Oh my goodness. Where do I begin? The FEI has been dishing out so much blog material lately that I have that feeling like when you order a pizza from your favorite delivery joint, and when you open the box you don’t know which piece to eat first…this slice is bigger but this other one has more pepperoni loaded on it. It’s so hard to choose. Ok, I’ll just close my eyes and grab.
A few weeks ago, on my other blog Straight-Up, I shared with you the news of a protest that the Dominican Equestrian Federation lodged against the fashion in which the Brazilian federation got an individual qualified for London. If you don’t know the background, here is a link to that post. In true bureaucratic fashion, the FEI Tribunal had a hearing to determine if it should have a hearing. It then issued its decision regarding this pre-hearing, in which it was decided to go ahead with a hearing about the protest from the Dominicans. If you don’t mind a little legalese, the decision, which is now in the public domain, is not bad reading. Especially if you enjoy being outraged at the FEI. See, the FEI’s legal department, represented by Lisa Lazarus, tried to get the case thrown out before even being considered by the Tribunal based on a specious argument that the Dominicans had failed to file the complaint to the gr0und jury during the non-abiding CDIs in question. No, the FEI did not even attempt to defend its position based on fair play or adhering to the rules, because those are claims they may have difficulty proving. Instead, they tried to get the thing tossed on a technicality – a ridiculous one, at that. Of course it was impossible for the Dominicans to hand in a complaint to the ground jury during the competition, because they weren’t there. In fact, there were only Brazilians at the baker’s half dozen of CDIs that fell within the Olympic qualification period. The show applications, which are floating around cyberspace for anyone curious enough to want to see them, indicate that the events were ‘open to all NFs’ but let’s just say those were fairly passive invitations. No one got a self-addressed stamped envelope, let’s put it that way. In addition, some of the competitions were rubber stamped by my fine friend Trond in the FEI Dressage Dept in violation of the minimum period that applications must be made before the competitions take place. Also, in Brazil there is a little matter of some onerous quarantine regulations that made it physically impossible for any foreign horses to come and compete when the application for the show was sometimes as little as two weeks before it was actually held. But really, even if they adhered to all those other rules, breaking just one critical rule about the minimum number of foreign judges required on a CDI3* panel AND for an Olympic qualifier is enough to complain about on its own, don’t you think?
I don’t want to level my judgmental little index finger at the Brazilian federation. The mere quantity of shows at which they were given permission to not meet the three foreign judges rule is evidence enough that they were just doing business as usual – as the FEI had conditioned them to do by approving so many shows that had only two foreign judges. But the FEI’s role in all this? Ay, ay, ay. I’m not sure what brings out the Incredible Hulk in me more: the fact that the FEI blatantly allowed these Olympic qualifiers to take place in plain violation of THEIR OWN RULES, or that they tried to find a way out of taking responsibility by having their legal department dig up a technicality on which to have the case dismissed – you know, like a murderer who walks after a mistrial is declared because a juror was sleeping with the judge. He’s still a murderer, he just got away with it. Ok, I exaggerate a little. But you do get my point, I hope.
The ‘for real’ hearing took place last Wednesday, and I have been told the FEI Tribunal will announce its decision by the end of this coming week. But the case is sure not to be closed there. Whichever federation loses – Brazil or Dominican Republic – is almost certainly going to appeal the decision. After all, an individual Olympic berth hangs in the balance and both federations are entirely right to fight hard for their athletes. If the FEI Tribunal fails to satisfy both parties, and it doesn’t look like there is any way around that little snag, the case may well end up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. And that won’t be good for the FEI, no sirree.
Boy, that FEI Legal Dept sure is busy these days. The IDRC ‘situation’ is another thorn that just won’t remove itself from Mission Control’s side. If anything, the IDRC is sharpening its argument in preparation for June’s showdown hearing. Kyra Kyrklund issued an eloquent, to-the-point statement a couple of weeks ago that you can read on Eurodressage if you haven’t already seen it. Among the many points she makes in the IDRC’s defense, one stands out for me above all others. In its own press release, the FEI publicly accused the IDRC of changing its statutes at its General Assembly in October in order to remove the two members whose national federations had nominated them for the rider rep position on the FEI Dressage Committee (the two members only joined the IDRC when it was pointed out that membership in the IDRC was mandatory for the rider rep position). Kyra lays out in no uncertain terms that the IDRC did not change or make new statutes, but applied a statute that has been in place since the IDRC formed 25 or so years ago, and that has been in place with the full approval of the FEI.
As you may have read in my post a few weeks ago, I expressed some doubt about another of the FEI’s claims: that at the FEI GA there was a call from the majority of its member federations to send the IDRC packing. I’m not going to prov0ke further FEI wrath by saying I still doubt the truth of that claim, but I will venture out onto a limb with a simple bit of logic: if the FEI has falsely accused the IDRC of making up new statutes at will, then it’s capable of speaking untruths (or mistruths or whatever euphemism you want to substitute) about other things too.
Today I received an email from the IDRC announcing an Extraordinary General Assembly (their first ever) in the UK on Friday the 13th of April. Superstitious people need not attend. The Extra Assembly is mainly to bring in some new statutes to allow an appeal process for those whose memberships have been revoked, but today’s announcement also included a fine little kernel of news that the IDRC has decided to invite Para Dressage riders to join. The strategist in me sees the move as a clever way to gain some new leverage in the FEI battle, but the Para advocate in me sees a real opportunity for that group to have more of a voice among their fellow athletes. I personally would encourage all my Para friends in Canada and the US to consider joining. After all, the IDRC exists for the purpose of representing the athletes’ interests beyond what is done for them by national federations, or by the FEI itself. Nothing more, nothing less.
I’ve been rather wordy today, but if you are still looking for more non-required reading on the IDRC’s plight, a certain six time Olympian and Global Dressage Festival crusader has written extensively on the topic – and I happen to agree with him. Here, I’ll give you the link to where you can find it on Eurodressage, to save you from having to wade through Dover’s World’s morass of horse ads and rants against the GDF’s detractors, all accompanied by a soundtrack from Dover’s World radio show, which in my browser plays two segments on top of each other for a truly special listening experience.
And if you STILL crave more on the FEI vs. IDRC dispute (tempted as I am, I don’t dare use a David and Goliath reference unless David wins), you can listen to interviews Chris Stafford conducted with Lisa Lazarus and Wayne Channon on her dressage radio show. Mind you, it’s not exactly a dialogue between Wayne and Lisa. They were interviewed separately – something about the FEI legal department having to approve everything Lisa said so she couldn’t have a ‘conversation’ interview.
Oh and one more thing for this week. I understand there was some curmudgeonly behavior exhibited by the judges at last week’s Dressage Under the Stars grand finale. I’m not going to defend the judges – they are adults and they made their own choices, unfortunate as they might have been. I wasn’t even there. But a couple of my freestyle clients put a whole hell of a lot of work into their two performances over the past few weeks, and in an effort to honor their efforts I would like to share with you the video of their ride last week. Hurray for Steve Williams, who worked like a dog to keep the series afloat, and hip-hip hurray to every single rider, owner, groom and of course horse who turned up to take part.