FEI Approves Bute and Other Performance Enhancing Drugs at Horse Competitions Around the World

To set the table, for the past few months, the FEI has been promising to stamp out doping in equestrian sport by adopting a stronger zero-tolerance policy.  This campaign is a result of the several high profile doping incidents within equestrian sport, including the disbanding of all German national equestrian teams due to widespread doping, and the FEI president’s husband getting caught using performance enhancers.  The FEI delegates from 102 national federations gathered this week in Denmark, supposedly to rubber stamp a zero tolerance policy, among other things.  However, several days ago, we heard rumors that many national federations were concerned that the FEI was becoming too autocratic, and we saw this dissent manifest itself when the delegates voted down a proposal to consolidate the FEI ruling council.
This brings us to yesterday, when we reported that there was a last-minute proposal at the general assembly of the FEI to allow low levels of NSAID’s at FEI competitions.  This proposal received strong opposition, including from the Danish equestrian federation president, who stated: “If we introduce the list I’m afraid the public and sponsors will shoot us down and say we only want to stop the number of positive tests.”  

However, amidst gasps of dismay, national federations voted 53-42 (7 abstains) to adopt the “progressive list” which allows low levels of bute and aspirin at FEI competitions, including the 2010 World Equestrian Games.  A small single dose of NSAID’s is allowed 24 hours prior to competition.  A senior vetrinary surgeon has been quoted as saying that the new thresholds for NSAID’s are “definitely performance enhancing.
It is unclear exactly where the push for the progressive list was initiated, but the FEI apparently concealed the progressive list’s existence until several days ago, and then rushed the proposal to vote without fully educating the delegates.  The FEI also repeatedly changed the names and contents of the lists just a few hours prior to the vote.  To make matters worse, check out this ridiculous spin by the FEI.
*So what exactly is now legal? “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 FEI stated that the progressive list is built from the USEF model of allowing low levels of drugs, such as bute, at competitions.  This prompted the USEF chief executive Jon Long to strongly deny any involvement by the US in starting the new proposal.  Jon Long also said that the USEF did not support the progressive list.  Most other major equestrian nations, such as Great Britain also strongly opposed the progressive list.
This “vote” has torn the FEI apart, with the FEI vice president publicly condemning the new list, while the FEI president refuses to allow a re-vote.  FEI vice president Holmberg stated “If you think the recent media reaction against rollkur has been tough, just wait to see what happens with this.”  Eventing Nation will have further coverage tonight, almost certainly including some ridiculous commentary.  Thanks for reading and go eventing.
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