By Duncan Mackay
December 1 - New rules allowing painkillers like bute to be used on horses during competition will not come into force until next April, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) President Princess Haya (pictured) announced today.
It follows the worldwide uproar over the new rules, due to come into force on January 1, 2010.
Instead, the new Equine Prohibited Substance List and the accompanying regulations - which allow bute, aspirin and flunixin, along with several other equine drugs to be used in competition - will come in on April 5, 2010.
Princess Haya said: "The FEI has been criticised for not providing sufficient time for consultation…and there has been widespread unease about the late publication of the progressive list."
The FEI says the intervening months will be used for "broader debate and consultation" and "supplementary research".
The decision, taken by 53 votes to 48 at the FEI's General Assembly in Copenhagen, has caused huge controversy and protests have been led by the sport's leading federations, including Germany and Britain.
The Princess said: "Views that have been expressed since the vote are being taken extremely seriously by the FEI as legitimate welfare concerns and we give similar importance to our membership's decision to effect a policy change.
"Now we can allow the focus to return to the wonderful work that has been undertaken by the Joint-Commissions chaired by Professor Arne Ljungqvist and Lord Stevens, which has provided a clear road-map for the delivery of clean sport."
Earlier, Hugh Thomas, the director of the Badminton Horse Trials, had written an open letter to Princess Haya claiming that the changes "seriously damage the integrity of our sport".
Thomas wrote: "If a horse needs these drugs to appear sound, he should not take part in the competition."
The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) had also called on the FEI to defer the introduction of the "progressive list" until after the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
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