equine athlete | anti-doping rule violation lawyers

Our Experienced Equine Anti-Doping Lawyers Help You Navigate the FEI's Anti-Doping Rules and Protect Your Right to Compete

Equestrian sports rely on the deep connection between human and equine athletes. Maintaining the integrity of this partnership requires an anti-doping framework that ensures fair and safe competition. As the global governing body for equestrian sports, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) has established comprehensive anti-doping rules that apply to both human and equine participants.

At Global Sports Advocates, we understand the nuances of the FEI's Code and can develop a robust defense strategy to protect your competitive future. If you’re facing a potential anti-doping rule violation, reach out to our experienced equine anti-doping lawyers today to discuss your next steps.

Clean Sport for Horses

The FEI Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMRs) define two categories of equine prohibited substances: banned substances that are never allowed to be present in a competing horse and controlled medications that are allowed with certain restrictions. Similar to the human prohibited substances list, the equine prohibited substance list further distinguishes each of the over 900 prohibited substances (banned and controlled) as either specified or non-specified. Those that are labeled specified substances are considered more likely to have been ingested by a horse via a contaminated food substance or for a purpose other than enhancing sports performance. However, specified substances should not be considered any less important or less dangerous than non-specified substances, especially because their presence in a horse’s urine or blood can lead to just as significant consequences as for non-specified substances.

Potential sanctions for violating EADCMRs can include suspensions for the horse's rider, owner, and/or support personnel, as well as fines and disqualification of results.

The full rules for equine athletes are available for download on the FEI website.

FEI’s Atypical Findings Policy

Although your horse may test positive for a banned or controlled substance, this does not automatically mean you will be deemed to have violated the FEI’s equine anti-doping policy and receive a sanction.

Specifically, if your horse tests positive for (1) any substance identified as a Specified Substance on the FEI Equine Prohibited Substance List, (2) Endogenous substances, (3) Ractopamine, (4) Zilpaterol, or (5) Diisopropylamine, the FEI will withhold charging a trainer or another responsible person with an anti-doping rule violation and initially label the positive test as an Atypical Finding (ATF), meaning further investigation must be completed before opening a case against the responsible person for a potential anti-doping rule violation.

The FEI’s procedure for handling ATFs is described in their Atypical Findings Policy, which the FEI Board originally approved on October 20, 2020.

As laid out in the Atypical Finding Policy, after your horse tests positive for one of the five substances/categories of substances identified by the FEI, the FEI will first determine whether there is any apparent departure from any provision of the EADCMR that caused the ATF. Assuming that no departure is detected, you, as the responsible person of the horse, will be allowed to provide any information that you believe may assist the ATF Panel in deciding not to pursue the ATF as an AAF.

The criteria by which the ATF Panel will determine whether or not to pursue an ATF as an AAF include:

  1. the source of the prohibited substance,
  2. what measures you have taken to avoid prohibited substances entering the body of the horse, and
  3. any other factor it deems relevant such as reports of the Testing Veterinarians and FEI Officials at the relevant event, the prevalence of the use of the prohibited substance in the relevant discipline, etc.

If you are able to show that the source of the banned substance was from a contaminated source and you had sufficient safeguarding measures in place to avoid prohibited substances from entering your horse’s system, then the ATF Panel—the ultimate authority under the Atypical Findings Policy—may decide not to pursue an ATF as an AAF and close the case.

If the responsible person is unable to identify the source or the ATF Panel decides the positive test stemmed from intentional or reckless administration, it will inform the responsible person that their original ATF is being treated as an AAF.

The ATF Panel’s decision to pursue or not pursue an ATF as an AAF is final and cannot be appealed. Upon confirmation that a case will be opened against the responsible person, the ATF Panel will forward the case to the FEI Tribunal to proceed according to the EADCRM.

Clean Sport for Humans

The FEI Anti-Doping Rules for Human Athletes (ADRHA) follow the WADA Code and International Standards. These rules apply to all international-level athletes, i.e., those participants who fall within one of two categories:

  • Highly Ranked Athletes. This applies to athletes who rank within a certain range on the FEI's World Rankings on January 1 of a given year. The following is the current breakdown of the ranking cutoffs for each discipline:
    • Jumping: Top 500
    • Dressage: Top 300
    • Eventing: Top 300
    • Para Dressage: Top 100
    • Endurance: Top 100
    • Driving: Top 20 (Four-in-Hand), Top 40 (Pair Horses), Top 40 (Single Horses)
    • Vaulting: Top 40 (Male & Female World Cup Standings), Top 10 Pairs (Pas-de-deux)
  • Athletes in Testing Pools. This includes any athlete in either the FEI Registered Testing Pool or the FEI Testing Pool. They become international-level athletes from the moment they enter the particular pool and remain so for the entire calendar year.

Penalties international-level athletes can face for the presence of a banned substance in their blood or urine vary, but they can include disqualification competition results, removal of medals and points, imposition of financial penalties, and suspension of an athlete from sport for up to four years.

Keep in mind that human anti-doping rule violations can include more than simply testing positive for a prohibited substance or method. Whereabouts failures are one of the other primary reasons athletes are suspended. Each day, athletes in either the FEI Registered Testing Pool or FEI Testing Pool must provide certain location requirements so that they can be randomly tested by an anti-doping organization. If an athlete accumulates any combination of three missed tests and/or filing failures in a 12-month period, they risk being suspended for a minimum of one year.

The full rules for human athletes are available to download on the FEI website.

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