For the past few weeks, The Jurga Report has been chugging away at keeping up with the international equestrian news as different countries, veterinarians, organizations, coaches and riders make formal and informal statements about the changes voted in at the FEI General Assembly in Copenhagen two weeks ago.
In case you've been off mountain climbing or something, the FEI member nations voted democratically to allow medication of certain types to be used in competition horses. This is a radical departure from the previous policy and a furor broke out in Europe against the new rules. The British and Germans have been especially vocal in their protests.
A stunning and eloquent letter from a list of highly respected former and current FEI veterinary and welfare experts was written to the FEI President, Princess Haya, with a clear message of rejection of the newly allowed medications list on veterinary grounds.
On Monday, the United States Equestrian Federation officially endorsed the new rules, but asked for a moratorium on their enforcement until more education could be done, since the new rules would take effect as of January 1, 2010. The United States is also hosting the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in the fall of 2010; it will be the first time the event has been held outside Europe. Surely the USA wants that event to go smoothly and everyone to be happy at that event.
The FEI did announce a delay in enforcement on Tuesday, but only until April. This means that the Badminton Horse Trials in England in May would be expected to run under the new FEI rules. And all the other interntional events on the 2010 calendar, presumably including the WEG.
The adoption of the list was done by democratic vote, and the FEI is bound to administer the policies voted on by the member nations. While many people have criticized the way in which the vote was presented and taken, the results of the vote indicated that a slim majority of countries preferred to allow some level of some medication.
How or if the vote can be annulled is not being publicly discussed, although some countries find that the new policy allows medications that are not legally used on competition horses in their nations.
To assist in the education process, the FEI has passed along two reference documents: the new 30-page list of prohibited substances and a question-and-answer document about new policies. They also sent an article endorsing the new medications by a Belgian veterinarian.
I have posted all three of these documents for your downloading and reference. Surely this won't be the last we hear of this radical shift in medication policy, and you may need these documents. Please keep in mind that the "Q&A" entries were written before the moratorium was announced.
Please try to keep an open mind about the changing face of international sports and the pressure on the FEI to comply with a "clean sport" initiative. There are many ways to interpret these issues, and a truly successful international competition scene requires the sport to work toward a unified agreement on its most sensitive tenets. But that doesn't happen overnight, especially when the words "equine welfare" seem to translate very differently as you travel around the world. To insure that nothing is lost in translation, the national federations have to work as one when it comes to international events and policy.
Think about it: not only do the nations have to embrace this change, the new system has to work successfully around the world and prove itself, not just in Aachen and Wellington and Burghley, but everywhere international horse sports are hosted.
Stay tuned, and stay objective, if you possibly can.
FEI Prohibited Substance List Adopted November 2009 -
Note: all three of these documents were received from the FEI and are published without change except for formatting and document conversion.