Ukraine Demands Apology from FEI Over “Disgraceful” Decisions Against Ukrainian Judges

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Inna Logutenkova of Ukraine. File photo © Ken Braddick/
Inna Logutenkova of Ukraine. File photo © Ken Braddick/

Mar. 24, 2016

The Ukrainian Equestrian Federation has demanded the FEI, the International Equestrian Federation, apologize for alleging “nationalist judging” by two Ukraine members of a Grand Prix Special ground jury in Lier, Belgium and removing the results from Olympic rankings without conducting a hearing with the two judges.

The letter signed by Viktoriya Povzlo of the Ukrainian federation and made available Thursday to media outlets, threatened legal action if the FEI does not revoke the “disgraceful decision and publicly apologize” by Wednesday, Mar. 30.

The letter was addressed to Ingmar De Vos, president, and Sabrina Ibáñez, secretary general, of the FEI based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Controversy has surrounded the Olympic dressage qualifying procedures with the four best scores counting–half the number of the 2012 London Games requirement–that led to a last-minute scramble for results. The Lier event on Mar. 2 was one of several scheduled in the last two weeks of year-long qualifying that ended Mar. 6.

The FEI announced on Tuesday, Mar. 22 that “following a thorough investigation” the FEI “has found evidence of  nationalistic judging in favor of a Ukrainian athlete, Inna Logutenkova, by two Ukrainian judges in the Grand Prix Special test on 2 March 2016.” As a result, it said, the results in which Inna rode a horse named Fleraro into sixth place would not count toward Olympic and world rankings. The Special was won by Great Britain’s Spencer Wilton on Super Nova.

“This was a clear example of nationalistic judging and the FEI takes this very seriously,” the FEI’s Sabrina Ibáñez said in a statement at the time. “The FEI has a duty to take the appropriate measures if it is shown that nationalistic judging has occurred. Judging at all FEI events must be absolutely fair and the integrity of the competitions and of the judges themselves must be beyond reproach.”

Inna qualified Don Gregorius, her main Grand Prix mount, to earn an individual Olympic start for Ukraine in Rio in August. The results for Fleraro had no impact on Ukraine’s qualification.

The letter from Ukraine said the federation was “stunned” by the FEI statement.

“As you may appreciate, we deeply regret that the Secretary General in her communication regarding to the matter acted in the manner that is not compatible with the Moral Code of the FEI, the Code of Ethics, the Olympic Charter and violates the basic human rights as fair trial etc. Publishing a letter pursuant to which two judges are being said to be accountable for ‘nationalistic judging’ without i.) having heard both individuals; ii.) without formalizing charges against them and iii.) more importantly without proving their guilt, is a misstep of the Secretary General that will have serious consequences not only to Ukraine, Mrs Logutenkova, both judges, CDI in Lier but also to all stakeholders in the dressage sport.

“The FEI is obviously the legislator, the executor and the judge when it comes to its own regulations. This is clearly against the separation of powers rule. Until the letter of the Secretary General, the FEI tended to apply checks and balances to its internal process to ensure the correct decision making. The letter of the Secretary General has now proven that her decision was taken unilaterally and randomly. From now it is apparently sufficient that an FEI official has a suspicion of ‘something being not in accordance with the FEI rules’ to impose sanctions on competitors, judges, horses, and events” whatever the truth may be.”

The letter noted that in the last three weeks of qualifying for individual Olympic ranking, about 10 riders significantly improved their personal best scores, frequently by more than by five per cent. Events named were Dortmund, Germany; Odense, Denmark; Wellington, Florida “and Moscow.

“The FEI did not address those events even though the results of the judging were similar,” the letter said.

“Instead, the FEI chooses to select the event in Lier. Investigating only Lier and the Ukrainian judges is a discriminatory measure given the aforementioned circumstances, no comments in the end were made on the events held by economic and regional superpowers like Germany, the USA, Denmark, and Russia. This selective approach picking a country that is internationally involved in a war with a superpower is clearly discriminatory. This damages the credibility and both of the reputation of the FEI and the reputation of i.) Ukraine in the world, ii.) the National Federation, iii.) the Ukrainian judges and iv.) riders like Mrs. Logutenkova.

“We highly demand FEI to revoke this disgraceful decision and publicly apologize to Ukrainians for this discrimination ultimately on Wednesday 30 March 2016, 12:30 CET. Shall such not happen than legal steps shall be taken.”