FEI Tribunal Weighs Dominican Republic Protest Over Olympic Qualifying in South America

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Yvonne Losos de Muniz and Liebling II. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

After a hearing in New York, the FEI Tribunal is weighing a protest by the Dominican Republic over Olympic qualifying competitions in South America that resulted in Brazil ranking at the top of indvidual standings.

A decision is expected quickly, probably by the end of next week.

The Tribunal made up of Jens Adolphsen of Germany, chairman, and members Armand Leone of the United States and Vladan Jetvic of Serbia met Wednesday behind closed doors–standard practice for such hearings–to listen to cases presented by the Dominican Republic against the FEI’s approval process of the Brazilian shows. Brazil was also at the hearing as a party to the case.

The Dominican Republic protested the International Equestrian Federations’s approval of Brazil using three judges in Olympic qualifying competitions in Brazil Feb. 10-12 and Feb. 24-26.

The Dominican Republic federation also protested the late filings of the show schedules.

If the tribunal upholds the Dominican Republic protest, the two results for Brazil’s Luíza Tavares de Almeida who finished at the top of the individual rankings for Central and South American region could be thrown out.

The Dominican Republic’s Yvonne Loses de Muñiz and Liebling II would move up to the top of the rankings from second place. She could become the first equestrian from the Dominican Republic to compete in an Olympics.

Eduardo Muñiz, the husband of Yvonne, said on behalf of the Dominican Republic federation that while the parties are bound by an agreement not to discuss details of the hearing, “We were very pleased with the hearing, the professional manner in which it was held.

“We were very surprised by some of the positions taken by the FEI,” but he would not elaborate.

“We look forward to the decision that the Tribunal said would be issued expeditiously.”

He said the federation will appeal immediately to the Court for Arbitration for Sport if the Tribunal rules against the Dominican Republic.

“We believe we have truth on our side and are prepared to continue,” he said.

The FEI and the Brazilian federation are expected to appeal if the Dominican Republic wins. The Brazilian federation could not be reached for comment, and the FEI has said previously it will not comment while the issue is pending.

The issue centers around Brazil receiving “exceptions” from the FEI in approving three judges on ground juries from the same nation in the year of Olympic qualifying around the world.

Official FEI records list about 138 events CDI3* or above, plus the World Cup Final and the European Championships, in which nations could seek to qualify individual horse and rider combinations for the London Games by having their top eight scores count from competitions in the qualifying period from Mar. 1, 2011, to Mar. 1, 2012.

There were 49 qualifying shows outside Europe–in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. There were no qualifiers elsewhere in Central or South America.

Luíza Tavares de Almeida and Samba finished at the top of the individual rankings for the Central and South America and the Yvonne Loses de Muñiz and Liebling II placed second.

Luíza, Brazil’s top rider, rode in all 13 qualifying competitions in Brazil, in 11 of them with Samba, the gray Lusitano she competed as a teenager at the 2008 Olympics.

Ten of the 13 Brazilian competitions used the same three Brazilian judges–Sabine Angela Windisch Bilton, Claudia Moreira de Mesquita and Salim Nigri, according to the dressage-news.com search, with two foreign judges completing the five-member ground jury.

The Brazilian federation has not been faulted for the use of three judges. Brazil named the judges and their nationalities on the application to the FEI headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Brazil, which will host the 2016 summer Olympics, including equestrian events, made a concerted effort to qualify an individual by staging the 13 competitions, second outside of Europe only to the 20 Olympic qualifiers organized in the United States in the same period.

The FEI approved the makeup of the ground juries to include the three Brazilian judges, as the FEI said it did for organziers who applied for competitions outside Europe.

The Dominican Republic rider competed on three different horses at 11 shows in the United States. No competitions had more than two American judges.