FEI Athletes Receive Anti-Doping Regulation Training

With the adoption of the new Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMR), effective since April 2010, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) has reinforced the concept of the Person Responsible in doping cases.

The recent doping case of German rider Marco Kutscher, who was tried under the previous FEI anti-doping rules, highlighted this definition of Person Responsible. Kutscher claimed he relied on his team veterinarian to know whether the medication given to his horse, Cornet Obolensky, was permitted. It wasn't, and Kutscher was disqualified retroactively from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and given the highest fine in the history of FEI anti-doping cases.

Although the new rules provide for the addition of other responsible parties, the FEI stands firm in its decision to maintain the human athlete--the rider or driver--as the primary Person Responsible in every situation.

"It's really the best way to maintain a strong system," said Lisa Lazarus, JD, FEI general counsel. The athlete is like the CEO of a company who must rely on his or her teams for complicated decisions, she said. "If there's financial mismanagement, then the CEO is the one who's ultimately responsible, and it's the same for these riders."

However, as the average rider has no legal or veterinary training, he or she might find the wording of the 63-page technical document difficult, according to several national federations. This is particularly true for the thousands of riders who don't speak English.

"The nuances of the rules are sometimes difficult to comprehend," said John Long, CEO of the United States Equestrian Federation.

To help riders grasp the major concepts of the EADCMR, the FEI has created an "Athlete's Guide" version that presents the new regulations in an easy-to-read format, free of legal jargon. It's available for download from the FEI Clean Sport website and is distributed at FEI events. Some federations also provide anti-doping training for their teams. Equestrian Australia, for example, publishes an informative newsletter for its riders and organizes yearly anti-doping education sessions, according to CEO Franz Venhaus.

The Germans have been holding similar yearly sessions, plus some additional training classes since the release of the new rules, according to Soenke Lauterbach, secretary general of the German Equestrian Federation. In their federation, anti-doping training begins very early and continues for all ages and levels.

"We shouldn't just focus on the five-star shows," Lauterbach said. "We have to also go to the one- and two-star shows, because that's where people learn the first steps. If we can teach them at that level, we can help them prevent a lot of honest mistakes."

Their upper-level teams have the additional challenge of simply finding the time to study the new rules because they are so involved in competitions and traveling, he added. "So we go where they are: the shows," he said.

Even so, in the end the majority of riders seem to still fall back on the expertise of their veterinarians, according to Mike Gallagher, president of the Canadian Equestrian Federation. "They have to rely on that professional counsel, and many of them just have pretty much blind faith in their veterinary teams," he said. "But if you want to be a veterinarian for these high-performance horses, you need to make sure you're right on top of the rules."

Reliance on the team vet is just part of a well-organized, professional system, according to Lazarus. "When you're competing at the level that a Marco Kutscher is competing at, and this is your livelihood, you need to treat your sport and your livelihood like anyone who's running a corporation would," she said. "You need to know and be aware of what's happening with your horses, or at least delegate that responsibility to people you trust, because at the end of the day, you will be the one held responsible."

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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