Update November 25, 2009

Horse vets raise doping concerns with FEI

A group of top-level horse vets has written to FEI head Princess Haya outlining their concerns about the FEI's recent decision to allow non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in equestrian competition.

Copies of the letter to Princess Haya from the veterinarians were also sent to Sven Holmberg (FEI 1st Vice-President), Chris Hodson (FEI 2nd Vice-President), Alex McLin (FEI Secretary General), John McEwen (Chair, FEI Veterinary Committee), and Graeme Cooke (Director, FEI Veterinary Department).

The text of the letter is:

Re: FEI Clean Sport; The 'Progressive List'
To: FEI President
Your Royal Highness,

As a group of senior veterinarians with experience of equestrian competition at international level, we write to express our grave concern at the recent decision of the FEI General Assembly to adopt the so-called 'Progressive List' that allows the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in competition horses. This resolution has seriously over-shadowed the commendable clean sport campaign recommended by the Stevens/Ljungqvist reports, which offered a major step forward in equestrian sport. We would like to emphasise that we are fully behind the concept of 'clean sport'.

The 'Progressive List', which we understand was seen for the first time by the delegates when they arrived for the assembly, has not been debated sufficiently and we believe a decision has been made that was premature, illconsidered and seriously retrograde. Permitting the use of NSAIDs will lead to abuse and the participation of horses in competition that are unfit to compete. It also removes the 'level playing field' that has been a crucial and fundamental ethos of the FEI since its foundation. We believe the decision must be reconsidered and would draw your attention to the following historical facts.

Firstly, following extensive consultation, the General Assembly meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1993, finally removed the 'maximum permitted level' for phenylbutazone (PBZ). Over a number of years this had been reduced from 5 µg per millilitre of blood to 2 µg/ml. Under the 'Progressive List', PBZ will be permitted up to a level of 8 µg/ml, a four-fold increase on the level rejected by the Rio meeting. This decision will have a serious and negative effect on welfare and profound repercussions for equestrian sport. The 'Progressive List' also permits flunixin, another NSAID, to be used up to a level of 0.5 µg/ml in serum or plasma.

Secondly, the 'Progressive List' raises the salicylate threshold. We would point out that this threshold was lowered in 1999 on the advice of the Veterinary Committee and again following extensive consultation. Salicylic acid had been found in Coral Cove at the 1998 World Equestrian Games, and it was apparent at the time that intravenous 'topping up' to the threshold was not a rare occurrence.

After analysis of 650 equine urine samples collected worldwide and considerable discussion it was decided to reduce the FEI threshold to below that used by racing (where there was no evidence of similar abuse). The work was reported to the International Conference of Racing Analysts and Veterinarians in 2004 and was subsequently published. There was therefore a clear rationale for the threshold of 625 µg/ml in urine or 5.4 ?g/ml in plasma.

Thirdly, national legislation in many European countries prohibits any medication in competition animals. This does not apply in parts of the US where 'permitted levels' are more common. A 'controlled restricted' list will surely be unenforceable where it is in conflict with the national laws of a country.

In conclusion, we would urge you to reopen this debate, encourage extensive international consultation and invite National Federations to reconsider their decision in Copenhagen in the interests of the health and welfare of the competition horse.

Sincerely yours,

Leo B. Jeffcott (former Chair, FEI Veterinary Committee) and
Andrew Higgins (FEI Honorary Scientific Adviser and former Chair Medication Advisory Group)
Roberto Busetto (FEI MCP Veterinarian)
Jean-François Bruyas (FEI MCP Veterinarian)
Michael Düe (former member FEI Veterinary Committee)
Paul Farrington (former Vice Chair, FEI Veterinary Committee)
Wilfried Hanbuecken (Chief Veterinary Officer CHIO Aachen)
Liisa Harmo (FEI MCP Veterinarian)
Miklos Jarmy (FEI MCP Veterinarian)
Peter Kallings (former President, IGSRV and MCP Veterinarian)
Gerit Mattheson (member FEI Veterinary Committee)
Nigel Nichols (former member FEI Veterinary Committee)
Jack Snyder (member FEI Veterinary Committee)
Warwick Vale (FEI Veterinary Delegate and Olympic Games, Sydney 2000
FEI Medication Control Program Supervisor)
Alex Atock (former Head, FEI Veterinary Department)

UPDATE November 24, 2009

The head of the renowned World Equestrian Festival at Aachen and a major sponsor have spoken out against the FEI's recent decision on allowed substances, and have vowed to run the event according to their own anti-doping policies.

Frank Kemperman, chairman of the managing board of the Aachen-Laurensberger Rennverein e.V. (ALRV) said this week: "The FEI's decision is a contradiction to our ideal of the sport."

Kemperman, as chairman of the FEI's Dressage Committee, was in Copenhagen last week for the General Assembly and vehemently fought against the new regulations.

During the meeting the FEI decided to permit several substances for the treatment of horses shortly before or during an event.

On Monday CHIO Aachen organisers said that in the future, the event will continue its straightforward strategy for fair and clean sport.

They are backed by the results of a survey in July, in which event visitors were interviewed by representatives of the German University of Sport, Cologne. The survey showed that 89 per cent of the visitors are convinced that the CHIO-organisers are exhausting all their options in the fight against doping.

