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Horse Federation Tentatively Accepts Olympic Quarantine Plan

January 5, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ The International Equestrian Federation today reluctantly accepted the Georgia agriculture commissioner’s terms for allowing horses infected with a tick-borne virus to compete in the Summer Olympics.

Commissioner Tommy Irvin had set today as the deadline for the federation to accept his plan for a quarantine of the infected horses.

In a fax to Irvin today, federation secretary-general Bo Helander continued to ask for more time, but said, ``We have no choice but to accept the waiver that has been offered.″

Though he said he would continue to talk to the federation about certain details, Irvin said he considered that an unconditional acceptance of the state’s terms.

``This sets the tone. Yes, under certain conditions you can participate,″ Irvin said.

He emphasized that if the federation wavered from full compliance, he still could block the horses from coming to the Olympics. ``I’m the guy that’s got to make the decisions,″ he said at a news conference.

Among the conditions Irvin set was that the federation pay the $1 million cost of the quarantine.

``We made it crystal clear that the state or federal government would not incur any cost at all. That still stands,″ Irvin said.

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 today 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 from Lausanne, Switzerland. ``We all want the best Olympic Games.″

Concerned that the disease, common among horses in Europe and South America, could spread to Georgia, Irvin had given the IEF 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.

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

The federation said 28 horses eligible for the Games have piroplasmosis, but 14 of those compete in a cross country event that Irvin won’t allow infected horses to enter under any circumstances.

The survey did not include all the national federations associated with the IEF, so the total could be higher. Irvin said he expected about 20 horses would need to be quarantined.

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. But ACOG spokesman Dick Yarbrough said today he was pleased that the issue apparently is resolved.

``It’s another decision made _ we are one more closer to the Games,″ he said.

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 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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