Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), the global governing body of modern pentathlon, is expected to confirm tomorrow (Thursday) that it is dropping the riding phase entirely from its age-old format, following ugly scenes which caused outrage during the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The radical move is said to have been made at an unscheduled meeting of the UIPM executive board, although it has been widely leaked to sports media, who are reporting that UIPM have issued no denial.

UIPM will issue a fuller statement but so far comment: “As part of UIPM’s commitment to maintaining a strong, dynamic profile for modern pentathlon, a series of strategic meetings are being held. These meetings will include an upcoming call with national federations later this week. The outcome of these meetings will be detailed in a press release to be published on 4 November.”

It is believed that cycling will replace riding.

Modern pentathlon was invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, although over the past 30 years has been under greater threat of ejection from the Olympic Games than equestrian and has reinvented itself several times to stay in. What began as five disciplines over five days has already been truncated to a continuous 90-minute effort for Paris 2024, with two phases ‒ shooting and running ‒ already amalgamated into the arena-based “laser-run.”

However, after ugly scenes at the Tokyo event which went viral, doubts quickly surfaced whether modern pentathlon would even be included in Paris unless drastic action was taken.

Annika Schleu of Germany was in the lead going into the show jumping. She repeatedly beat Saint Boy, a randomly allocated horse who refused to jump. She left the arena sobbing, having plummeted down the leaderboard. Schleu faced no disciplinary sanctions. Kim Raisner, the team coach who leaned over the rails to punch the horse and told Schleu to hit him, was sent home from Tokyo. She was later found to have violated UIPM Rule 4.6.8, under which a “pentathlete or team is disqualified for rapping or beating a horse and all other cases of cruelty and/or ill treatment of a horse.” However, her sanctions extended to a black warning card and an instruction to attend a “coach education seminar.”

The random allocation of horses in modern pentathlon, with only 20 minutes allowed for familiarisation, has already been a concern to purist equestrians, especially when some modern pentathletes admit that show jumping is the phase they practice least.

After Tokyo, UIPM set up a working group which included equestrian expertise and made contact with the FEI, it seems for the first time. The decision to remove jumping appears to have been made even before the working group delivered its first raft of recommendations.