A mounting controversy over doping in endurance horse racing has claimed two new victims, with the FEI, the sport’s world governing body, announcing that two members of its Endurance Task Force from the UAE are to be “removed” from the task force.
The FEI said that the move followed “comments received from a number of National Federations.” Replacements for the two members include “experts” from IMG, the international sports and entertainment company.
The two UAE members, Mohammed Essa Al Adhab and Andrew Holmes, are to be directly replaced by Sheikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa of Bahrain, chair of FEI Regional Group VII, who, the FEI said, “has a full understanding of the situation in the Middle East,” and Frank Kemperman of the Netherlands, described by the FEI as “a hugely experienced event organiser, including Endurance, who will be able to assist in the understanding of how new technology and procedures can be deployed in the field of play.”
The FEI added: “Experts from IMG will also be included amongst the core members of the Task Force. IMG is a global leader in sports management with extensive experience in reviewing and modernising competition structures in other sports. Additionally, the Task Force will work closely with FEI 1st Vice President John McEwen and members of the FEI Veterinary Committee in an advisory capacity and the Task Force will also have the option of calling in, on an ad hoc basis, any other experts that may be required to facilitate its work.”
Ingmar de Vos, secretary general of the FEI, said: “Throughout the process of seeking a solution to the issues we are facing in Endurance we have worked very closely with our National Federations, and when any of them have flagged up something we have taken that on board.
“We have received comments from some NFs that they do not agree with the composition of the Task Force and the Bureau has today agreed to review that following this feedback. Self-policing is a sign of good governance and feedback from our National Federations is important to us.”The ruling FEI Bureau has also turned down an offer from Meydan, the equestrian sports operation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, to fund the work of the Endurance Task Force, saying that “it was preferable that Meydan was not involved in this process.”
Earlier this month, the Meydan Group decided against sponsoring this year’s World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, and has been replaced by Sobha Group, a multi-national, multi-product group based in India.
Following discussions between the FEI and Sheikh Mohammed, it was decided that because Meydan is the regulator in Dubai of various equine-related issues, it would be prudent for the firm to withdraw its sponsorship of the World Equestrian Games.
Meydan announced in February that it would be associated with all eight disciplines at the games, which take place from 23 August to 7 September, and give its name to the endurance competition, which was to be known as the Meydan Endurance at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014.
Sobha has offered to assume all of the obligations of Meydan, and will be considered for formal approval by the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Board on 17 April.
In October last year, Pierre Arnould, a member of the FEI Endurance Committee and the Belgian national coach, was reprimanded by the FEI for publicly calling into question the governing body's ability to deal with the escalating doping scandal in endurance racing.
Arnould told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that endurance racing could become extinct if the FEI cannot solve the horse welfare crisis in the Middle East where, as well as doping scandals, a number of horses have died in or after competitions due to stress fractures.
The doping scandal has largely focused on the international endurance and horse racing operations of Sheikh Mohammed, whose wife is Princess Haya of Jordan, the FEI president.
De Vos said in October: “In response to Mr Arnould’s statement, I state categorically that the FEI is working to address the issues in Endurance and has been for some time.”
De Vos said the creation of the task force was evidence that the FEI was addressing the problem, but Arnould, along with critics from the Belgian, Swiss and French federations, was sceptical about the composition of that group.
Its composition led to “conflict of interest” allegations against Princess Haya.