As the 2013 competition season approaches, it might be wise to make sure you (and your horses) are in compliance with the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). In its ongoing crackdown on equine doping, the FEI delivered a record number of decisions during the first ten months of 2012.

The world governing body of equestrian sport presented data on doping decisions made by the FEI Tribunal last year at the 2012 FEI General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, held in November.

Between January and October 2012, the FEI Tribunal delivered 16 final decisions on equine cases involving 14 horses, according to Lisa Lazarus, JD, of the FEI general counsel. Six two-year final suspensions were issued to the "persons responsible" (usually the rider). The average suspension was 15.2 months, and the average fine was 1,567 Swiss francs (or $1,684).

All cases involved the administration of a prohibited substance to at least one horse, according to FEI Tribunal records. Half the cases involved the use of banned substances, which are recognized as the true "doping" substances and are never allowed in FEI horses. But the other half of the cases involved what the FEI refers to as "controlled medications," or those considered therapeutic for horses suffering from certain conditions and are therefore allowed in FEI competition horses outside the show ring. Controlled medications are sometimes permitted during the competitions themselves, but only if an FEI veterinarian has preapproved them and has filled out the appropriate forms, Lazarus said.

The offending substances in the 2012 cases primarily included pain killers and steroids, including phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone, paracetamol, flunixin, testosterone, stanozolol, boldenone, and dexamethazone. But the most commonly seen substance detected between January and October 2012 was HPC.

HPC is a synthetic progestin designed to help maintain pregnancy and control the estrus cycle in mares. It also has an anabolic effect, meaning that it works like a steroid to build up muscles. The substance was not listed by name in the FEI Equine Prohibited Substances List at the time of the offenses (late 2010 and early 2011). However, the FEI ruled on HPC as being banned following the list’s "catch-all" clause, which allows the Tribunal to specifically include unnamed substances which have a "similar chemical structure or biological effect(s)" to named substances. The substance has now been classified by the FEI as a banned substance "because it has similar biological effects to several banned substances," Lazarus said.

Ten of the FEI Tribunal’s anti-doping decisions originated from endurance competitions, including five HPC cases; additionally, there were four jumping cases, one driving case, and one eventing case.

One decision was delivered to a minor in Spain, according to the tribunal records. Although the defendant complied with the investigation and was involved in a lower-level endurance event, he nonetheless received a suspension and fine–a testament to the seriousness of the FEI’s crackdown on doping. However, both the suspension and fine were lower than average (eight months and 1,000 Swiss francs [about $1,100], respectively).

Stricter penalties were enacted in 2010 at the time of the FEI’s publication of its new Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations.

"We feel that we can stand behind (these greater penalties), given that we’ve been very clear about what’s prohibited," Lazarus told The Horse just after the regulations were released. "We’re making it very transparent and very easy for riders to comply. And if they don’t comply, they will be punished severely."

Now, on the road ahead, the same effort will continue, Lazarus said.

"As the FEI competition calendar continues to expand, the FEI is ensuring that athletes and all those working within the equestrian community are aware of their commitments to the FEI statutes, general regulations, and rules," she said.

Added Graeme Cooke, MBA, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, FEI veterinary director, "The message must now be clear to all those participating in FEI competitions–including athletes, veterinarians, grooms, and other support personnel–that they must be aware of the FEI’s well-established approach to Clean Sport; abide by FEI regulations on doping and controlled medication; and adhere to the FEI Code of Conduct, which states that the welfare of horses must always remain the priority."