Brazil’s Path to Individual Olympic Qualifying Marked by “Exceptions” & Event Additions

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Luíza Tavares de Almeida and Samba, who competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Brazil used three local judges at more events and added more shows than the total for all other nations outside Europe during the campaign by Luíza Tavares de Almeida and Samba to become the sole individual combination in Latin America to qualify for the Olympic Games in London, according to the International Equestrian Federation’s FEI database.

Of the 13 CDI3* or higher rated competitions that Brazil staged in the qualifying period for the year to Mar. 1, 2012, Luíza and Samba were the sole qualified entry, five had two combinations and one three, as shown by the records. Luíza also competed a second horse, Pastor, in some events but qualified with Samba.

The records were reviewed following a decision by the FEI Tribunal rejecting a protest over the qualifying procedures approved by the FEI.

The protest was filed by the Dominican Republic on behalf of its athlete, Yvonne Losos de Muñiz who rode Liebling II, the horse that Carl Hester rode to team silver medals for Great Britain at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and the 2009 European Championships, in pursuit of qualifying for the Olympics. She was second in the rankings.

The Domican Republic and the rider have appealed to the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS), an independent body based in Lausanne, Switzerland. CAS has not announced a schedule.

Dressage-news.com conducted the review of the qualifying competitions after the FEI Tribunal with Jens Adolphsen of Germany as chairman, Vladan Jevtic of Serbia and Armand Leone of the United States rejected the protest by the Dominican Republic federation (FDDE) against approval of the schedules for two competitions in February. The FEI was joined by the Brazil Equestrian Confederation (BEC). The Tribunal conducted a hearing in New York April 4. The complete decision can be found here (FDDE vs FEI and BEC – Final Tribunal Decision – 3 May 2012).

To qualify as an individual for the Olympics in London the eight best results for a horse and rider combination at CDI3* or higher are counted for the year to Mar. 1. Nations compete for teams of three combinations through placings at the World Equestrian Games and regional competitions such as the European Championships or Pan American Games.

Central to this year’s qualifying process was a decision by the FEI Dressage Committee in 2010 to allow three judges from host nations outside Europe in qualifying competitions for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010. The rules specify a minimum of three foreign judges.

The Tribunal stated: “…while the document was not formally extended to 2011 and 2012, this Tribunal must accept its applicability to 2011 and 2012” because although it is dated 2010 “it does not state it will expire in 2010,” it was never removed from the FEI web site and has continued to be applied.

The full text–“Memo: Ground Juries at CDIs3* and below outside Europe for 2010:
“For 2010 following dispensation may be granted based on application from the relevant NF:
“For CDI3* and below outside Europe, NOT championships
” – Big tour to be judged by 5 judges as today, but an option to use three judges from host nation, instead of two as it is in the rules.
” – Small tour, incl. YR, J and P can be judged by three judges (at least two foreign).
“Please address your applications to the FEI Dressage Department in connection with submitting your Draft Schedule or earlier.”

The Tribunal stated further that Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States had requested “exceptions” to the three-foreign-judge rule for competitions and the FEI had approved every request.

However, the Tribunal made no distinction between small tour and big tour, though only big tour Grand Prix levels count for Olympic qualifying.

The FEI database shows that 51 CDI3* or higher rated competitions were held outside Europe during the Olympic qualifying period from Mar. 1, 2011 to Mar. 1, 2012, and they were in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

The FEI database of Grand Prix, Olympic/Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle shows:

Australia–Nine events in which seven had three foreign judges at Grand Prix levels, one event with four foreign judges and one with three foreign judges for Grand Prix and the Freestyle and two for the Special.

Brazil–13 events, 10 with three Brazilian and two foreign judges, three with four foreign and one Brazilian judge.

Canada–Four events, one of which had seven judges, including four foreign, two with three foreign judges and a fourth with three foreign judges in the Grand Prix, four in the Special and two in the Freestyle.

Japan–Two events, each with three foreign judges and two Japanese judges.

New Zealand–Two events at which both employed two foreign judges and three New Zealand judges in all Grand Prix classes.

United States–21 events with four employing four foreign judges and 17 with a minimum of three and a maximum of four foreign judges. The FEI database lists a single Grand Prix Special at one event with two foreign and three U.S. judges. The organizer has notified the U.S. Equestrian Federation this was due to an input error by the USEF or the FEI that assigned U.S. nationality to a Canadian judge with an identical family name. The printed day sheets and results identify the judge as Canadian.

The Tribunal also reviewed the question of late submission of schedules of events–16 weeks is required but is frequently shorter.

“As the protested events were on the FEI calendar for a considerable time before the draft schedules were approved, the Tribunal is convinced that there was no unfairness to other riders. This is especially true as there is no evidence that there were any athletes who wanted to attend the events in Brazil but were prevented from doing so because their entries were rejected or they could not arrange to attend on the short timeframe.” Further, (the FEI official) testified that all of the results earned by the FDDE athlete which counted towards her Olympic qualification were similarly earned at events where the schedules were submitted late, eliminates any potential unfairness issues in the Tribunal’s opinion.”

According to the FEI database, competitions identified with (A) signifying an addition were:

Australia – 1
Brazil – 6
Canada – 1
Japan – 1
New Zealand – 0
USA – 3

Seven of the eight best results attained by the Brazilian athlete were at events that were additions to the calendar and seven of the eight events were judged by ground juries with three Brazilian and two foreign judges.

The Dominican Republic athlete’s results with Liebling II were at U.S. events, none of which were identified with (A) for addition.

The competitions in Brazil that were judged by three Brazilians employed the same members including Col. Salim Nigri, the unpaid director of dressage for the Brazilian federation and chef d’equipe for the team at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October, 2011. He was also the chef for Brazil at the 2008 Olympics.

The Tribunal determined that as he was not responsible for selection of riders for teams and sufficient time had elapsed from his tenure as chef d’equipe at the Pan Ams as well as examples of judges working for other national federations he had not breached the “conflict of interest standard.”

Footnote: The FEI Dressage Department reported to the Dressage Committee on Olympic Qualification Process in 2012 according to official minutes, that one of two “problematic issues were new events appearing in the middle of the season, often made to suit the needs of a few riders, with so far no rule to stop this.” The minutes did not identify any events.