The Fédération Equestre Internationale Bureau has unanimously approved the immediate reinstatement of the United Arab Emirates national federation to full membership of the FEI following signature of a legally binding agreement between the two parties in which the Emirates Equestrian Federation guarantees that horse welfare will be fully respected and that FEI rules will be stringently enforced at all endurance events, both national and international, in the country.
The agreement has been signed by FEI President Ingmar De Vos and Secretary General Sabrina Zeender, and by EEF President HE Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Secretary General Taleb Dhaher Al Mheiri and Mohammad Al Kamali, secretary general of the UAE National Olympic Committee.
The EEF was provisionally suspended by the FEI Bureau in mid-March following an investigation by the FEI into major horse welfare issues and non-compliance with FEI rules and regulations in endurance in the UAE.
Following the suspension and at the request of the FEI Bureau, the EEF proposed an extensive list of actions it would undertake to address the issues. These were integrated into a draft agreement that the EEF sent to the FEI in early June. The FEI Bureau unanimously welcomed the proposals, but informed the EEF that more areas needed to be covered before the agreement that would allow the provisional suspension to be lifted could be signed.
The two parties have spent the intervening weeks reviewing and revising the terms of the agreement.
Under the key terms of the agreement, the EEF must ensure that:
• Protocols are put in place to avoid equine fatalities;
• Applicable rest periods are respected;
• Horses on rest periods are blocked from entry in national events (the FEI system already blocks entries in international events);
• Use of prohibited fluid administration and any substances prohibited under the FEI equine anti-doping and controlled medication regulations in and around the field of play and at the vet gate is prevented;
• Prohibited substitution of horses is prevented;
• Prohibited vehicles on the field of play are prevented;
• Any individual or horse suspended by the FEI is automatically blocked by the EEF IT system from competing at national events;
• The role and authority of officials in carrying out their duties is respected at all times;
• Training and education of athletes, trainers, support personnel, national federation staff members and stable veterinarians is conducted prior to the start of the 2015-2016 endurance season in October;
• FEI rules on post mortems are adhered to and, where possible, the same procedure is applied in the event of fatalities at national competitions;
• A national independent governance advisor, approved by the FEI, is appointed;
• Conflicts of interest are avoided;
• Distribution of prize money is in accordance with the FEI approved schedule;
• Rules for national endurance events in the UAE are fully compliant with the FEI rules and regulations.
The EEF will provide monthly written reports during the 2015-2016 season on steps taken to ensure ongoing compliance with FEI rules and regulations, and agrees to abide by any further recommendations put forward by the FEI. Following completion of the 2015-2016 season, the EEF will provide reports whenever requested by the FEI.
Additionally, the EEF will support a research project to evaluate the causes of injuries linked to the design of desert endurance courses. Endurance trainers will be obliged to cooperate with this research project.
The agreement also details the new legislation that has been introduced in the UAE prohibiting the trade or use of banned substances in horse racing and equestrian sports in the country and the sanctions that will be imposed for breaches.
“We are very pleased that, after four months of very hard work, the United Arab Emirates have demonstrated with the signature of this agreement that they are fully committed to ensuring horse welfare and complying with FEI rules at both international and national level in the country,” Zeender said. “They are absolutely committed to making this work so that they can return to playing an active and leading role in endurance once again and, to demonstrate that commitment, they have included the UAE’s highest sporting body, the National Olympic Committee, in the agreement.”
“We are very pleased that the FEI Bureau has unanimously agreed to lift the suspension based on the considerable actions and solutions we have put in place together,” Al Mheiri said. “We will continue to work with them to ensure all their requirements are applied in endurance racing across the UAE. As the governing body of equestrian sports in the UAE we take our responsibility seriously. It is our goal to pursue excellence while promoting the growth of the sport and safeguarding the welfare of equine and human athletes.”
Separately, the FEI had commissioned the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit to conduct an extensive inquiry into allegations of fake events and duplicate results in the UAE. These allegations were not taken into account when the FEI Bureau imposed the suspension, and were dealt with independently, but provisions have been included in the agreement to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
The EEF cooperated fully with the inquiry and the detailed report has now been received by the FEI. The report is currently being reviewed by the FEI, and a file will be submitted to the FEI Tribunal for further action. Sanctions will be taken against any FEI officials found to be involved. In addition, the FEI will annul all duplicated results and review any connected results.
At the same time, the EEF Endurance Committee conducted its own investigation into the allegations and has authorized sanctions on any organizers and EEF staff that are found to be involved. The EEF is currently restructuring its organizational policies to ensure that similar events cannot occur again and will put rules in place for all future FEI events under which either the national federation or the organizing committee must provide all equipment, including the timing system.
The EEF accepts that the FEI will be entitled to impose sanctions in case of non-compliance with all the terms of the agreement. These sanctions would include, but are not limited to, the immediate reinstatement of the suspension and withdrawal of the allocation of the 2016 FEI World Endurance Championships, which are due to be held in Dubai in mid-December next year.
The agreement will remain in effect for a three-year period. During that time, the FEI and EEF will meet at least once a year for an in-depth review, in addition to the monthly written reports required under the agreement. The FEI reserves the right to extend the term of the agreement if appropriate.