By Duncan Mackay


November 24 - A group of leading international vets have written to Princess Haya (pictured), the President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), to protest over the controversial decision to allow the reintroduction of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, including bute, to treat horses.


The Princess blocked a re-vote of the decision at the FEI's General Assembly in Copenhagen last week to allow the controlled use of phenylbutazone [bute], which was originally banned 20 years ago because of the potential side-effects, including causing ulcers.


In a letter co-signed by past and present members of the FEI veterinary committee and seen by insidethegames, Professor Leo Jeffcott, the former chairman of the group, called the decision "premature, ill-considered and seriously retrograde".


The letter warned: "Permitting the use of NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) will lead to abuse and the participation of horses in competition that are unfit to compete.

"It also removes the ‘level playing field’ that has been a crucial and fundamental ethos of the FEI since its foundation.


"We believe the decision must be reconsidered."


The last-minute proposal to remove three NSAIDs from the prohibited list was passed by 53 votes to 48 in a secret ballot in Copenhagen, swung by nations who are late entrants to sports horse management, it is claimed.

The letter said: "This resolution has seriously over-shadowed the commendable clean sport campaign recommended by the Stevens/Ljungqvist reports, which offered a major step forward in equestrian sport."


Jeffcott also queried the decision to raise the threshold for salicylic acid (aspirin) to which Polly Phillips' Coral Cove tested positive in 1998, costing Britain the world team bronze.

Other signatories of the letter include Andrew Higgins, the FEI scientific adviser, Alex Atock, the former head of the FEI veterinary department in Lausanne, Warwick Vale, the FEI veterinary delegate at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and Paul Farrington, the British team vet and former chair of the FEI Veterinary Committee.


The letter concluded with a plea to the Princess.


It said: "We would urge you to reopen this debate, encourage extensive international consultation and invite National Federations to reconsider their decision in Copenhagen in the interests of the health and welfare of the competition horse."



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