Following the recent scandal concerning the award-winning STS Safety Irons and the conduct of the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit, there is an urgent need for the FEI General Assembly to introduce a tender process for a new and independent integrity unit.
The STS irons has received immense support from, equestrian athletes, experts, participants and media, and criticism against the FEI-appointed ECIU is growing in the lead up to the 2018 FEI General Assembly.
Brought into effect by the former FEI President Princess Haya, Quest Ltd was contracted to prevent a repeat of the 2008 FEI Dressage Committee scandal, whereby members abused their position and power, without accountability, giving rise to serious concerns of misconduct.
Prior to the 2009 FEI General Assembly, ECIU 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 is as much about protecting the innocent, as it is about trying to prevent and identify irregular practices.” Speaking before the 2017 FEI General Assembly, Chairman Lord Stevens highlighted the increasing number of reports of misconduct.
“[The] ECIU continued to do many investigations and, in the past year, the ECIU undertook a number of investigations that came to the ECIU’s attention from various sources, such as grooms, riders, horse enthusiasts and the media.
“Some examples of the concerns were allegations of bribery, bullying, and manipulations of results. There had been an increase of the number of reporting. 152 reports were made to the ECIU last year, compared to 136 in 2016.”
However, it appears there are still many transparency and integrity issues within the FEI in 2018.
Of grave concern is the implication of the FEI and its appointed integrity unit in two matters related to equipment testing, which have been grievously prolonged by both parties with minimal regard for horse welfare and rider safety in FEI-level competition.
Referring to the second of two cases still awaiting resolution, Mr. Reynolds says: “I lodged a complaint in July 2018 with Mr. Andrew Smith of the ECIU seeking their assistance in attaining the FEI Equipment Working Group STS irons 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 refusal to supply the testing reports that could resolve this case. We asked Mr. Smith who at the FEI made this statement, however, he never replied.
“We informed Mr. Smith of a similar matter of the WTP NP Bit testing reports, whereby the FEI stated on their website ‘on the basis of good governance we will ask the ECIU to investigate this matter’.” However, it is clear this has not occurred, and both matters remain unresolved.
“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. Despite this, the ECIU have ignored five of our emails to investigate this serious case.
“Further, we asked Mr. Smith if he was interested in receiving information on other cases facing similar integrity issues, however, we did not receive a reply. As a result, we informed Mr. Smith we are unable to move forward until we receive the correct testing reports.
“Only then, will we be able to determine the reason and avenue of appeal or if an appeal is even necessary. Further evidence collected by the ECIU shall be admissible in any proceeding before any FEI body, including the Ground Jury, the Appeal Committee, and the FEI Tribunal or the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and therefore, the reason we require this evidence.
“The FEI continues to ignore our requests, confirming there are rife transparency and integrity issues. Therefore, to uphold and honour the new FEI equipment rule and process we ask the 2018 FEI General Assembly to compel the ECIU to provide the Equestrian Group testing reports completed and signed prior to the 13 June 2018 and the names and email addresses of the testing riders. We also request this information, so we can conduct our own investigation.
“In addition, to justify the ECIU contract is warranted and effective; we ask the 2018 FEI General Assembly to compel Mr. Smith of the ECIU to provide his investigation report, including all email correspondence between the FEI and the ECIU in regard to this case, including the meeting minutes of the eventing committee 23-24 March 2018 and the testing reports conducted over the past seven years to identify other similar cases. We also request this information, so we can conduct our own investigation.
“As we cannot understand the reluctance of the FEI and ECIU to release the testing reports and information, we felt we had little choice but to contact members of the media for opinion. They view this as a significant breach of trust and disregard for safety, and are following this case with interest.”
“Quest Limited have had the contract for eight years and during that period may have formed friendships that could be affecting them to be impartial and perform their duties.”
“They may not want to investigate and upset the FEI President in fear of losing their contract.”
“Just another conspiracy and cover up.”
“Based on the information, they have not acted as an independent integrity unit and should be replaced.”
“If a horse is drug tested by the FEI laboratory and claims it was positive but then refuses to supply the test results and refuses to supply them to the ECIU if the rider complains, this is absurd and so is, the FEI not supplying the STS irons rider testing equipment reports.”
“Further, they find the conduct of the FEI and their continuous delays reprehensible that riders’ lives are being put at risk in the absence of equipment that has been shown to improve rider safety. They too demand the testing reports are released without further delay.”
For the FEI to regain the trust and confidence of the equestrian world and the National Federations, the 2018 FEI General Assembly and stakeholders need to make urgent changes to ensure transparency and integrity are honoured by all members of the FEI. Further they should be compelled to answer all emails in a timely fashion to honour the FEI code of ethics.