26 May 2010

Back To Geneva

Dressage-news.com has reported today's FEI announcement that Sapphire's leg swabs have come back negative. Now there's a surprise. Obviously HRH wasn't expecting to find anything or the swabs would have been ordered to start with, rather than only after being demanded by the victim of her outrageous witch hunt affected rider. Which suggests that perhaps she knew the "anonymous tip" was total bullshit and just wanted to put on a "welfare" and "integrity" show anyway for media whore purposes. Or maybe that unsubstantiated rumor was specific to non-prohibited-substance-induced hypersensitization. Right. We're pretty sure the rumor was not about Sapphire having a bit of pain in the pastern. But of course no one, not even the "officially" non-accused, gets to have that information. Nancy Jaffer has the latest comment from McLain. Blood and urine were already negative as previously reported.

Sorry to beat a dead-but-otherwise-fit-to-compete horse but once the dust settled we still kept coming back to the elephant in the room which few have really explicitly called out. (we can't imagine why.) We heard a lot of criticism about the FEI falling back on "protocol" rather than common sense, vague references to unusual arm twisting sessions meetings and that the rules are wrong, no appeal etc.  But  the hypersensitivity (as opposed to hypersensitization) rule was in fact put in place after Hong Kong and the current version of the testing protocol took effect last summer (the effective date is even listed in the rule book). No one seemed to have any problem with it until political interference caused it to become an issue. So if the rule can prompt that kind of flagrant interference, yes the rule might be a problem in and of itself, but the bigger problem is the interference which can also be applied to other subjective decisions without appeal. Plenty of subjective things are not appealable, that is nothing new. This rule is just especially conducive to abuse based on gossip in an incredibly gullible president's ear so she can help her buddies out and earn points with naive clueless people outside the sport who will applaud her "tough stance."

And in fact they didn't follow the protocol, it's all bullshit. Nowhere in the protocol (p 62) is there any meeting with the FEI president. Nowhere in the protocol is there even any role for the ground jury prior to an independent veterinary finding of a "clear and obvious case" of unfitness to compete. That is a prerequisite of GJ involvement. Repeat after me: "The mare was not so bad that she could not jump." So the ground jury shouldn't have even been looking at the horse prior to such a determination; they're not vets so all they should be doing is blessing a vet decision, period. The vets said in the FEI's own news release she "was fit to compete at that time" and per the protocol, that's the end of the story, folks. The excuse about the GJ not being available to DQ in the first instance came later, sort of like the reasons for the Iraq war once there were no WMDs. That there is no appeal is irrelevant; appeals committees are notorious jokes and can be gotten to just as easily if not more so than the real officials especially since there's normally one top brass buffoon on there. (Athens, anyone?)  The problem here is that the decision wasn't up to the officials; which set of officials doesn't really matter. Maybe Lord Stevens and his merry band of allegedly independent investigators need to get involved in this one but we suspect their remit only covers debacles not orchestrated by the FEI president.

Political interference is nothing new, but HRH has taken it to a whole new level. Like she had no role to play in her husband's doping case last year, so why did she announce that she was "deferring" a role that didn't even exist to begin with? It's called an independent judiciary, and the FEI is supposed to have one:
8.5 The Tribunal Chair shall report to the FEI President and the Bureau . . . These reports shall deal with general Tribunal policies and activities and not any specific case pending before the Tribunal.
So if the tribunal doesn't even report to the president on any specific case regardless of whether or not her husband is involved, what other role could she possibly have had to recuse herself from? And if the president has no role in a judicial case, how can she possibly claim a role in the officiating of an event? She also did not defer her nonexistent role in her husband's situation until almost 3 weeks after the FEI case was later accidentally revealed to have started, so what was she up to in the meantime (other than that botched PR show)? Old news but it's the same core problem! Why does she keep getting away with it?

We'd really, really like to hear Henk Rottinghuis' ideas on political interference in the conduct of major events.

Prior Stories:
McLain Ward Prohibited From Winning World Cup Final
A Miner Matter
Swedish Equestrian Federation Makes It Official
Prior bit of fun

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