We refer to the case and the ongoing correspondence with the FEI in relation to the testing reports and the approval of the international award-winning STS ‘Space Technology Safety’ stirrup irons for use by FEI competitors.
The FEI introduced a new equipment testing rule and process in 2018 to prevent conflicts of interest and corruption claims. However, these rules and processes are being ignored, which has outraged riders who say their lives are being put at risk.
In relation to the equipment testing application, I lodged an individual application as per the FEI website, which states an application may be lodged by “any person”. My association with the manufacturers of STS Irons is a professional business relationship. The STS Irons Company had no objection to me lodging an individual application because of my knowledge of the industry and stirrup irons.
In relation to the Dressage discipline, the approval process and outcome is based and decided on by the Equipment Working Group testing reports, which must be signed and dated as per the application.
I was informed we would be advised of the outcome of the approval of the testing by 30 June 2018 and provided with a copy of the testing reports completed by the Equipment Working Group riders, in accordance with the FEI approval process, which took effect in 2018. The new 2018 Equipment Working Group process was put in place to prevent conflicts of interest, unethical conduct and corruption claims.
Please find the enclosed email confirmation from Ms. Chloe Harty of the FEI Dressage Department:
From: Chloe Harty [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, 15 November 2017 1:36 AM
To: [email protected]
Subject: RE: Dressage department re Gear approval information
Dear Mr Reynolds,
The FEI has introduced a process for the approval of Dressage equipment that will take effect in 2018.
Please find here the Dressage Equipment Approval Process and Form which you will need to submit to the FEI no later than March 2018. You will be informed if your equipment has been approved or not by June 30 2018 and you will be provided with a copy of the report as completed by the Equipment Working Group (see page 4 of the Application Form).
Based on correspondence, they were completed and signed prior to 13 June 2018. However, we have never received them.
The FEI has various approval departments, which all seem to operate differently. The FEI Jumping Committee and Deborah Riplinger have been outstanding to deal with, answering any questions in a prompt and professional manner. The FEI Jumping Committee have approved the STS Safety Irons on their safety benefits and merits. However, we are still waiting on answers and testing reports in relation to the FEI Dressage Department. Further, we are having difficulty receiving answers from the FEI Eventing Department.
The FEI Australian National Federation tested the STS Safety Irons and approved them for Dressage, Show Jumping and Eventing, and agreed they should be approved for all FEI competitions. Further, the STS Safety Irons are the only stirrup irons in the world to win the Australian international design award for safety.
Professional Award Judges commented: “This is a great idea with the potential to significantly improve health and safety in the professional horse riding industry. The safety irons are well made and finished, and the safety feature is a true innovation that will help save the lives of riders and horses.”
Although the following article was published on the FEI website and FEI rules app on 13 June 2018, we were not notified by Ms. Harty of the FEI Dressage Department. On 27 June 2018, we received comments from a very upset and concerned Eventing rider who uses the STS Safety Irons.
According to the article released by the FEI: “Toe stopper must be made of collapsible material (plastic, rubber). Any device which could restrict the smooth separation of the athlete’s boot from the stirrup in case of a fall is forbidden.”
We requested the final testing reports on the STS Safety Irons completed by the Equipment Working Group prior to 13 June 2018 to enable us to understand why they have not been approved for Dressage and Eventing, and to answer questions in relation to the non-approval. We have not received answers to date, nor have we received the reports as promised. The FEI Dressage Department has failed to abide by the statutes, rules, processes and code of ethics of the FEI.
In response to the above FEI objection, I supplied an attached document and photo illustrations showing a rider’s foot slipping forward in traditional FEI approved stirrup irons. This and the supporting video clearly prove the objection is deeply flawed and the FEI could not fault my explanation. Until we receive the testing reports completed prior to 13 June 2018, we will not know if, in fact, there was any objection to the STS Safety Irons.
This video supports the flawed document.
