02 May 2012

Equestrian/Equidia Watch interview


This interview for the programme Equestrian, which airs on Mondays on Equidia Life (owned by PMU, which also owns the racing channel Equidia Live). Equestrian can then be watched for 4 weeks on Equidia Watch, the replay channel of Equidia Life (using a similar system to BBC iPlayer).

The interviewer is Marie André Ravaut, editor in chief of Equestrian, and she will be accompanied by camera woman Elodie Robin.

You have served as FEI President since 2006. I would like to know your assessment? Can you explain your exact role for those who don’t know it? Is there any subject/action that you are particularly proud of during those 6 last years ?

Serving as President of the FEI, which is the world governing body for horse sport, has been one of the greatest honours of my life. Since the FEI entrusted me with this responsibility I have expected to be judged on my performance and not my rhetoric, and together with everyone working at the FEI and within our National Federations around the world we have accomplished a lot since 2006. My goal after being re-elected for a second and final term in 2010 has been to build on these accomplishments and support our National Federations around the world, our athletes and our organisers by focusing on six broad categories: FEI Governance, National Federations, Commercial, Development, Athlete Welfare and the IOC.

*We suggest the following from these categories are referenced: • FEI Sports Forum • Transportation & Quarantine • FEI Clean Sport • Commercial Partnerships (opportunity to reference Rolex, Reem Acra & HSBC) • FEI Solidarity • Athlete representation (Kevin Staut FEI Executive Board) • International Olympic Committee

What is your opinion on women in equestrian sport generally and precisely with Dalma Rushdi Malhas the Saudi Arabian rider?

Equestrian sport is one of the few sports in which women compete on equal terms with men. There are many examples of female equestrian champions past and current, and we expect many more in the future. Adelinde Cornelissen from The Netherlands has just defended her Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage title, for instance.

With London 2012 just around the corner, it is important to remember the history of women in the Olympic Games. Women first competed in Olympic equestrian sport 60 years ago. Denmark’s Lis Hartel, individual silver medallist in Dressage at the 1952 Olympic Games, was one of four female riders competing in Helsinki. The first woman to participate in Olympic Jumping was Pat Smythe (GBR), who won team bronze at the 1956 Olympic Games in Stockholm. Eight years later, Lana du Pont (USA) was the first woman to compete in an Olympic three-day event when she rode in Tokyo (JPN) in 1964.

This year, Great Britain’s Mary King will be competing in her sixth Olympic Games. Dalma Rushdi Malhas made history by becoming the first Saudi female athlete to compete on the Olympic stage when she won individual bronze at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010. She was also amongst a high-profile group of speakers who addressed the recent IOC Women and Sport conference in Los Angeles.

Media reports have claimed that Dalma may be invited to compete in the London 2012 Olympic Games, but the FEI will not and cannot issue any 'invitations' to individuals. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has qualified a Jumping team for the 2012 Olympic Games so they will have the opportunity to send four riders to London. It is up to the Saudi National Olympic Committee to select which riders will be on that team, but all horses and riders must fulfil the eligibility requirements.

This is the same for every nation sending riders to the Olympic Games. Our mission is to safeguard our Olympic product by delivering the very best of elite sport, and that depends on having the very best athletes that we have to offer competing at the Games. That quality of sport means that there is never any bending of rules.

What is the Brighton Declaration on Women and Sport? Can you explain this to us?

The Brighton Declaration on Women and Sport was the result of an international conference on women and sport in Brighton, UK in 1994. The Declaration is based on 10 Principles: Equity and Equality in Society and Sport; Facilities; School and Junior Sport; Developing Participation; High Performance Sport; Leadership in Sport; Education, Training and Development; Sports Information and Research; Resources; Domestic and International Cooperation.

The FEI member Federations voted unanimously at the 2011 FEI General Assembly in support of the FEI becoming a signatory of the Brighton Declaration. On 6 March 2012, the FEI became a signatory of the Brighton Declaration, joining an impressive list of signatories that include the IOC, IPC and numerous International Federations. Signing the Brighton Declaration shows the ongoing commitment of the FEI to equality in our sport.

The IOC is working hard to have female participation and representation at all levels. The IOC and President Rogge in particular have done so much to promote women in sport and in the Olympic movement, both in the sporting arena itself and on the governance side. The Olympic Charter states that sports are a right for everyone and there should be no discrimination in practicing sports on the basis of gender. That is central to the FEI ethos and we truly value the fact that our sport is one based on equality. Not only do men and women compete on equal terms, but we also have women serving in senior positions at all levels in our sport.

As President it is your second Olympic Games – have you got a special wish for the next Olympic Games?

