German Equestrian Federation President Mentions Possible European Boycott of 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games

At a recent press conference, Breido Graf zu Rantzau, President of the German Equestrian Federation, discussed the possibility of a European boycott of the 2010 World Equestrian Games over the FEI’s decision to allow low levels bute and other NSAID’s at competitions.  The article, published by the German Horses and Sports publication is written entirely in German. I used Google translator and a friend who studied German in college to produce this very imperfect translation (where is Gerd, my german dressage coach, when I need him?).  The article is titled “New FEI-Doping Rules: threaten a European separatism from equestrian sport?”

“…the FEI seems to be a power that has underestimated the European equestrian nations.  In the event of a secession from the Games of European federations – from which the FEI not only benefits but lives – the World Equestrian Games organizers and sponsors would not be able to stem the tide. The Europeans will not support the decision against a clear “no” to drugs.

The German President made no secret that a boycott of the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky next year has already been mentioned. He said the reasons of our own European Union would be the ultimate consequence.  Negotiations with the German television stations were affected. In any case, it is currently top priority to try to continue with the FEI.

“We cannot help but be united,” explains the President, of the German position, “all the tournament organizers are behind us.”  These developments were first brought to our attention by Fran Jurga of the Jurga Report.

To make matters worse, the British Equine Veterinary Association, a group of preeminent vets in the UK spoke out today against the FEI’s decision about bute:

“This decision obscures the distinction between therapy and subjecting unsound horses to the stresses of competition,” said a statement from the group of leading horse vets.

“Furthermore, we have grave concerns that horses competing while under treatment with pain-relieving medicines, are at an increased risk of musculo-skeletal lesions progressing to catastrophic injuries.”  Horse and Hound

Update: The Hose and Hound has just uncovered this 2004 press release from the FEI, in which the FEI announced that they were reducing the allowed levels of salicylates (asprin) beneath the levels that they just approved in the progressive list because those levels are open to abuse.  The 2004 press release states:

“The [pre-2004] thresholds for salicylates were 750 µg/ml in urine and 6.5 µg/ml in plasma. Experiences in testing had indicated that abuse of salicylates was possible, obtaining a clinical effect in the horse by administration of low doses without exceeding the threshold….an extensive study in 650 samples for the salicylate content and a subsequent bio-statistical analysis of the results indicated that a decrease of the threshold was possible, thereby making abuse of the substance more difficult”.  Read more

My take: In the past few days, we have seen some troubling indicators that the turmoil surrounding the FEI’s decision to allow bute is dramatically escalating.  Whatever your opinion regarding the use of drugs at and just prior to competition, the divisions within the FEI are much more significant than the English-speaking media has suggested up to now.

A boycott of the WEGs seems unlikely, as does an outright split from the FEI, such as what happened within the polo world last month, but both are within the realm of conceivable possibility.  Competitions, riders, and governing bodies all follow the money, and if sponsors, such as Deustche Bank, or the fans start withdrawing their support of the FEI, get ready for a big mess.  
Sports are made or broken in moments like these and we are at the precipice of cataclysmic change in the equestrian world.  Inaction and complacency by Baseball’s leaders allowed the steroid scandal to permanently cripple their sport.  The FEI’s so-called leaders, have stuck their heads in the sand and seem intent on silently weathering the bute storm.  The USEF has also refused to say how it voted on the bute progressive list.  What we need now is a decisive, vocal, fair, and therefore uniting leadership.  The gauntlet has been thrown down over the past few days by FEI Vets, the World Equestrian Fair, Deutsche Bank, a petition to the FEI, British vets, and now the European equestrian federations.  Your move Princess.

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