Doping Fail: Performance Drug Prohibitions For Horses Are Stricter Than Slaughter Regs…

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Wilful BlindnessWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

The rule of strict liability, under which athletes have to be solely and legally responsible for what they consume, remains supreme in the world of horse sport. The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) promote “Clean Sport” for athletic competitions, as does the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body for equestrian sport.

The FEI credits their Clean Sport initiative as being responsible for the completely drug-free 2012 Olympic Games in London, during which no equestrian athlete or horse tested positive for any banned substance. Equine Canada governs Canada’s official relations with the FEI, as well as Canada’s equestrian relations with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee. It also governs relations between the government of Canada and Canadian equestrian athletes, coaches, judges, competition organizers and other professionals. Equine Canada (via the FEI) has classified approximately 1,000 different drugs as either “Banned” or “Controlled” in the 2015 Equine Prohibited Substances List. As of January 1, 2015, any individual who is temporarily suspended for a doping violation is prohibited from participating in the sport in any capacity, both at and away from competition.

Equine sport organizations that govern horse sport always encourage participation in anti-doping measures and fair medication control ostensibly because horse welfare is the principal rationale for a zero tolerance drug policy. This is an admirable achievement surely, since horses in particular should not be drugged in order to mask pain or to enhance performance to the degree that it may entail a risk.

It is a paradox though, that despite horse welfare cheerleading by Equine Canada, they are utterly silent when it comes down to the issue of the dual commodity riding/meat horse. Of course, Equine Canada supports the Canadian horse slaughter industry, causing conflict within its own ranks as well as with Canadian horse welfare advocates.  In 2012, Equine Canada’s then President Michael Gallagher caused outrage when he issued a press release thanking the FEI after it had disqualified Canadian show-jumping rider Tiffany Foster forked tongueunder controversial and unproven circumstances that did not even involve the possibility of drugs. The FEI Veterinary Commission did not even bother to take her horse out of his stall to examine him further or to test his movement for any signs of discomfort. So, a superficial scrape on a horse’s coronet that did not even make him lame (unless poked repeatedly by veterinarians perhaps) was cause for a lot of rah-rah-rahing about horse welfare by Gallagher, who said, This is an important testing procedure for the fairness of our sport and for the welfare of the horse which must always be paramount.” So while there are apparently few ethical conundrums for Equine Canada when it comes to firing a four-inch nail into a horse’s head, they supported the FEI decision to disqualify a horse due to a trivial and totally survivable scrape of indeterminate origin on his foot. The irony – it burns!

I think it’s absurd that suspensions can be levied over scratches or even the use of a topical cream containing capsaicin for a skin injury (which is banned because it can serve as a mild stimulant) whilst ignoring the issues of inhumane transport and slaughter as well as the possibility of potentially harmful drugs in the food chain. While horse sport veterinarians are busy taking skin swabs from horses to test for capsaicin, the CFIA tests less than 1% of horse carcasses for the prohibited drug phenylbutazone. If the CFIA held kill buyers and the owners of slaughter-bound horses with strict liability as done in horse sport, practically no horse would be eligible for slaughter.

Doping is contrary to the spirit of sport. Yet so too should be the betrayal of sending horses to slaughter.

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About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic (but not crazy) vegetarian, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

5 responses »

  1. The results of this analysis are neither shocking nor unusual for American Horse Racing of ALL types. Canada has its own troubles that are not that far removed from ours.

    Thanks for the list of the banned substances and they use others that the regulators don’t yet have tests for. Great article!

    • I wish I had the time to go through that list of 1,000 and determine the half-lives and withdrawal times for these drugs. But the FEI is far more up-to-date on the issue of novel drugs and chemicals than the CFIA – the Meat Hygiene Manual appears to have had its last major update in March 2010.

  2. I remember seeing a pic of this young lady in tears after her horse was disqualified although she wasnt a rider I recognized. It is amazing how many gov’t agencies are able to suck and blow at the same time.

    • Anyone who has worked with a horse knows that they have the capacity to hurt themselves in the most unanticipated ways possible. These type of suspensions should only occur where there really is a preponderance of evidence that the horse has been drugged. It’s also absurd that someone could be suspended for this “infraction” while Tennessee Walker Horses are egregiously and obviously sored, although the FEI has no jurisdiction over them.

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