Evelina Bertoli has failed in her appeal to be declared Italian national eventing champion 2020 after it belatedly emerged her dressage marks were miscalculated at the Montelibretti CCI****.

Her final score appeared to be 0.1 penalties behind the official winner, the Olympian Arianna Schivo.

There is no dispute the error occurred, but the FEI Tribunal dismissed an appeal on the legal grounds that Bertoli did not lodge a formal protest to the Ground Jury within 30 minutes of the final results. While there was an “effect of unfairness,” the inviolability of field of play decisions is set out in FEI General Regulations (GRs), with the principle upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport many times.

Montelibretti (which is bidding to host the rescheduled 2021 European championships) ran the CCI**** and national championship event in conjunction with a leg of the FEI Nations Cup from October 22-25 last year.

Bertoli, 34, only noticed the error the day after the event, when the dressage score sheets were emailed to her. The paper sheets had not been distributed during the competition in the usual way because of its Covid mitigation protocols, so she could not have protested within the deadline.

The Italian Equestrian Federation (FISE) contacted the FEI Eventing Department on October 27 about making “amendments it deems necessary to the classification of the competition.” FEI deemed the email a request from FISE for further instructions, not a formal Protest. Bertoli’s representatives lodged an appeal on November 6, including a request to “modify” the GRs even though the Tribunal has no power to do so.

The FEI said the Tribunal may decide on interpretation but that applicable rules in this case “are very clear and do not need any interpretation…..each sport may have within it a mechanism for utilising modern technology to ensure a correct decision is made in the first place or for immediately subjecting a controversial decision to a process of review, but the solution for error, either way, lies within the framework of the sport’s own rules; it does not licence judicial or arbitral interference thereafter.”

The results were signed off around 4:00 pm and announced “at the latest” at 4:07 pm, so any protest should have been filed by 4:37 pm.

The FEI guidelines for dressage during the pandemic are best practice recommendations, not mandatory rules overriding the GRs. Distribution of score sheets is also not mandatory but can be done at any time during the competition. If Bertoli had requested them directly after dressage on October 22, the organisers would have had “plenty of time to email them” leaving Bertoli “in possession of all necessary information in order to file a protest within the mandatory deadline.” There was no reason to treat the case differently to a pre-Covid-19 situation.

The FEI “has a sympathy” for “victims” of such “honest” mistakes, but as the world governing body the FEI is in charge of applying and respecting the sport specific rules, “even if those rules are strict and do not foresee exceptions.”

The FEI did not ask for costs, and returned Bertoli’s deposit.

The decision notice does not record the detailed results but Bertoli’s dressage good marks can be seen here.