Letter from FEI Vets to Princess Haya Against Bute

Eventing Nation has obtained a copy of a letter sent from a group of high-ranking FEI vets, including past and current members for the FEI veterinary commission.  The letter was sent on Tuesday to FEI President Princess Haya.

“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 μg/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, and Andrew Higgins, Roberto Busetto, Jean-François Bruyas, Michael Dűe, Paul Farrington, Wilfried Hanbuecken, Liisa Harmo, Miklos Jarmy, Peter Kallings, Gerit Mattheson, Nigel Nichols, Jack Snyder, Warwick Vale, and Alex Atock.”

The turmoil around the decision continues to grow as the head of the AAchen World Equestrian Festival has spoken out against the FEI’s recent decision on allowed substances. More importantly, major Aachen sponsor Deutsche Bank 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.” When sponsors start speaking out, it means the problem is not going away.  Read more.

Related Eventing Nation articles: European Boycott of WEGs?Letter to Princess Haya, Petition to FEI, Horse Racing Won’t Follow FEI, Chronicle Covers Doping Debate, My Take, *FEI Approves ButeFEI Considers Bute 

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