It is well documented riders can be dragged, and seriously injured or killed in traditional FEI approved stirrup irons, which occurs every day around the world in all equestrian disciplines. We refer to the James Mackie case and corresponding article where the young rider was killed. Riders are understandably concerned for their safety. The attached article of two young Eventing riders killed also substantiates their concerns. The STS Safety Irons can prevent serious injuries and deaths.
Riders who have been hooked up and dragged in traditional FEI approved stirrup irons have contacted the FEI and their requests for answers have been ignored. They find the FEI’s misconduct and delays reprehensible that riders’ lives are being put at risk.
In the United States alone, studies show over a period of 11 years, there is on average 100,000 hospital visits each year and an estimated 92,765 emergency room visits for injuries related to horseback riding, resulting in 205 horseback riding deaths during this period.
While we were advised and understand we are able to appeal the decision, we have not received the testing reports completed prior to 13 June 2018 and we have not received answers to our questions, thus I am unable to lodge an objection, which makes the appeal process flawed and farcical.
If the FEI Dressage Department provided the testing reports and the FEI Eventing Department were transparent like the FEI Jumping Committee, this would prevent unnecessary appeals, which are time-consuming, require a lot of resources, and are expensive for the FEI and its stakeholders. Further, if the objections are found to be false, flawed and wrong, which has been proven in this case, the objection should be withdrawn, and the equipment approved.
The STS Safety Irons can prevent serious injuries and deaths. Consider if a rider was refused to use the STS Safety Irons and was seriously injured or killed, and it was later found out the Equipment Working Group riders did approve the STS Safety Irons. What is the outcome of such a situation? The rider in this video was using traditional FEI approved stirrup irons when she was hooked up and dragged.
We have made seven email requests to the FEI President Mr. Ingmar De Vos since July 2018 for the Equipment Working Group riders testing reports completed and signed prior to 13 June 2018. However, we have never received them, which breaches the FEI equipment testing rule and process, and the FEI Code of Ethics. This is a serious safety issue and the equestrian world expects the FEI President Mr. De Vos to be transparent.
Equestrian Community Integrity Unit:
We understand the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU) was brought into effect by President Princess Haya. We refer to the case in 2008 when President Princess Haya presided over misconduct and integrity issues that were raised against members of the FEI Dressage Committee. This resulted in the entire FEI Dressage Committee being forced to resign.
The company Quest Ltd was contracted to prevent a repeat of the 2008 FEI Dressage Committee scandal, whereby previously, FEI members were left to their own devices, allowing them to abuse their position and power without accountability.
The day before the 2009 General Assembly, Commission Chairman Lord Stevens stated: “Integrity is non-negotiable. The sport will only move forward if we show to the world that the equestrian community is fully committed to clean and fair sport at all levels. Integrity is about fair play right across the sport. It as much about protecting the innocent as it is about trying to prevent and identify irregular practices.”
We lodged a complaint in July 2018 with Mr. Andrew Smith of the ECIU, seeking his assistance in our request to the FEI to provide the Equipment Working Group testing reports completed and signed prior to 13 June 2018. Mr. Smith informed us the FEI stated these issues are dealt with by the FEI, which is farcical, considering the FEI’s blatant refusal to supply the reports that would resolve this case. The ECIU has to inform the president of a complaint, however, they do not need permission from the FEI to investigate a complaint as they have the power over all members, including the president of the FEI.
We informed Mr. Smith of a similar matter of the WTP Bit testing reports, which is ongoing. As per on the FEI website which states: “On the basis of good governance, we will ask the ECIU to investigate the WTP Bit matter.” Therefore, the FEI and the General Assembly would expect the ECIU to fully investigate this matter to uphold and honour the new equipment testing rule and process, and the integrity of the FEI. Mr. Smith did not reply, taking the stance to ignore us.
We understand the ECIU is an independent body with a mechanism to protect integrity principles within the equestrian community, prevent corruption risks and enforce complete transparency. However, the ECIU have ignored five of our emails. We asked Mr. Smith if he was interested in receiving information of other cases facing the same integrity issues. To this, we have not received a reply.
