By Emily Goddard

The FEI has clarified its procedures in anti-doping cases ©FEIMarch 7 - The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has spoken out to clarify its procedures when dealing with anti-doping cases following discussions in the sport about the length of time it takes to prosecute.

A statement from the sport's world governing body insisted that as a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code it has to respect its principles, which include an athlete's right to a fair hearing.

"It is the FEI's role to ensure the full integrity of competition and fair play, while at the same time ensuring that the rights of the athlete are fully protected," Ingmar De Vos, secretary general of the FEI, said.

"As an international governing body, the FEI cannot allow that athletes would ever be condemned or sanctioned without having the proper opportunities to defend themselves.

"It is of course regrettable, on every level, whenever there is a positive finding, but the FEI has to follow due process in the interest of all parties involved."

The FEI went on to explain its processes when finding a positive doping sample, which it said "is simply the start of the process" as the international federation has to go through a procedure of proving to the tribunal that there has been a violation of the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMR).

It highlighted matters, such as the person responsible's right to apply for a preliminary hearing to request the lifting of a provisional suspension if one has been imposed following a finding, as well as the right to contest that positive finding, including challenging the sample collection and analysis procedures to the tribunal.

Jonathan Paget is awaiting an FEI tribunal date since being suspended in October after his horse tested positive for a banned substance, however, he did seek an extension to gather evidence ©Getty ImagesJonathan Paget is awaiting an FEI tribunal date since being suspended in October after his horse tested positive for a banned substance, however, he did seek an extension to gather evidence ©Getty Images

The person responsible also has the right to provide an explanation for the presence of the prohibited substance in order to reduce or eliminate the applicable sanction, and they have to be given time to prepare their submissions in order to properly defend themselves.

The finding of whether there has been a rule violation can then only be made once the case has been heard by the tribunal and only when the tribunal confirms in its final decision that there is a rule violation can the automatic disqualification from competition can be applied.

The tribunal can also impose other sanctions.

The FEI statement follows media coverage earlier this week that highlighted the case of New Zealand's Jonathan Paget, who was suspended from all national and international competition in October after the horse he rode to victory at the Burghley International Horse Trials - Clifton Promise - tested positive for banned tranquiliser reserpine.

The Olympic bronze medallist, who sought an extension from the FEI tribunal to gather evidence, is said to be pressing for complete exoneration over the positive test but is still waiting for the date of his hearing after submitting his dossier on January 17.

Reports suggest he will face the tribunal at the end of April or early May.

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October 2013:
 Olympic bronze medallist Paget suspended after horse tests positive for banned substance