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Horse Federation Wants More Time to Respond to Olympic Plan

January 5, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Georgia’s agriculture commissioner plans to ban horses infected with a tick-borne virus from the Summer Olympics if international equestrian officials didn’t accept his quarantine plan today.

But international federation said in London it needs more time to examine the plan sent by commissioner Tommy Irvin.

``We will send a fax to Mr. Irvin tonight but it will not be a definitive answer,″ federation spokeswoman Muriel Faenza said. ``We will be discussing a few more days. We could not contact all the European federations because they were still on holiday. We do not have all the answers we need.″

Last month, the federation asked for a two-week extension of the deadline but that was rejected by Irvin.

Frits Sluyter, head of the federation’s veterinary department, said the governing body should have a ``definite solution″ within a week or so. He said he hoped Irvin would understand.

``I would expect Mr. Irvin has the same interest as we do,″ Sluyter said. ``We all want the best Olympic Games.″

Concerned that a disease, common among horses in Europe and South America, could spread to Georgia, Irvin has given the International Equestrian Federation a list of 20 conditions under which a limited number of horses infected with piroplasmosis would be allowed to come here for the 1996 Games. Georgia ordinarily does not admit such animals.

``If they don’t accept it, it means our rules will stay as they have always been,″ Irvin said of the plan.

Piroplasmosis, which can be fatal, has been eradicated in Georgia.

A recent survey by the equestrian federation’s veterinary department found that at least 23 horses eligible for the Games have piroplasmosis. That survey, however, did not include all the national federations associated with the IEF, so the total could be higher.

Irvin refused to speculate on how a ban on infected horses would affect the Olympic Games. ``I don’t want to get into that _ that needs to be addressed by the people over there,″ he said, referring to federation officials.

Federation officials have said they do not plan to cancel the Olympic competition or move the events, regardless of the dispute. There is concern, though, that the quality of the Olympic competition would be hurt if the horses are banned.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games has avoided publicly taking sides.

``We’re just taking a wait-and-see approach,″ spokeswoman Jill Gottesman said. ``We’ll try to work with whatever the IEF and Tommy Irvin’s office comes up with.″

Among the conditions Irvin insisted on for allowing the horses into the state were establishment of a fenced isolation area at the equestrian venue in Conyers, 24-hour surveillance by state and federal agriculture officers and ``distinct irremovable″ identification worn by the horses.

Irvin also stipulated that the federation would be responsible for the cost of the quarantine, which could be up to $1 million.

Irvin said horses testing positive for piroplasmosis could not under any circumstances participate in the three-day competition, a marquee event that includes a combination of dressage, endurance and jumping. A limited number, to be determined by Irvin, would be allowed in the separate show jumping and dressage events, permitted to leave the quarantine area only for warmups and competition.

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