The annual congress of modern pentathlon’s governing body, UIPM, has voted to remove riding after the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. At the same virtual event, hosted from UIPM HQ in Monaco, Dr. Klaus Schormann was re-elected unopposed to serve a record eighth term as president despite an unofficial vote of no confidence by nearly 700 pentathletes earlier this month over his handling of the post Tokyo crisis.

Schormann received the backing of 85.71% of the electorate. Over 80% of national federations supported finding a new “fifth discipline” to apply from the Olympic Games of Los Angeles 2028, following board proposal which was leaked to the press just a month ago, catching elite athletes by surprise.

The vote went ahead despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport being yet to decide if removing riding is constitutional following a legal challenge by Denmark.

UIPM did not even wait to distribute the findings of its own working group, set up after Tokyo to improve standards in the show jumping before deciding it would be easier to remove it altogether.

The well documented whipping of Saint Boy, the horse who napped and refused to jump during the women’s event, triggered a public relations crisis for modern pentathlon, from which the FEI was at pains to distance itself.

However, for the equestrian world concerns will remain over the ongoing wellbeing of horses if show jumping using randomly drawn horses is to remain part of modern pentathlon for at least the next three years. Pentathletes have come forward to claim horse welfare has been badly neglected for decades.

Plans to improve horse welfare up to Paris were apparently discussed by the congress but are mentioned only in passing at the end of UIPM’s press release about main decisions.

It has been another rollercoaster fortnight for modern pentathlon, with those on opposite sides making ever more extreme claims. Former world champion Samantha Murray says some of the support UIPM said existed for the axing of riding came from “ghost” national federations whose alleged member athletes have never actually been seen at an international event.

UIPM meanwhile contacted the descendants of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the latter day Olympics and inventor of modern pentathlon, to elicit a statement that they were sure he would have approved of this evolution.

UIPM has submitted a provisional proposal for Los Angeles 2028 for consideration by the IOC at its meeting on December 1, though have not disclosed what it is. It says the pentathlon community will have the final say with a vote during the 72nd UIPM Congress in 2022.

Regarding the latest vote, Schormann says: “The high majority in favour of this decision gives us a very comfortable feeling and confirms that the UIPM board acted in the interest of the UIPM family. The debate was fair, open and very clear. Delegates were given the opportunity to speak in chronological order according to a queue system, with no preferential treatment and full transparency.”

UIPM vice-president Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr added : “We are at a defining moment for Modern Pentathlon. In the past, we placed our defence on tradition. But the world has changed dramatically — we are in a digital era where everything is measurable and it is no good to go to the IOC with emotion and tradition.

“For new sports until recently it was almost impossible to change the program but now the programme is changing. Sports climbing, surfing, 3×3 basketball, and these sports got a lot of traction in Tokyo in the age group that is the big focus. Now we have to compete for our place with sports that are already in the programme. They are there and they have made a splash.

“That is why the Executive Board took a decision with urgency — to give us the opportunity. If we manage to find the right fifth sport, with everyone pulling in the right direction, we have a chance.”

Fellow vice-president Joel Bouzou said: “I want to see in the future a lot of pentathletes wearing the OLY pin. Is it a pleasure to drop riding from the Olympic format? No. But it is the only option. We need to look at the reality. Our sport is still being seen as unfair — too many great athletes see their hopes destroyed by the draw. The world is not waiting for us. The IOC is changing.”