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Doping move is driving fair play forward

Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) is to roll out a major new national anti-doping and medication control programme this year.

HSI chief executive Damian McDonald said that in more than 400 tests carried out by the FEI on Irish horses over the past three years, Ireland had no positive tests on horses ridden by Irish riders in international competition.

"This is as it should be and the next step is to introduce testing at national level," said Mr McDonald.

While Showjumping Ireland has been testing in recent years, the new programme will cover all disciplines.

The HSI boss said Ireland must have a clean sport where the welfare of the horse was paramount.

"Sometimes people in the sport don't fully realise how much damage has been done to the perception of our sport by high-profile violations of the FEI anti-doping and controlled medication cases," he said.

"If we are to attract new owners, sponsors, spectators and increased media coverage, we need to continue to have a robust anti-doping and medication control programme in place."

Looking forward to this year's Olympic Games, Ireland has not yet qualified a team in eventing and cannot now qualify a full team in showjumping, but we can still qualify a number of individual riders. These places will be allocated based on Olympic ranking points and the cut-off date is March 1.

Ireland has four eventers currently in qualifying positions, along with two showjumpers. There are also two event riders in a hunt for a fifth eventing place, as well as the possibility of a place in dressage.


"So we should have between six and eight riders at the Games, which would be a substantial consolation prize having missed out on team places," said Mr McDonald. "Although, the eventers can compete as a team if they secure three or more places."

Equestrian sport has been part of the Olympics since 1912, yet Ireland has never won a medal, apart from the ill-fated gold won in 2004, which was subsequently handed back.

"Where better to break our duck but in London?" asked Mr McDonald.

"However, the most important thing is that we compete cleanly and fairly. Irish equestrian sport cannot afford another embarrassment at the Games."

He added that the Olympics would also be important on the breeding side, particularly in eventing, where Irish-bred horses have a very good record.

"It looks almost certain that we will have a para-equestrian team at the Paralympics for the first time, which is a credit to all the riders and their support staff and comes on top of a European bronze medal for Helen Kearney this year on the Irish-bred Mister Cool."

Last year was great for Irish underage teams, with four European team medals and three individual European medals secured.

"It will be difficult to repeat this success [this year] but our underage riders will leave no stone unturned and they are a real credit to Ireland," added the HSI chief.

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