The excitement in the run-up the Olympic equestrian events at London 2012 is huge and the stunning location of Greenwich Park means that we are right back at the heart of the Games. We are proud to be given centre stage at such at a time of celebration when we will be marking 100 years of equestrian sport in the Olympic movement. London 2012 will see the world’s best athletes and their horses step into the global spotlight, engaging youngsters and older generations around the world and enriching the lives of people from different social backgrounds and cultural heritages. My wish is that, together with LOCOG, we will have fair and clean sport of the highest quality in London. We are counting the days to what will be a glorious Games.

I would like to talk about Clean Sport before the Olympic Games. What is your feeling?

The FEI takes Clean Sport very seriously and believes it is the responsibility of everyone working within the sport to protect the integrity of our sport. The FEI as the world governing body of equestrian sport provides the framework for all FEI events. We require all those involved in these events to adhere to the FEI’s Code of Conduct and abide by the Equine and Human Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations. Failure to do so results in tough sanctions.

Equestrian sport derives its credibility and public acceptance from the concept of fair play. Doping and the inappropriate use of normal medications present a serious threat to the integrity and reputation of our sport, because they give athletes an unfair advantage and threaten the welfare of our horses. The FEI Clean Sport campaign has gone a long way towards reducing the number of positive cases, but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We have worked tirelessly to protect horse welfare and the integrity of our sport, and we will continue to do so. The FEI is continuing to use the latest technology in its Clean Sport campaign to ensure the message is being received loud and clear by everyone involved in our sport. We have launched several online tools now for instance, which can be accessed through our dedicated Clean Sport website to promote education and ensure these regulations are adhered to. This is just one of many ways in which we are communicating the importance of Clean Sport.

At the last Olympic Games in Beijing, 4 horses tested positive (Lantinus, with Denis Lynch, Chupa Chups with Bernardo Alves, Camiro with Tony Andre Hansen and Christian Ahlman with Coster) - how did you react to that? What are your conclusions?

In response to these cases the Commission on Anti-Doping & Medication was set up in November 2008. The Commission, which was chaired by Professor Arne Ljungqvist, Vice-President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Chairman of the IOC Medical Commission, brought together representatives of every area of veterinary medicine as well as representatives of all the stakeholder sectors in horse sport and its governing bodies. In early 2010, the FEI launched its Clean Sport campaign with the aim of ensuring a level playing field and protecting the welfare of our equine athletes by providing everyone involved with the necessary information and tools. The launch of the Clean Sport campaign coincided with the introduction of much stronger sanctions for doping and medication offences, in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code.

As a result of all this work, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of positive cases in the Olympic disciplines, but our job is not finished and we will continue to focus on stamping out prohibited substances in our sport.

What is your wish for the next Olympics in London (in relation to doping)?

The absence of any cases at high profile events at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, the Asian Games and the Jumping events at the Youth Olympics in 2010 is the best endorsement of the FEI’s Clean Sport Campaign and proves the value of the FEI’s education programme. Of course my wish for the London Olympic Games is for zero positives.

*If the journalist chooses to ask “What will happen if there is a positive test in London 2012”:

The FEI will provisionally suspend any athlete whose horse tests positive at the Olympic Games, but they will be eligible for a preliminary hearing in front of a member of the FEI Tribunal during Games time. This will apply to positive results for both banned substances and controlled medication.

How do you see the evolution of this sport? Between the FEI World Cup, Nations Cup and other competitions don’t you think there are too many competitions? How will the sport evolve? In 2011, there were over 3,200 FEI competitions held around the world for the disciplines governed by the FEI. This represents a 34% growth on the number of competitions held in 2010. Given the growing popularity of equestrian sport worldwide, we expect the number of FEI competitions at all levels to continue growing, and this is great news for our sport, but it also means that the calendar is becoming increasingly congested. This was discussed during the FEI Sports Forum and it achieving a balanced calendar is a clear objective. The number of weekends is limited and we must ensure that there is balance between all the series, that they don’t clash, and that horse welfare is taken into account.

It is wonderful to see our athletes start out at junior level and grow through the ranks, eventually becoming the heroes of tomorrow at future FEI World Cups, Nations Cups and the Continental Championships - and we’ll see them one day competing at the Olympics. By working closely with our National Federations we are developing and expanding the sport internationally, which will benefit those already involved in the sport and also attract new people. And our close relationship with our dedicated sponsors (which currently include Rolex, Reem Acra and HSBC) means that we are continuing to increase the profile of our sport and bringing it to wide-ranging audiences on television and other media platforms, enabling the sport to flourish.