Deutsche Bank General Manager Michael Mronz said: "We do not want to have unsound or injured horses in our sport. The CHIO Aachen 2010 will not be carried out on the basis of the current FEI regulations, but according to the ethics of clean sport."

The Deutsche Bank, which has been supporting the event for 52 years, has extended its contract with the festival CHIO Aachen for another three years. The bank is also traditional partner and title sponsor of the Deutsche Bank Prize, the dressage competition with the highest prize money in the world.

Petition Launched
An on-line petition has been launched urging the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to abandon a new drugs policy which will allow small amounts of some drugs, including the powerful anti-inflammatory bute, in a horse's system.

The general assembly of equestrian sport's international ruling body passed the progressive list of banned substances over the existing list of banned substances in a close vote last week.

The petition, at www.no-fei.com, is urging the FEI not to apply the progressive list. "It violates animal welfare to allow a horse to show in a competition although it needs painkillers. We request the FEI to immediately put their focus back on the welfare of the horse."

The petition's demands are also stated in German, French and Spanish.

The progressive list allows phenylbutazone (bute), up to 8 micrograms per millilitre in plasma or serum. This is three times the level permitted in the 1980s before the powerful anti-inflammatory agent was banned.

The progressive list also allows salicyclic acid (similar to aspirin) up to 750mcg/ml in urine and up to 6.5 mcg/ml in plasma or serum. Flunixin, a common anti-inflammatory and painkiller in horses, will be allowed up to 500 mcg/ml in plasma or serum.

The new rules allow for a horse with levels below the prescribed limits to pass a drugs test provided the drugs are not used in combination.

The new list also prescribes acceptable levels for acetycysteine, which is used for some respiratory conditions; dichloroacetate (lactanase), which helps prevent tying up by reducing the buildup of lactic acid in muscle cells; and isoxuprine, a blood vessel dilator often used in the treatment of hoof conditions.

The general assembly voted strongly in favour of the federation's Clean Sport strategy, which FEI president Princess Haya later hailed as a true landmark moment in the history of the sport.

However, most attention has since been focused on the progressive list, with major horse nations concerned over how sponsors will view the new stance on a set of drugs commonly used in horses.

Some have questioned how the industry can sell a "clean sport" image when it tolerates the presence of such key substances.

"The progressive list now permits in-competition use of a limited number of medications under strictly prescribed limits," the FEI said in a statement after the vote.

The assembly also approved an itemised list of more than 1000 substances not allowed in competitive horses.

Originally posted:

FEI delegates have approved in a close vote a new Prohibited Substances List itemizing more than 1000 substances not allowed in competition. The adoption of the so-called “Progressive List” now permits in-competition use of a limited number of medications under strictly prescribed limits, including bute.

According to Horse and Hound:

Bute will be allowed in horse sport around the world from 1 January 2010.

National federations have this morning voted in favour of adopting the "progressive list", on which low levels of phenylbutazone (bute), flunixin and salicyclic acid (aspirin) will be allowed in competition.

There were gasps of shock and dismay as, out of 102 votes cast, 53 voted for the progressive list, 42 for the current list and 7 abstained.

Britain's and Ireland's calls for a re-vote on the decision to allow bute in competition have been dismissed.

Damian McDonald chief executive of Horse Sport Ireland has questioned this afternoon whether delegates at the FEI general assembly understood fully what they were voting for.

"On 13 November it was stated by the FEI that we would get a choice between the 'progressive list' and a list legally called the '20 October list'," he said.

"But this morning we were asked to vote on 'progressive list' and 'current list', and the current list we had until now is very different from the list of 20 October."

He urged to allow a revote to be absolutely certain that federations were clear on what they were voting for, a call backed up by British Equestrian Federation (BEF) chairman Keith Taylor.

"I suggest that if there is sufficient doubt in the room that a vote should be retaken," said Mr Taylor.

But FEI president Princess Haya refused to allow a re-vote, claiming a number of delegates had already left the assembly. Before they left, the Princess said they had told her of their concern that the FEI might backtrack on the decision taken this morning.

"The vote has been taken," said Princess Haya. "We will not take it again."

German equestrian federation president Breido Graf zu Rantzau warned: "How can we leave Copenhagen like this? It divides the FEI.

More just in from H&H:

The vice president of the FEI has publicly slammed the decision taken today to re-introduce bute into horse sport.

Sven Holmberg addressed the 102 national federations gathered in Copenhagen for the FEI's general assembly just before he was voted to remain chair of the show jumping committee.

"I support 100% the clean sport programme but the progressive list cuts the legs off that," he said to a quietened room.

"It allows treatment of horses in competition, and it will be rejected by the social media."

Mr Holmberg, who is number two to Princess Haya, FEI president, added: "If you thought recent media reaction against rollkur has been tough, just wait to see what happens with this.

"I still wish to stand for election, but understand if you don't want me know I have made my position known."

Mr Holmberg was re-elected as chair of the jumping committee, and Frank Kempermann — another very vocal detractor — was elected chair of the dressage committee.

As the general assembly broke for lunch, talk around the buffet table centred on a possible challenge to the decision.

Although the FEI maintains it released details of both lists to the national federations on 13 November, many say today the plans came as a complete surprise.

Where moves for the "progressive list" came from is not yet understood.

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Comment by Michelle Synnot on November 20, 2009 at 1:59pm
not cool. Mt Holmberg is correct, the public is not going to be happy.

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