Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief a few days ago when it was announced that none of the horses tested during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games showed evidence of prohibited substances. This does not mean that no horse competed with the assistance of a prohibited substance in its system during the Games. Testing all 752 horses every time they competed over 16 days would have been prohibitively expensive and logistically impossible. Instead, a representative sample of horses was chosen.
For the World Equestrian Games, current FEI Veterinary Regulations “recommend” that a minimum of five per cent of the horses competing be tested for prohibited substances. (Any horse is eligible for testing by virtue of being entered for competition.) In fact, more than twice the recommended number (82 horses, about 11 per cent) was selected for testing. The Regulations require testing for medal-winning horses in individual competitions and for one horse from each medal-winning team and allow random testing of any horse entered in the competition. Also, blood and urine must be collected from any horse that dies during competition. Thankfully, this last mandate was unnecessary.
It might sound simple, but it is not. Effective drug testing, especially at a competition with the scope of the World Equestrian Games, requires planning and cooperation among a number of people.
Dr. Stephen Schumacher, who heads the United States Equestrian Federation’s Equine Drugs and Medications Program, coordinated testing during the Games with the Ground Jury, other FEI officials, a cadre of veterinarians and technicians who drew blood samp