We informed Mr. Smith we are unable to move forward until we receive the testing reports to enable us to determine the reason and avenue of appeal. Furthermore, it was essential the ECIU investigated this case as evidence collected by the ECIU shall be admissible in any proceeding before any FEI body, including the Ground Jury, the Appeal Committee, the FEI Tribunal or Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The FEI continues to ignore our requests, confirming there are integrity issues within, despite the formation of the ECIU, making this a prime case for international scrutiny and investigation. As a matter of transparency, and to justify the ECIU contract is warranted and effective, we require the reports from Mr. Smith and his investigation report, including all email correspondence between the FEI and the ECIU regarding this case.
We informed Mr. Smith the ECIU is essential in monitoring and investigating corruption, identifying offenders and conflicts of interest. We asked Mr. Smith: Did you read the reports? Did you contact the Equipment Working Group who tested the STS Safety Irons to seek the truth? If Ms. Harty has no conflicts of interest, what is the reason she has not provided the completed reports to us? To this, we never received a reply.
To enable us and the ECIU to investigate this case, the FEI should provide the last seven years of Dressage equipment reports to determine if there have been similar cases. We believe the new equipment testing rule and process was implemented and included under the FEI constitution at the 2017 General Assembly. Despite this, we have still not received replies to five of our emails or the above questions.
As we cannot understand the FEI’s and the ECIU’s reluctance to provide the reports which would resolve this case, we felt we had little choice but to contact members of the media for their opinions. They view this as a serious safety and integrity matter. They are following this case with interest and look forward to viewing the rider reports.
The FEI Legal Department is in place to ensure officials and members act responsibly, ethically and with integrity. On 25 July 2018, we received a document from Ms. Harty of the FEI Dressage Department and Ms. Aine Power of the FEI Legal Department, claiming it was the testing report. However, it was not the signed Equipment Working Group testing rider reports completed prior to 13 June 2018 and further, it was deeply flawed. Please note, the document received was signed by Mr. Frank Kemperman and back-dated to 26 June 2018, which we allege is an attempt to deceive and mislead the equestrian world and the National Federations.
The new equipment testing rule and process was introduced to prevent members making false claims in an attempt to cover up scandals. Please note, we contacted Ms. Harty on 27 June 2018, and several times between 27 June 2018 and 25 July 2018 requesting the testing reports completed prior to 13 June 2018 which she had in her possession. Further, as promised under the new FEI rule and process, which states the FEI would provide them by 30 June 2018. Further, as a matter of transparency we have asked several times for the names of the Equipment Working Group testing riders, which have also been ignored without reason.
The FEI President and the FEI Legal Department’s conduct has been appalling and deceptive. Together, they have claimed the FEI did not say they would provide the signed testing reports, which is fanciful, considering Ms. Harty’s email correspondence regarding the new equipment testing rule and process. When that did not work, they claimed there are no testing reports in existence, which is farcical as email correspondence clearly states the testing was conducted and completed before 13 June 2018.
The FEI statement and report was published on the FEI website and FEI rules app on 13 June 2018. The final decision was based on the Equipment Working Group testing reports, which we have never received. Then, on 28 August 2018, the FEI claimed the time to lodge an appeal had expired, which again is farcical, as we had asked seven times for the testing reports, so we could decide our reasons for an appeal, or if an appeal was even necessary.
As mentioned on the FEI website regarding the ongoing WTP Bit case and their requests for their testing reports, the FEI stated they have been corresponding with the WTP Bit Company for 18 months, which proves there is no limitation period, until the FEI provide the requested reports and answer all questions.
FEI Eventing Department:
Ms. Sandra Lecoultre of the FEI Eventing Department stated the cross-country non-approval decision was made at the FEI Eventing Committee meeting on 23 and 24 March 2018. We asked Ms. Lecoultre to provide the minutes of the meeting, so we could determine if the STS Safety Irons were discussed. We have not received these minutes. As a matter of good governance and transparency, we seek the support of the General assembly in asking for these meeting minutes.
