Anti-doping programme introduced

National anti-doping rules for all equestrian disciplines are being introduced in Ireland for the first time. The new rules were passed unanimously at a board meeting of Horse Sport Ireland yesterday and the rules will come into effect in equestrian disciplines in Ireland from April 1st.
Horse Sport Ireland chairman Joe Walsh said: "These rules will help to ensure a level playing field in national equestrian competitions, will protect the welfare of horses and I believe they will help to enhance the standing of the Irish equestrian sector at home and abroad.
"Unfortunately, the reputation of the Irish equestrian sector has been tarnished in the past and we have ground to make up. We need to show the general public and people coming to Ireland to buy horses that we have a no-nonsense approach to the use of prohibited substances in our sport," he added.
"Our horses are already tested frequently by the international governing body, the FEI, when competing in international competitions. Since the last positive test at the Hong Kong Olympics we have had over 400 horses tested in international competition and all these were clean. The next logical step was to introduce a consistent and robust national testing programme.
"Since early 2011 we have been in detailed discussions with our 20 affiliate bodies on details of the new rules. To finally secure agreement is a huge step forward for the sector. I am particularly pleased that the rules were passed unanimously.
"I want to thank all of the affiliates and sections for their constructive engagement in the process. The Horse Sport Ireland rules committee put an enormous amount of work into the project and I want to thank them for the work," he concluded.
The introduction of a national anti-doping programme was one of the recommendations in the late Gordon Holmes' report for HSI after the Olympic Games in Hong Kong.
The new document is based on the FEI model and essentially incorporates two sets of rules, one for so called controlled medications and the other for banned substances. The list of prohibited substances will be the same as that used by the FEI.
Controlled medications are legitimate equine medications, are not allowed in competition. Banned substances are substances which are deemed to have no legitimate use in horses at any time.
Riders whose horse is found to contain a controlled medication face a suspension of up to six months and a fine of up to €500. However, if they admit the violation and follow the administrative procedure and seek no hearing, they will face no suspension but will have to pay a fine of €500.
Riders whose horses are found with a banned substance face a possible fine of up to €2,500 and a possible suspension of up to two years. There is no administrative procedure route for banned substances.
One of the changes in the rules from previous drafts is the introduction of an equine therapeutic use exemption (ETEU) for controlled medications only. Under this procedure riders can apply to HSI for permission to compete if they have had to treat their horse for genuine reasons in the lead up to a competition.
The rider's veterinary surgeon must submit an application for the exemption before 10am on the last working day before the competition. The applications will be adjudicated by an appointed HSI adjudicating veterinarian. If the rider is given permission to compete, his or her horse may be tested to ensure that no other substances are present.
Now that HSI has approved the rules, each participating affiliate will have to amend their rules to reflect the introduction of the new programme. Walsh said that he was confident that all relevant affiliates would join the programme.
He added: "There is still a lot of work to be done and we will be producing an explanatory leaflet for participants in the sport as well as holding regional meetings around the country to explain the new rules to participants. These rules are all about deterring people from using prohibited substances.
"I believe that we have very good and legally robust rules in place. A programme like this brings with it a major legal risk if we get things wrong, but we have taken great care to get the rules right and we would intend to have testing processes in place which are in line with the best international practice."