International Federation Asks for Extension of Deadline
LONDON (AP) _ The International Equestrian Federation said Friday it needs another month to study plans for a strict quarantine of virus-infected horses at next summer’s Atlanta Olympics.
The federation is asking for a two-week extension of the Jan. 5 deadline set by Georgia agriculture officials for agreement on the plan, which restricts the entry of horses with the tick-borne disease piroplasmosis.
The federation, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, asked for the deadline to be pushed back to Jan. 18.
``We can not make all the contacts and consult with the appropriate people to evaluate all the conditions by Jan. 5,″ spokeswoman Muriel Faenza said. ``It would be impossible to contact everybody before Christmas.″
Faenza said the FEI’s executive committee would consult with its financial and veterinary experts, other federations and the International Olympic Committee.
``They have numerous conditions, some are very complicated,″ Faenza said. ``We want to study them and see what this means, from the veterinary point of view, as well as from the practical and financial side.″
Georgia agriculture commissioner Tommy Irvin faxed the FEI this week, outlining 20 conditions under which a limited number of infected horses would be granted a waiver to enter the state to compete in the Games.
One condition is that horses with piroplasmosis will be banned from taking part in the three-day event.
A limited number would be allowed to compete in show jumping and dressage but they would remain under quarantine, including 24-hour surveillance in an isolated area at the Olympic equestrian venue in Conyers. The horses would only be allowed to leave for warmups and competitions.
Georgia officials said the federation would be responsible for the cost of the quarantine, which could be up to $1 million.
Piroplasmosis is a protozoan blood disease common in Europe and South America. State officials are concerned the virus could be spread to domestic horses in Georgia, where the disease has been eradicated.
Frits Sluyter, head of the FEI’s veterinary department, said a survey by the federation had found that at least 23 horses eligible for the Games have piroplasmosis.
Sluyter said the final figure of infected horses would be higher once the FEI received replies from all member federations.
Sluyter expressed concerns about several of Georgia’s conditions, including the cost of keeping the horses in quarantine.
``Having a separate facility for the horses is not a problem for the federation,″ he said in a telephone interview. ``It’s mainly a problem of money. Who is going to pay for this?″
Paying for 24-hour surveillance is also an issue.
``There should be someone standing at the entrance guarding the facility,″ Sluyter said. ``If that has to be an officially-approved person, it’s going to be an expensive person.″
Sluyter questioned Georgia’s condition that infected horses should carry a ``distinct identification.″
``I hope this identification is meant for the officials and not for the public,″ he said. ``We would be disappointed if we have horses that are identifiable for the public.″
Sluyter said the FEI remains intent on keeping the three-day event open to piroplasmosis-infected horses, even though Georgia officials appear to have ruled that out.
``We would be very disappointed if the three-day event would not get a waiver,″ he said. ``So far, there is no indication the Americans are willing to consider it. But we would not like to give that up.″
``We believe from a veterinary point of view it should be possible to have eventing horses without endangering horses in Georgia,″ he said.
Despite the standoff, Sluyter said FEI has no plans to cancel the Olympic competition or move the events.