The Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) handed down a decision on July 17th in the case regarding Canadian dressage rider Karen Pavicic of Surrey, BC, who was appealing her position as Canada’s alternate dressage rider at the Rio Oympic Games. Pavicic believes she should have been named the second member of the Canadian team, and cited biased judging at the final selection trial in Ontario.

The hearing was held via telephone on July 15-16 due to the urgency of the July 18th cutoff for definite entries to the Olympic Games, which begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 5th. Arbitrator Richard Pound, Q.C., dismissed the appeal.

The appeal was made to the SDRCC against the selection decision of Equestrian Canada (EC), not the selection criteria itself. The arbitrator was satisfied that EC had appropriately established the selection criteria and made their decision in accordance with that criteria.

Biased Judging

The basis of the protest involved the results from the CDI*** held at RCRA in Cedar Valley, ON, on June 17-19, 2016. Prior to the event, Pavicic was ranked ahead of Megan Lane of Loretto, ON, and claims that exaggerated scores were awarded to Lane by judge Libby McMullen, which moved Lane ahead of her (by .049%) in the selection leaderboard. This also placed her 89th to Lane’s 87th in the FEI Dressage Rankings, precluding her nomination as the second rider. Pavicic claimed that the judge could not be regarded as impartial, and submitted statements supporting this by other judges and witnesses.

Pavicic has also filed a protest with the FEI stating that the judge in question did not act in compliance with the Codex for FEI Dressage Judges in respect of the expected conduct of FEI officials.

While Pound could not find against the allegations of bias, as they could not be proven, he did comment, “They are, however, very serious and clearly call for further investigation on the part of the FEI. The FEI has been supplied with the allegations and has commenced its own inquiry regarding the conduct of the impugned judge.” EC has made assurances to the parties involved and the SDRCC that it would cooperate with the FEI inquiry. As a representative of the organizations, it is unclear whether Equestrian Canada or Dressage Canada will initiate any actions against McMullen based on their own Code of Conduct policies.

FEI Decision

The FEI Dressage Committee has already examined the scoring of the qualification event and unanimously recommended that the competition results stand, as there were insufficient grounds for either annulling or changing the results. They are, however, proceeding with a further review of the conduct of the judge and will determine what appropriate measures, if any, may be required. A decision is expected today.

Last-Ditch Appeal?

Pavicic has indicated that she may seek further recourse through the ad hoc division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that will be on site in Rio 10 days prior to the Opening Ceremony. That division has jurisdiction with respect to team selection disputes and may be disposed to hear an appeal that involves an international federation.When asked if she was still planning to proceed with that appeal, Pavicic said, “It depends on what happens with the FEI today. If they dismiss the claim, then I might consider, but it would be very expensive for me as I would have to hire an attorney out of my own pocket, which I’m not sure if I would do or not.”

She added that regardless of how things shake out, “I truly wish my competitors the very best in Rio.” Pavicic was adamant that this was not about her fellow athlete, “This is about the integrity of the sport. I’ve been an advocate for high performance athletes in Canada on various committees. I don’t want this to happen to any of my fellow competitors internationally. It’s about the bigger picture for me.”

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