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UAE equestrian body suspended after probe into 'major horse welfare issues' in endurance races

03/12/2015 01:46 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT
LAUSANNE, Switzerland - The United Arab Emirates' equestrian federation was suspended by the world governing body on Thursday following an investigation into "major horse welfare issues" and rules violations in endurance events.

The International Equestrian Federation, known as the FEI, said the UAE body is prohibited from organizing international events and its members are banned from competing in international competitions.

The move came a day after the FEI ordered a separate investigation into alleged faked results in endurance racing in the UAE. That followed widespread reports of doping and horse abuse in endurance racing in the Middle East. The discipline is popular in the region with royal family members competing in races of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) across the desert.

The FEI also acted against the UAE last month when images circulated of a horse with two broken forelegs dying at a national-level race in January in Abu Dhabi.

"The decision to suspend a national federation is not something that is taken lightly and we only should do this if no other remedy can be found," FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. "Sadly this was the only option left."

Under the sanction, UAE athletes in disciplines other than endurance racing can compete under the FEI flag in international competitions outside the country. The UAE federation is barred from attending or being represented at any FEI meetings

The UAE federation has 30 days to appeal to a FEI tribunal.

FEI said any reinstatement depends on the UAE federation signing an agreement pledging that it "is protecting the welfare of the horse and complying fully with the FEI rules and regulations."

Vos said he had hoped that new rules on endurance racing adopted last August would reduce the number of "catastrophic injuries and fatalities" in the UAE.

"Regretfully this has not been the case," he said. "There have also been other major non-compliance issues, so in the end we had no other choice than taking this drastic measure to deal with an unacceptable situation."

Last month, the FEI withdrew recognition for the two remaining UAE-hosted endurance events, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, on the international race calendar.

The UAE federation has allegedly registered results with the FEI for "ghost races," or events that never took place. The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday that results — with detailed interim times and speeds — appeared to be copied exactly from earlier valid races.

Faking results could put the welfare of horses at risk by clearing them to compete at a higher level beyond their ability or fitness levels.

The UAE is scheduled to host the endurance world championships in Dubai in December 2016.

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