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International and European Federations Seeks U.S. Government Intervention

January 10, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ The feud over allowing infected horses in the Atlanta Olympics has moved to the international political arena.

The International Equestrian Federation and the European Union criticized plans by Georgia authorities to keep virus-infected horses out of the Atlanta Games.

Rejecting claims by Georgia’s agriculture commissioner Tommy Irvin that the restrictive and costly conditions for European horses to compete had been accepted, the IEF today said the issue was far from closed.

``I certainly would not say that this whole thing is settled, oh no,″ said Frits Sluyter, head of IEF’s veterinary department.

The 15-nation EU has pushed the issue on the agenda for talks between EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler and U.S. secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman. The two were to meet in Brussels today, but Glickman was unable to fly out of Washington because of affects of a blizzard earlier this week.

``The IEF is on the same line we are,″ said Fischler’s spokesman Gerry Kiely.

A European Union official Tuesday said he wants the U.S. government to press Georgia to relax its restrictions on horses infected with the tick-borne disease piroplasmosis.

Georgia bars such horses from entering the state, though state Irvin has set some conditions under which a few horses could participate in the Games. Irvin’s rules still would ban horses that compete in the Olympic cross-country event.

The international federation last week agreed, reluctantly, to Georgia’s terms, including a strict quarantine for horses that test positive for the virus.

Irvin said that settled the issue.

``It’s not negotiable any longer,″ he reiterated on Tuesday.

Fischler had planned to convey European criticism of the Georgia restrictions to Glickman before secretary was snowbound.

The meeting will be rescheduled or conducted by telephone, Kiely said.

``We will just be raising it at the highest level,″ Kiely said.

Irvin’s restrictions would diminish the quality of competition at the Atlanta Games, Kiely said. ``This is affecting some of our best horses,″ he said.

Kiely said the equestrian events could still be moved out of Georgia, though the International Equestrian Federation has said it has no plans to do that.

Piroplasmosis is a parasitic blood disorder, transmitted by ticks, that causes fever and swelling and, often, death. Horse owners in Georgia fear that foreign Olympic horses will spread the disease here.

The disease has been eradicated in the United States.

Twenty-eight horses that have qualified for the Games are infected. Fourteen of those could compete under Georgia’s plan.

Europeans want all the infected horses, including long distance competitors, allowed, Irvin said.

``This is a major point, this question of the cross-country. But we told them from Day 1 there’s no way. They’d like to keep it on the table, but it’s not a debatable issue,″ Irvin said.

Irvin said a USDA official agreed to his list of 20 demands, sent to the equestrian federation last month, and that the federal agency continues to support the restrictions.

A call to the USDA offices in snowbound Washington, D.C., was not answered Tuesday. An agriculture department spokesman in Atlanta did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Dick Yarbrough, a spokesman for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, said organizers are planning the equestrian events under the assumption that the Georgia restrictions are firm.

``I think the commissioner made it abundantly clear what the terms and conditions are,″ Yarbrough said.

On Monday, Irvin briefed state legislators on the equestrian plan and said they supported it.

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