before them? Image by Claudio Gennari from the Meydan FEI Nations Cup in Rome 2009, courtesy of Flickr.com.

The following announcement came today from the FEI and is printed in its entirety to avoid any possible misinterpretation of the language. There are a few places where the language contains a little ambiguity and I would not want to make an error in judgment of what the committee has in mind.

This suggestion seems to be a major and refreshing step ahead in finding a common area of agreement that may be workable for both sides of the NSAID debate. I hope I am not reading too much into it. For background on the FEI’s recent scientific and ethical conference on NSAIDs, please refer to FEI’s Love/Hate Relationship with Bute Rekindled at Conference, posted on this blog two weeks ago.

Perhaps I shouldn’t read too much into this, but this looks like a genuine attempt at a conciliatory solution to a standoff and a genuine respect for the most conservative interpretation of equine welfare in relation to medication during competition. Perhaps the line in the sand could now blur a little bit and international attention can focus on more than just this one red-hot-button issue. 

I look forward to hearing some veterinary reactions to this proposal and to some more specific examples of how it would be implemented. I know the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress is going on this week and it will be buzzing about this announcement. 

There are major differences in the showing schedules of eventing, reining, driving and dressage horses, for instance, who may compete once a month (if that) over the course of all or more likely just part of a year, and a show jumper who is on a circuit collecting points and dollars on a weekly basis throughout the year. Managing this program for the jumpers would be critical and I’m sure that helping the jumpers was a concern of everyone on the committee. They must think it’s possible to do it within a rule system.

The concept of the “half dose” regimen proposed at the conference should be reviewed from the documentation. Videos of all the conference presentations are available on the FEI YouTube Channel and a mini site for the Congress with documents and abstracts has been set up on the FEI web site. Comments on the medication issue are invited; please email your opinions to [email protected].

Here’s the FEI’s unedited announcement, with a few statements in bold for emphasis by The Jurga Report. Please note that the relative clause at the end of the second paragraph seems difficult to interpret because of a double-negative and may require clarification.

Following last month’s highly successful FEI Congress on NSAIDs and further discussion of the issues raised, the FEI List Group has proposed an Equine Prohibited Substances List for 2011 which simultaneously respects horse welfare and ensures a level playing field.

During its discussions, the List Group made a distinction between the use of NSAIDs during competition, and their use between competitions. With the exception of Salicylic Acid (aspirin), for which it is proposed to raise the current threshold to harmonise it with that of other international regulators, the List Group has unanimously concluded that the science available from the few limited studies carried out to date on the use of NSAIDs is contradictory and provides insufficient evidence for allowing levels in competition that are not a potential threat to horse welfare or enhance performance.

As a result, the List Group has proposed a list of prohibited substances for 2011 which represents a practical solution that respects horse welfare and ensures a level playing field. This list does not allow NSAIDs in competition, but does allow post-competition usage of certain NSAIDs, specifically Phenylbutazone and Flunixin, in low dosages between competitions for the well-being of the horse; but only to the extent that the medications will neither be detectable nor affect the performance or welfare of the horse at its next competition.

Each of the substances named on the proposed Equine Prohibited Substances List for implementation in 2011, was agreed unanimously by the List Group members. It was also agreed that there must always be a balance between required rest and medication, ensuring that there is a good approach to management and training, rather than relying on medication to effect a recovery.

The FEI Executive Board has reviewed the issues involved and will recommend the adoption of the List Group’s proposed 2011 Equine Prohibited Substances List to the General Assembly and the Bureau, in the knowledge that such an approach would also have the benefit of being compatible with certain national laws that may have restricted a different approach.

The National Federations have now received the statistical data necessary to make a fully-informed choice on whether to accept or reject the proposed 2011 Equine Prohibited Substances List when it is put to the vote at the FEI General Assembly in November. If the 2011 List is not approved, the 2010 List presently in effect would remain in use for another year.

National Federations were informed of the List Group proposal today through the NF Liaison Office at FEI Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

by Fran Jurga for The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

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