Int’l Dressage Riders Club Seeking Investigation of FEI Actions in Dominican Republic Rider Case
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The International Dressage Riders Club is seeking an independent investigation of the International Equestrian Federation’s handling of the legal appeals by Dominican Republic rider Yvonne Loso de Muñiz over Olympic selection procedures in Latin America.
The call for the investigation was sparked by reports about the FEI tactics that some riders have labeled “intimidation,” though the riders’ club is not taking sides but seeking to determine whether Yvonne and the Dominican federation were “treated with the respect” due all athletes.
The move by the IDRC is the latest step in the dispute that began when the FEI authorized CDi3* Olympic qualifying competitions in Brazil with three home nation judges on the panels of five instead of two as as is the rule. The FEI extended a memorandum issued for the 2010 World Equestrian Games aimed at increasing participation but not authorized beyond then. The so-called “exception” was adopted for the majority of CDI3* Grand Prix competitions in Brazil and a handful in other nations outside Europe.
Luíza Tavares de Almeida of Brazil was at the top of the Olympic rankings for the sole place allocated to an individual in South America and thus competed in London on Pastor.
The Dominican Republic’s Losos de Muñiz campaigned in the United States in which all ground juries included three foreign judges and was ranked second.
She and her national federation appealed to the FEI Tribunal which rejected it and then took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, which was their last resort.
CAS found that the FEI erred in applying the 2010 memorandum but upheld the decision confirming Brazil as the top ranked nation on the grounds that Luíza had competed with the expectation the results were valid.
The IDRC is appealing to an Integrity Unit that was set up within the FEI as an independent body “to maintain the status of a corruption free environment in the FEI and its sports.”
The unit was a key recommendation of a commission led by Lord John Stevens, former head of Scotland Yard, that in 2009 issued a report to combat doping within equestrian sport and to ensure the integrity of its governing body, the FEI.
The FEI has dismissed complaints over its handling of the case and expressed “full confidence” in its legal team headed up by Lisa Lazarus.
“As you know,” an FEI spokesperson said in response questions from dressage-news.com, “the FEI Tribunal issued its decision in this case, which the athlete then appealed to the CAS, the highest dispute resolution body in sport.
“The CAS has rendered its decision, and the decision is non-appealable. In our opinion, the case is closed.”
However, one of the first actions of the FEI Dressage Committee following the Olympics in London was to formally terminate effective Jan. 1, 2013 the memorandum which allowed the Brazil competitions with only two foreign judges.
There is, apparently, no transcript of the CAS proceedings.
An FEI request to CAS to order the Dominican Republic and Yvonne to pay 140,000 Swiss francs (US148,000/€116,00) toward the FEI legal costs was rejected and each party ordered to pay their own expenses.
As it is, Yvonne said, she has sold all her competition horses to pay her own legal bills.
However, among aspects of FEI presentation causing concern were reported concerted attempts to portray Yvonne as resident of the United States–the only quaifying CDI events available in all of the Americas were Brazil, Canada and the U.S. Further, dozens of riders in all three Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping are residents of other countries and live and train in Europe and North America.
Concerns have also been voiced over the use of several judges as witnesses against Yvonne, including at least one who was on the seven-member ground jury.
“It is bewildering and unacceptable that judges were also not protected but instead drawn haphazardly into this process, considering my position as a rider and how I was depicted by Ms. Lazarus and her associates before them,” Yvonne said. “It is also incomprehensible that the FEI Legal Department specifically chose to involve judges who would be a part of the 2012 Olympic panel in view of my possible participation in that event if I won the appeal. In an unprecedented move, nearly the entire dressage section of the FEI was called to testify against our side in this case.
“As an athlete, I had absolutely no protection, support or consideration from the FEI at any point of this process, and certainly even less from now on.
“My position was attacked with a ferocity and recklessness that was in my opinion simply disproportionate and appalling by its clear bias and unprofessionalism. Instead of looking to see what could be done in order to ensure a fair solution, the only response from FEI since the onset of the case was to delay, deter, threaten and bully in order to make sure they prevailed. Instead of looking for ways in which both the Brazilian rider and I could participate in the 2012 Olympics, as was done already at the 2004 Olympics in a similar case, the FEI turned the case around as a trial against me, apparently for the audacity to challenge the status quo.”
Yvonne has said she has given up her international show career but she is training dressage riders in South America.