We have asked Ms. Lecoultre if FEI Eventing Committee members were provided with the documents emailed to her on 24 November 2017, which included the application and supporting testimonials. However, we have not received an answer to this question. We have asked for email addresses of the Tribunal and Appeals Committee members and the FEI Dressage and Eventing Committee members, so we could check the facts with them. However, we have never received them.
We asked if any members were refusing to supply their email addresses. They did not say they were, but the FEI have still not supplied them to us. Further, we asked Ms. Lecoultre to explain why I was not informed of the decision prior to the release on 13 June 2018, which would have given me an opportunity to present the information, clearly making the non-approval decision flawed. We have not received an answer.
Appeal and Tribunal Committees:
We are calling on the FEI Appeal and Tribunal committee members to raise and investigate this case at the FEI 2018 General Assembly in November as it represents a serious safety issue and a matter of great concern to the international equestrian community.
As a matter of transparency, we kindly request the FEI Appeal and Tribunal Committee members to question the FEI President Mr. De Vos, Ms. Aine Power and Mr. Mikael Rentsch of the FEI Legal Department, Ms. Harty of the FEI Dressage Department and Ms. Lecoultre of the FEI Eventing Department and the riders who tested the equipment. Further, if there is no corruption or cover up, these members should provide to the General Assembly the Equipment Working Group testing reports regarding the STS Irons completed, signed and dated prior to 13 June 2018.
We kindly request the FEI Appeal and Tribunal Committee members to ask Ms. Lecoultre to provide the FEI Eventing Committee minutes of the meeting conducted on 23 and 24 March 2018 and confirm if committee members received the equipment application and supporting testimonials prior to the meeting and if they decided not to approve the STS irons and the reason.
We kindly request the FEI Appeal and Tribunal Committee members to raise the following questions with Mr. Smith of the ECIU:
Did he read the Equipment Working Group testing reports completed, signed and dated prior to 13 June 2018 and did the reports say the STS Irons were approved?
Did he contact and question the Equipment Working Group riders who tested the irons and what are their names and email addresses?
If Ms. Harty has no conflicts of interest what is the reason she has not provided the testing reports to you?
Did you request the Eventing Committee minutes of the meeting of 23 and 24 March 2018 to check if the STS Irons were not approved at that meeting?
Did you investigate and request the last seven years of Dressage equipment testing reports to determine if there have been similar cases?
Please ask Mr. Smith to provide all email correspondence between the FEI and the ECIU regarding this case, and his investigation report.
We have found the misconduct of the mentioned FEI members of the gravest concern. In this case, they have shown a total disregard for rider safety and we are aware of other similar cases, which raise similar concerns. Their blatant refusal to be transparent not only impacts equipment testing, but also National Federations when applying to the FEI for rule and other changes.
Riders are outraged that FEI corruption may be preventing them from using a proven and award-winning safety stirrup iron in Dressage and Eventing competition that can save them from serious injury or death.
The STS irons have been approved for FEI Jumping competitions, however, the FEI are forcing riders to use traditional irons in Dressage and Eventing competitions, whereby it is well documented, riders can be hooked up and dragged in them. Riders state it is like having to play Russian roulette with their lives, comparing it to driving a car and not knowing if the brakes are going to work.
We are calling on the FEI General Assembly to have an open discussion regarding these scandals, and the need to review the rules and processes, the appeals procedures and processes, and the ECIU contract.
The equestrian world is expecting transparency from the FEI General Assembly and, therefore, we would appreciate receiving the Equipment Working Group testing reports completed, signed and dated prior to 13 June 2018 and answers regarding the FEI Eventing Department.
These scandals will continue to create adverse publicity for the FEI unless changes are made and adhered to.
Contact Steve Reynolds
Email: [email protected]