In a statement released today by the Fédération Equestre Internationale, president HRH Princess Haya said she will not seek to amend to the federation’s term limit statute so that she can seek a third term, as had previously been expected.
The announcement comes in the wake of a lengthy and complex doping scandal within the European and Middle Eastern endurance and Thoroughbred racing communities. Haya, the junior wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been battling accusations of conflict of interest since several of her husband's employees were implicated in doping data released earlier this year.
Then, on Aug. 7, two weeks after he'd participated in an emergency round table discussion on the issue convened by Princess Haya, rider and trainer Jaume Punti Dachs' stable was raided by a U.K. government agency. Dachs, an FEI Endurance Committee member, the current European champion and a trainer for Sheikh Mohammed, had 124 substances seized from his barn because they were not authorized for use in the United Kingdom and had been imported illegally.
The Sheikh himself—the reigning world champion in endurance—served a six-month suspension in 2009 after a horse he rode tested positive for steroids.
Princess Haya’s statement today did not address the ongoing scandal or its implications for her career. Instead she underscored the fact that it was at her own urging, back in 2006, that the two-term limit for federation presidents was instated.
“It is essential to ensure fresh thinking and avoid a sense of entitlement within the leadership of an International Sport Federation,” she said. “I cannot in good conscience put aside my beliefs and the commitment I made seven years ago now that the term limit I supported applies to me. I am deeply grateful to all the national federations that favor changing the statutes to allow me a third term. I am confident they will understand why I feel I must keep my word when my current term ends next year.”
While some nations did favor Haya for a third term, others were becoming increasingly vocal in opposition in recent weeks. On Sept. 19, Horse & Hound reported that the Swiss and Dutch federations were publicly opposing any such amendment to the FEI statutes.
The head of the Swiss federation, Charles Trolliet, cited frustration that the operation set in motion by Haya to investigate and clean up the sport of endurance has not played out as promised.
“The purpose seems to be more of a strategy to develop the sport, rather than solve the problems we described,” he told Horse & Hound, also alleging a conflict of interest for both Princess Haya and reform committee member Saeed Al Tayer, who is closely involved with Sheikh Mohammed’s racing as well as endurance operations.
Princess Haya recused herself from proceedings in 2009 when her husband was reprimanded for doping, but she has ignored accusations of conflict of interest in recent months. In her statement today, she touted that “I was first elected to this job seven years ago because our National Federations wanted transparency, good governance and change and I promised a transformational presidency. Together, through thick and thin, we have achieved more than 80 percent of all pledges laid down in my manifesto and program in an open, democratic and transparent manner. My focus in my final year in office is on delivering the remaining pledges.”
Her term concludes in November of 2014.
Read Princess Haya's full statement from the FEI.