FEI General Assembly: Task Force on Anti Doping and Medication Policy
International Equestrian Federation (FEI)
The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Task Force on Anti Doping and Medication Policy was established in November 2004 and was asked to look into the existent FEI system of medication control, which, while robust, required changes to better reflect equestrian sport of the 21st century. The Task Force also dealt with the ensuing judicial procedure and came up with a series of modifications that would improve the system and make it more transparent and equitable. It is important to note that the FEI has a more conservative and stricter approach to prohibited substances than the one laid down by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The terms of reference for the Task Force were the clear differentiation between doping and medication; the definition of the list of illegal substances and tolerance levels; laboratory analysis and legal procedures; sanctions; internal and external communication policy; crisis management and handling of high profile cases.
The basis of the Task Force’s recommendations is the protection of the integrity and cleanliness of the sport, while recognising that horses are competitive athletes who deserve the greatest care and whose welfare is paramount. Legitimate treatment must be applied when necessary, and it should not be withheld for fear of breaking medication rules. This concept is fundamental and can only be assured if all concerned have a clear understanding of what treatment can be used, when it can be used and what the consequences are for abusing the treatment. Consequently, a new FEI Medication Code was adopted. It is based on the distinction between medication control, aimed at preventing medication violation that may affect performance or mask an underlying health problem while providing appropriate treatment to safeguard the health and welfare of the competition horse, and doping control, the goal of which is to prevent any attempt to alter the horse’s performance by the administration or application of prohibited substances in or on the horse’s body.
Medicine Box and Withdrawal Times
Riders and treating veterinarians have called for the publication of a list of accepted equine medications and their withdrawal times before competition (Medicine Box). This is a complicated area since the rate in which a substance deteriorates in a horse’s body varies considerably from one horse to another. However, it is recommended that all withdrawal times for medications in the “Medicine Box” be established within a year.
Recommended Levels of Detection
There is also a regular argument that the levels found are so low that they could have no effect on the horse’s performance. It is important to bear in mind that concentrations are not necessarily an accurate way to measure the effect on the horse in question. Concentrations depend on three main factors: when the substance was given; the route in which it was administered and the amount administered. These factors all affect the concentration found and do not give an indication whether or not the substance was effective at that particular time. However, recommended levels of detection (RLODs), have been established through extensive research. They can be used to effectively indicate if the substance has any effect at the level found. To establish RLODs and withdrawal time recommendations, a Medication Advisory Group, consisting of professionals in veterinary medicine and representatives of the sport, should be created.
To enable the system to work effectively, it is essential that a list of acceptable drugs, with guidance as to withdrawal times and RLODs will be supplied.
Grading of Substances
Substances should be re-classified from the current 1 to 5 grading to the following:
• Doping: Agents, cocktails of substances that affect the performance of a horse; masking agents; substances with no generally accepted medical use in competition horses and which are usually products prescribed for human use only. Agents used to hypersensitive or sensitize the limbs or body parts.
• Medication Class A: Agents which could influence performance by relieving pain, sedating, stimulating or producing/modifying other physiological or behavioral effects.
• Medication Class B: Substances that either have limited performance-enhancing potential or to which horses may have been exposed, including certain dietary contaminants.
Testing Procedure and Laboratories
The testing procedure was carefully examined and it was decided that deadlines will be shortened. There will be one central laboratory and three reference laboratories. The central lab will be in Europe, as this is where the majority of high-level events are, and the remaining three will be in the United States, Australia and Hong Kong. All laboratories servicing the FEI must be able to accommodate the RLODs established by the FEI.
The current judicial system does not allow for an investigating body and a prosecuting system. An organizational procedure was therefore agreed upon in order to speed up the process and strengthen the FEI Legal Department. The FEI Judicial Committee will be composed of seven--and no longer three--independent members with legal backgrounds. The chairman and the members of the Judicial Committee should not have any interactions with FEI Personnel that may influence their decision making. This guarantee’s the independence of the judicial process.
Doping: Up to two years suspension except under special extenuating circumstances when the suspension period can be reduced or removed; always a disqualification from the event and a fine; rankings of the particular event are frozen until completion of process. A special procedure to permit provisional suspensions will be established.
Medication Class A: To be dealt with via fast track or hearing and could be either a disqualification and fine or suspension. However, if the case is referred to the Judicial Committee, then a suspension of up to one year could also be imposed on top of the disqualification and fine.
Medication Class B: always via fast track unless a repeat offence. The sanction will normally be a disqualification and/or a fine. Subject to extenuating circumstances, such a case could also be dealt with by a warning only. If a repeat offence within two years occurs, then it would be referred to the Judicial Committee who could impose sanctions similar or the same as under Medication Class A offenses.
Repeat Offense: Repeat offences within five years of the date of the offense for Doping and Medication Class A, are always heard by the Judicial Committee, which can impose any sanction up to four years suspension for the PR. In case the first offense is not known at the time of the second offense, consideration must be given to actual facts when deciding on the sanction.
A sanction process, according to which a full hearing must take place within 40 working days. is also established.
Media and Communications
The FEI communication process must be improved significantly. A standard communications procedure will be put into place in order to provide consistent follow up, both internally and externally.
A professional from the Communications Department will be selected as the only FEI spokesperson on medication cases. This is of major importance, especially during Games and Championships or when high-profile riders are involved. All other personnel, professionals or elected officials, will be instructed to always refer to the spokesperson.
A detailed record of the status of each open case will be published on the FEI website along with the expected times for the following steps in the procedure.
Some additional suggestions were also discussed concerning the stewarding system, the role of judges and their participation in control, standardization of allowed in-competition treatment, limitation of the number of grand prix starts, the regulation of prize money over competitions, the role of modern course design and education.
Introduction of the recommendations will begin after the 2005 FEI General Assembly. The full system should be in place by 2006.