FEI Classifies Capsaicin as Doping, Not Medication

If the drug capsaicin is found in any future samples from equine atheletes in International Equestrian Federation (FEI)-sanctioned events, the results will be treated as doping, not medication, according to veterinary committee chairman John McEwen in an article today (Nov. 29, 2008) at HorseAndHound.

McEwen told Horse and Hound: "Capsaicin can be used rather like Deep Heat (a topical rub), so it can be legitimately used as well as illegitimately [to hypersensitise a horse's legs]."

Capsaicin positives were found in five horses at the Olympics this year, with four ruled as medication use. "But there will be no arguments from now on--it has been put quite firmly into the doping category," McEwen added.

There was a decrease in the number of positive drug-related (doping) tests in FEI events in 2007 even though more horses were tested. Despite that positive trend, after the Olympics the FEI created a commission to review medication and doping issues in top-level equine sports and report back to the FEI by spring of 2009.

The commission's task: "Overcoming the gray areas that lie between medication and doping, and to clarify for riders the practices that are acceptable and ones that are not," according to the FEI.

The commission will be headed by Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the International Olympic Committee medical commission and vice-president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The committion will include riders, national federations, veterinarians, testing laboratories, and representatives from the FEI's judicial committee.

"We'll also be looking at who is responsible in a positive test--should it be wider than the rider, to include vets and coaches--and whether the whole system, from the level of testing carried out at different laboratories to penalty levels, is working as it should," McEwen, the veterinary representative for the commission, told Horse and Hound.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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