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Ludger Berbaum: “We must find a balance between rules, sanctions and reality”

One of the topics on the agenda of the General Assembly of the International Club of Competitors (IJRC) in Rotterdam. Athletes became concerned about their vulnerability to the IOC sports laws regarding the detection of prohibited substances in horse blood.

Riders said that insecurity at the stable (that is, the risk of accidental ingestion of a prohibited substance, intentional or unintentional, as, for example, in the case of synephrine that got into the blood of horses through hay, which was fed at an FEI-approved tournament in Carmona) is a big problem for athletes and their teams, since any such precedent means that it comes with severe sanctions and serious consequences: suspension of the right to speak for a horse or athlete, the need to return a medal or prizes in any case money, total damage to the athlete’s reputation. However, in sports law there is no presumption of innocence, where the prosecution must provide evidence of guilt.

“We must find a balance between all these sanctions, rules and reality,” commented IJRC Board Member Ludger Berbaum.

IJRC Director Eleanor Ottaviani described the legal field of the problem in accordance with state law, FEI rules, WADA code and IOC rules:

“There are two important points that we do not like. One of them is the inversion of the order of proof. In public law, the prosecutor must provide evidence of the guilt of a person. But for the IOC there is an inversion in the order of evidence: the athlete must prove that he is innocent. It is really difficult, but we cannot change it, because it is the IOC rule. As a rule, the athlete must return the medals and / or prize money, even if the tribunal decides that you are innocent. This is not an FEI rule, this is an IOC rule. ”

Àine Power, Deputy Director of the Legal Department at FEI, explained: “We have published some tips on how to minimize the risk of a prohibited substance entering the bloodstream. There are certain things you can do for your own safety, and there are other interested parties who should also take responsibility for reducing these risks. ”

Power noted that for groups of substances that may accidentally enter the horse’s body (especially caffeine, oripavine, and scopolamine), there is a special investigation procedure. According to this procedure, the athlete reserves the right to speak. Restrictions are imposed only on the horse. And if an athlete can prove that getting into the horse’s body of prohibited substances is not his fault (for example, it was the result of grazing near a field full of poppies), all sanctions are lifted, and this incident is not considered a violation. Nevertheless, the results of performances at a particular tournament will still be canceled.

Power explained that since equestrian sports are part of the Olympic Games, the FEI is required to follow key provisions of the WADA Code: “The reality is that we have no choice. Every athlete at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 if he returns a sample that contains a prohibited substance , regardless of the explanation and the fact that later all charges may be dropped from him, he will lose the medal anyway. ”

Max Küner, member of the IJRC board, drew the attention of the audience to the fact that in most cases of prohibited substances we are talking about substances not from the WADA list, but from the FEI internal list.

Göran Åkerström, FEI Veterinary Director, replied that there is a huge difference between doping for a human athlete-horse athlete, and that acting on a person does not work with the horse, and vice versa – this is the fact that in most cases The prohibited substances covered by the FEI Tribunal include non-WADA substances.

Göran Åkerström added that equestrian athletes have the opportunity to influence the content of the FEI’s prohibited substances list. To do this, it is necessary to conduct research, collect evidence and provide them to the Federation.

Steve Gerda emphasized the insecurity of athletes from accidental ingestion of prohibited substances in the horse: “A lot remains outside our control. When we come to the tournament, the stables are not disinfected, the stewards touch our horses, the audience touches our horses, our horses eat grass on the territory. We have no idea what kind of people they bring hay, straw, sawdust. Even with a great desire, we cannot control everything! ”

In this regard, Eleanor Ottaviani submitted a proposal to the IJRC Board of Directors to create additional rules for the organizers of the competition, according to which they would be obliged to provide athletes:

stables disinfection certification
confirmation that the stables are locked upon arrival of the athletes;
confirmation that the straw is delivered in sealed packaging and certified;
confirmation that there are no dogs in the stable and that video recording is in progress.

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