Taleb Al Muhairi, secretary general of the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF), is to meet International Equestrian Federation (FEI) officials in Lausanne tomorrow, amid signs that efforts to persuade the FEI that it can justifiably lift a suspension imposed in March are getting under way.
The EEF has now launched a new committee to oversee a review into endurance racing - the discipline that aroused the FEI’s concerns - in the United Arab Emirates.
The Endurance Committee, which is to be under direct observation of the UAE’s National Olympic Committee, will seek to work closely with the FEI to “ensure that the world governing body’s rules and regulations are applied in all endurance races in the UAE”.
The UAE was suspended from the FEI in March following an investigation into “major horse welfare issues” and allegedly faked results in endurance events.
The governing body’s Bureau, chaired by FEI President Ingmar De Vos, ruled that the EEF “may not attend or be represented at any session or meeting of any body of the FEI, may not organise any international events, and its members cannot participate in any international events”, although UAE athletes from disciplines other than endurance would be permitted to compete under the FEI flag in international competitions organised outside the country.
In notably conciliatory remarks coinciding with the announcement of the new Committee, Al Muhairi said: “As the governing body of equestrian sports in the UAE, it is our goal to pursue excellence while promoting the growth of the sport and safeguarding the welfare of equine and human athletes.
“We recognise the best way to achieve this is to work closely with the FEI, the international governing authority, and as such have decided to withdraw our appeal against the suspension.
“The EEF has always sought to uphold the highest standards in horse and athlete welfare and integrity.
“The Endurance Committee will look to build further on those standards, working in collaboration with the FEI, and ensure that the FEI’s rules and regulations are applied in endurance racing across the UAE.”
Interviewed recently by insidethegames, John Madden, the FEI’s first vice-president, emphasised that the EEF would be welcome back in the organisation “when they can demonstrate to us and explain to us exactly how they are going to protect horse welfare and follow the FEI rules”.
Madden also insisted that the FEI’s move had not been a result of its recent change of Presidency, with De Vos succeeding Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Prime Minister and Emir of Dubai, last December.
“This is not an effect of the Presidency, this is an effect of the FEI identifying this very big problem under the Presidency of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya,” Madden told insidethegames.
Tomorrow's meeting is expected to be the start of a process that, all being well, will lead to the suspension being lifted.
Before this can happen, the EEF must sign an agreement with the FEI “pledging to take such action as the FEI Bureau deems necessary to assure the FEI and all stakeholders that the UAE Federation is protecting the welfare of the horse and complying fully with the FEI Rules and Regulations”.
March 2015: UAE welcome back when they follow rules, says FEI vice-president
March 2015: United Arab Emirates suspended by FEI following alleged horse welfare abuses
March 2015: International Equestrian Federation strips UAE of two endurance events to protect horse welfare