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FEI Eff-up: 2014 WEG poster features doping posterchild

The poster surfaced on the Normandy WEG Facebook page and vanished shortly thereafter… but not before Endurance Belgium captured it via a screenshot.

The screenshot, taken Friday afternoon (if you click on this link to the page it no longer works):

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Seems pretty innocuous, right? But, as reported by The Daily Telegraph, the poster was “hastily pulled” when people began noticing that the front-and-center rider was Ali Al Muhairi, an United Arab Emerates endurance competitor who is currently serving a record four-year ban for doping. So… kind of like featuring Lance Armstrong on a poster for the Tour de France.

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Al Muhairi has been banned for doping twice–he got 10 months for etorphine in 2009 and four years for steroids in 2011. Etorphine is an opioid analgesic over 1,000 times more potent than morphine. In its 2009 decision notice, the usually restrained FEI Tribunal recorded its “abhorrence” that Al Muhairi had ridden a horse for 160 kilometers after administering this substance.

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A related offense (allegedly entering the field of play as a banned person at the World Championships at Euston Park, UK, in 2012) has been awaiting a Tribunal hearing for over a year, although the FEI has yet to set a date. The first time Al Muhairi flouted his ban, he did so in spectacular style–he was snapped on the winner’s podium at a ride in Dubai by the local newspaper.

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WEG 2014 organizers told The Daily Telegraph that the poster was originally designed in “2009 or 2010 before Al Muhairi was banned” and that “we will be very careful from now.” (Question: Why would anyone design a poster four years in advance of an event, even before the 2010 WEG had taken place?)

At this point, you’ve almost got to feel sorry for whomever is running interference on the FEI’s PR. The international governing body’s image has been battered by one doping scandal after another involving FEI President Princess Haya’s husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Another blow arrived just this week when it emerged that the FEI had only recently inquired about two endurance fatalities from the summer, both owned by the Maktoum family. (On Monday The Daily Telegraph published a great report on it here.) Considering the apparent conflict of interest it came as no surprise when FEI President Princess Haya announced last month that she would not be seeking a third term.

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On Sept. 25 Horse Nation sent the FEI an email inquiring about the process by which the next president will be selected. Because that should be a transparent process, right?

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That was over a month ago. Hope to hear from you soon, FEI! Gotta love screenshots.

Go Riding.

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