Monday 27 February 2017

Equestrian: Drugs policy key to vote as Princess Haya sets sights on second term

Louise Parkes

Current President Princess Haya of Jordan. Photo: Getty Images
Current President Princess Haya of Jordan. Photo: Getty Images

For the first time in the history of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), three strong candidates will be vying for the presidency of the organisation when the annual general assembly gets under way in Taipei next week.

Princess Haya of Jordan, wife of the UAE's Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, has come to the end of her first four-year term. The youngest candidate, at 36, is again challenging for the post she took on in 2006 and which she has dramatically changed from a mainly honorary role into a considerably more hands-on executive position.

Standing against her is FEI first vice-president Sven Holmberg from Sweden and Dutch businessman Henk Rottinghuis, who was a late, but interesting, addition to the list of candidates.

Maintaining Olympic status for equestrian sport remains a high priority for the organisation.

During the previous 50 years the presidency had been held by a series of other Royal family members, including Britain's Prince Philip, but the FEI's conservative tradition has been given a good shaking since Princess Haya arrived with a determination to modernise the sport.

However, the issue of the use of drugs has been dogging horse sport for years and at last year's general assembly, a controversial proposal to permit low levels of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs led to a furore.

Surprise

When Holmberg stood against it, and therefore against his president, a clear line was drawn in the sand.

Twelve weeks later, the establishment of the European Equestrian Federation (EEF) was announced, with 27 nations already signed up.

It is understood the EEF will back Holmberg (65), head of the FEI's Jumping Committee and a man with a long and respected record in the world of equestrian sport.

Rottinghuis was proposed by the Dutch Federation but the 54-year-old initially seemed to be a wild card. In recent months, however, it appears he has been gathering significant support.

In next week's vote, one of the candidates must secure a two-thirds majority to win.

During the Taipei assembly the 133 national federations will also make an important decision about whether the zero-tolerance rule remains in place or whether equestrian sport will in future allow horses to compete with drugs -- albeit limited -- in their system.

Irish Independent

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