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NSAID usage and welfare

by
01 September 2010, at 12:00am

THE FEI Congress on Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Usage and Medication in the Equine Athlete, held in Lausanne, Switzerland, last month attracted more than 200 delegates from 29 countries, bringing together up-todate scientific data as well as nonscientific aspects of NSAID usage. 

The event demonstrated, says the FEI, that this is a debate that cannot be viewed purely from a scientific perspective and that ethical values and legal issues also have to be taken into account. 

Following the mainly science-based presentations, FEI general counsel Lisa Lazarus outlined details from nine European countries that prohibit or may prohibit the use of NSAIDs under national law. 

In light of the legal issues, Ms Lazarus stated that the FEI has two options: either abandon any proposed change in the treatment of NSAIDs, maintaining the status quo that NSAIDs cannot be administered to sport horses during FEI competition anywhere in the world; or permit the use of NSAIDs at appropriate levels as far as the FEI and its members are concerned, but make it clear to all participants that the FEI’s rules do not supersede national law, and that anyone participating in the sport in any of the nine countries must note that national laws prohibit, or may prohibit, the use of NSAIDs. 

Lynn Hillyer, of the British Horse Racing Authority, explained that the Racing Authorities of Europe, Hong Kong, North and South Africa, Australasia, Asia and the Middle East (except Saudi Arabia) rule that horses must not race under the effects of any drugs, but acknowledge that medication is necessary – off the racetrack – to ensure a horse’s physical well-being. 

“In other words, medication should be an aid to recovery, not a tool to enable a horse that should be resting and recuperating to race or train,” she said. 

Stephen Schumacher, chief administrator of the Equine Drugs and Medications Programme of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), stated that the USEF Equine Drugs and Medications Rules allow NSAIDs usage with quantitative restrictions. “We believe that the welfare of our horses is not put into jeopardy with the judicious use of NSAIDs and their use may in fact be beneficial,” he said. 

Dominik Burger, president of the Veterinary Commissions of the Breeding Associations for Swiss sport horses, spoke on the breeding perspective. He concluded that the issue would benefit from a pluralistic ethical analysis based not just on the welfare of horse and rider but also on regional and global public values like integrity, equity, justice, duties and responsibility. 

Steve Maynard, laboratory director at Horseracing Forensic Laboratory Sport Science, said that quantitative analysis, applied to determine the exact level of a substance being present in the body, is significantly more costly than qualitative analysis carried out to detect the presence of a substance. 

The public perception of equestrian sports, sponsors and the media perspective were all aired in a panel discussion, when British journalist Brough Scott asked some hard-hitting questions about the possible repercussions of reintroducing NSAIDs in competition. 

FEI veterinary director Graeme Cooke, stressed the importance of keeping the debate alive between now and the vote on in-competition use of NSAIDs at the FEI general assembly in November. 

“There is no doubt that both sides of the Atlantic and the rest of the world have the same clear goal in mind: that the welfare of the horse is really paramount to whatever we do,” he said. 

  • Videos of the event are on the FEI YouTube Channel.