The image of horse sports took a hit this morning when the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), governing body of world equestrian sports, announced that two horses--one in endurance and one in eventing--failed testing for controlled medication substances during the first week of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, currently underway in Normandy, France.
"Controlled Medications" are substances that are regularly used to treat horses but which are not allowed in competition in order to maintain a level playing field.
A press release from the FEI today contained more than the usual information.
The FEI press release contains information on the two horses, one in endurance and one in eventing:
Endurance: "Samples taken on 28 August from the horse Tra Flama (FEI ID 103QH09), ridden in Endurance by Giliese de Villiers (Republic of South Africa), have returned positive for the Controlled Medication substance Phenylbutazone and its metabolite Oxyphenbutazone. Phenylbutazone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory used for the treatment of pain. Tra Flama was vetted out at the second Vet Gate on the Endurance course."
Eventing: "Samples taken on 29 August from the horse Qalao des Mers (FEI ID 103MQ19), ridden in Eventing by Maxime Livio (France), have returned positive for the Controlled Medication substance Acepromazine. Acepromazine is a sedative. Qalao des Mers finished fifth individually and was a member of the fourth-placed French team."
“It is the first duty of a regulator to ensure clean sport and a level playing field and we do this by conducting an ongoing and very comprehensive testing programme,” FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos said.
“We had clean World Equestrian Games in 2010 in Kentucky and at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. Our system works and sends out a strong message to our athletes and their entourage that clean sport is our absolute top priority.
“We carried out an intensive awareness campaign prior to the Games and also offered pre-arrival testing to all participants, so it is very disappointing that we have two positives for Controlled Medication substances at the Games, especially when it is well known and well accepted that both these substances are not permitted in competition. Although these are Controlled Medication not doping substances, we take this very seriously.”
Of special interest to the public and interested equestrians should be the process of testing used by the FEI. While one might assume that at the world championship level all horses are tested and, therefore, the cleanliness of our sports is verified (or not), less than 30% of horses in each discipline are actually tested.
The FEI explains the numbers: A total of 137 horses were tested in the first week of the Games – 49 in Endurance (28% of 173 starters), 24 in Eventing (26% of 91 starters), 22 in Dressage (22% of 100 starters), 21 in Reining (26% of 82 starters) and 21 in Para-Equestrian Dressage (21% of 100 starters).
In addition to random testing, the FEI conducts compulsory testing of all individual medal winners at the World Equestrian Games, and at least one horse from each of the medal winning teams. To ensure the integrity of all processes, representatives of the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit, including Chairman Lord Stevens, have been on-site throughout the Games.
The FEI said that all equine samples taken in the first week of the Games in the disciplines of Dressage, Para-Dressage and Reining are negative, and that there are no other positives in Endurance and Eventing.
What happens next
According to the FEI, the two Controlled Medication positives will not result in an automatic provisional suspension, but will go before the FEI Tribunal after the Games at a date to be agreed between all parties. World Equestrian Games cases are not eligible for the FEI administrative (fast-track) procedure.
Possible effect on France's qualification for 2016 Olympics
As at the Olympic Games, a positive result for a team member can result in the disqualification of the whole team. In the Qalao des Mers case, this could mean disqualification of the French Eventing team and loss of Olympic qualification for Rio 2016. It is the role of the FEI Tribunal to rule on what sanctions apply.
Pre-screening was offered
As part of its Clean Sport campaign, the FEI offered all National Federations the opportunity to have a full screen Pre-Arrival Testing for horses from 21 July until two weeks’ prior to arrival at the Games. Additionally, elective testing for specific Controlled Medication substances was also offered close to the event.
All equine samples taken prior to and during the Games are tested at the FEI Approved Laboratory in Paris. Testing is conducted at the Laboratory using a bar-coded system, which guarantees anonymity.