By Duncan Mackay
November 19 - A major new row over doping in equestrian has erupted after Sven Holmberg (pictured middle), the vice-president of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), criticised the adoption of a new anti-doping programme that allows the controlled use of the controversial anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone, which was banned 20 years ago.
Princess Haya, the President of the FEI, described the decision of members to support the new anti-doping programme to clean-up their sport after a series of Olympic scandals as a landmark
National associations voted 90 to 8 in favor of new Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations at the FEI General Assembly in Copenhagen to crack down on teams and riders doping horses as part of the Clean Sport campaign launched by Princess Haya.
But then, despite impassioned pleas by the major equestrian nations, led by Britain and Ireland, the Assembly voted in favour of its new "progressive list" of prohibited substances by 53 votes to 42.
Damian McDonald, the chief executive of Horse Sport Ireland, questioned whether delegates understood fully what they were voting for and that it included being allowed to use small amounts phenylbutazone, which is better known as bute.
He said: "On 13 November it was stated by the FEI that we would get a choice between the 'progressive list' and a list legally called the '20 October list'.
"But this morning we were asked to vote on 'progressive list' and 'current list', and the current list we had until now is very different from the list of 20 October."
Bute is a potent compound that is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
It moderates inflammation, reducing pain, swelling, and heat, and restoring function as a result.
But there are potential damaging side-effects to horses, including causing ulcers.
The call for bute not to be allowed was supported by British Equestrian Federation (BEF) chairman Keith Taylor, who supported Ireland's calls for a re-vote.
Taylor said: "I suggest that if there is sufficient doubt in the room that a vote should be retaken."
But Princess Haya refused to allow a re-vote, claiming a number of delegates had already left the Assembly.
She said: "The vote has been taken.
"We will not take it again."
The incident has the potential to split the sport, Holmberg fears.
He said: "What we have just done cuts the legs off the clean sport campaign."
German Equestrian Federation President Breido Graf zu Rantzau said: "How can we leave Copenhagen like this?
"It divides the FEI."
Equestrian's reputation was hit when six horses tested positive for banned drugs at last year's Beijing Olympics, including Ireland's Denis Lynch.
Three gold medals were taken from riders involved in doping at the 2004 Athens Games, including Ireland's Cian Connor (pictured) who was stripped of the Olympic show jumping title.
Princess Haya said: "This is a true landmark moment in the history of our sport.
"The overwhelming support of the National Federations for the Clean Sport campaign is proof that we are moving in the right direction thanks to the incredible work done by the Ljungqvist and Stevens Commissions.
"This vote has given us the power to roll out Clean Sport and allow us to restore the public image of our sport as a clean and uncorrupt product."
The Clean Sport Campaign is the result of a year-long consultation process.
It brought together the viewpoints and expertise of the entire FEI Family and the professional recommendations of the Commissions led by Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC Medical Commission and vice-president of the World Anti Doping Agency, and Lord Stevens, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
Ljungqvist said: "Ultimately it was down to the equestrian community to make the final decision and they have voted in support of the package as a whole.
"The two Commissions have put in an enormous amount of work to come up with these recommendations and it is particularly gratifying that we have received such overwhelming support for the Clean Sport Campaign from the National Federations."
Stevens said: "We said yesterday that the FEI needed to adopt these recommendations before it could be given a clean bill of health.
"They have been approved by a massive majority and now the sport can move forward."
But Frank Kapellman, the organiser of Aachen, the world's premier horse show, predicted that the campaign would be undermined by the controversy surrounding bute.
He said: "Our message is clean sport.
"How do we sell this to sponsors and the public when we allow bute?"
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
August 2009: Former Met Police Commissioner finishes FEI investigation
May 2009: Ljungqvist recommends changes to equestrian doping rules
May 2009: German equestrian hit by major doping scandal
May 2009: British policeman to lead equestrian investigation