Spain, front-runners when the World Equestrian Games endurance ride was controversially called-off, has failed in a second attempt to receive medals in hindsight.
The FEI Tribunal dismissed an appeal from the Spanish Equestrian Federation in a decision notice published this week. Spain’s first appeal at Tryon on September 12th also failed.
Tribunal rejected the claim on a number of legal points, notably that under FEI rules the winning horses must have completed the “entire course” and passed the final vetting. By definition, the FEI said, anything cancelled cannot have a winner.
Tribunal also rejected the argument that precedent was set at the Euston Park 2012 world championship, abandoned during a heavy storm. On that occasion, Tribunal said, 52 combinations and four teams had completed the whole competition before the thunderstorm arrived.
However, in consideration of the reasoned case presented by Spain, and recognising the expense and effort in preparing its team, Tribunal waived an order for costs.
The hearing recalled the chaos and misdirection at the original start at Tryon, the circumstances leading to the re-start and the decision to stop as heat and humidity levels escalated late in the afternoon. That had led to angry scenes in the vet-gate, with Spanish chef d’equipe Dr Ignasi Casas Vaque now facing sanctions for his verbal abuse of ground jury president J-P Allegret.
Spain argued there was an absence of a legal provision for such cases; that “80% of the race was completed by the race-leaders”; that there is a “general principle of sportsmanship in virtue of which the effort made by riders and horses, in a sport event held under very adverse circumstances.” Some individuals had ridden that day 120 km that day and an award “was justified financially and emotionally.”
The FEI countered that that Spain would not necessarily have won. “Even the top combinations were, in reality, hours away from doing so.”
It heeded the original Appeal Committee decision which found Spanish combinations in provisional first, second, fourth and fifth positions when the ride was stopped. “However, these were not final placings. The reality was, that if the race had continued…one had no idea what the final placing would have been. There was a confusion following the announcement of the Second Decision [the cancellation.] The record at the third vet gate is not clean and will need to be recreated, which is not a solid base to support any decision.”
FEI also rejected Spain’s suggestion that medals should be awarded in accordance with the standings of vet gate 2. “This was only a snapshot of the standings at that point… the FEI would have no idea how to award the silver and bronze medal, as no reliable data existed.”
The FEI “did not deny it was a great pity that the competition had to be cancelled and that the efforts, skill and horsemanship of the appellant’s representatives up to that point cannot be rewarded. However, the reality was that the decision to cancel was based on science and was taken with the sole purpose of protecting the horse welfare, which is at the centre of all of the FEI’s activities and absolutely paramount.”
The decision notice says it is “not clear” if all of the ground jury members were consulted about cancellation, but that was not in any event required by FEI General Regulations. That “unanimous” decision was taken by Mr Allegret, technical delegate Rui Amante and president of the veterinary commission Thomas Timmons in consultation with the Organising Committee. It was “approved” by the foreign veterinary delegate Kieran O’ Brien.