Dressage rider Yvonne Losos de Muñiz, who rides for the Dominican Republic and won individual bronze at the 2007 Pan American Games (Brazil), announced she’s quitting dressage following a ruling from the Court Of Arbitration For Sport on her 2012 London Olympic Games bid.
The Dominican Republic Equestrian Federation filed a protest with the FEI Tribunal in March, seeking to invalidate the results of two CDI competitions that took place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb. 10-12 and Feb. 24-26, because they used three national judges on the five-judge panel. Fédération Equestre Internationale rules state that a minimum of three foreign judges must be used in Olympic Games qualifiers, and the FEI Dressage Committee hadn’t discussed or approved the exemption of a third foreign judge when the competitions took place. FEI rules also specify deadlines for CDI approval, and the schedules for the February CDIs in Brazil were submitted and approved after the deadline had passed.
Losos de Muñiz’ original appeal was rejected by the FEI Tribunal in May. The Tribunal said the FEI Dressage Committee had granted an exception in 2010 for all CDI***s and below outside of Europe to have two foreign judges, and the exception remained valid during the 2012 Olympic qualification period. The claim that a Brazilian judge had a conflict of interest was also rejected by the Tribunal, and the Tribunal ruled that late submitted schedules for CDIs—a reportedly common issue—shouldn’t lead to annulled results.
The Dominican Republic Equestrian Federation and Losos de Muñiz appealed the FEI Tribunal’s decision to the CAS in Lausanne, Switzerland, in May but lost their protest in July, and Losos de Muñiz didn’t get to compete in the Olympic Games. Brazil’s Luiza Tavares de Almeida was sent as the sole representative from Central and Latin America.
On Oct. 22, the CAS released their decision online (see bottom of page for full document), supporting the FEI’s decision to dismiss Losos de Muñiz’ original protest. But the CAS was critical of the FEI’s lack of clarification about the three-international-judge rule exception.
“Throughout 2010, feedback about the exception was positive, and so the FEI Dressage Department simply continued to apply it, though there is no evidence that the FEI Dressage Department ever decided to extend or renew it,” read the CAS decision.
The CAS rebuked the FEI, and in particular the FEI Dressage Department, for continuing to apply the Exception Memo rather than creating a new exception to the three-foreign judge rule under the Dressage Olympic Ranking List when that List came into existence.
“This practice of the FEI Dressage Department cannot be construed as a decision of the FEI Dressage Committee to create an exception to the three-foreign-judge rule under the Dressage Olympic Ranking List. Rather, it appears that no one on the FEI Dressage Committee (or in the FEI Dressage Department, for that matter) ever considered the issue,” read the decision. “The Panel considers the FEI’s oversight in this regard more than a little unfortunate, as it lies at the heart of this dispute—a dispute that has caused unnecessary upset and uncertainty for Mrs. Losos de Muñiz and Ms. Tavares de Almeida, as well as their national federations. It does not, however, provide a basis for deciding not to include the results of the Competitions in the Olympic rankings.”
After the CAS ruling came out, Losos de Muñiz announced she was quitting dressage in a statement published on Eurodressage.com on Oct. 24.
“My decision is not a result of losing the appeal, but rather a direct and unfortunate consequence of the manner in which I was treated by the FEI, specifically by its Dressage and Legal departments, during my protest and appeal. I feel at least vindicated that the CAS panel finds in its just-published decision that the FEI and its Dressage Department are ultimately to blame for this fiasco,” read the statement.
Losos de Muñiz said it would be difficult for her to continue competing in dressage due to “the unjustified, unfair and biased approach that the FEI Legal Department, headed by its Legal Counsel Lisa Lazarus—who worked in very close coordination with the other respondent, Brazil—used to confront our protest and latter appeal before both the FEI Tribunal and CAS.
“The FEI legal team went to unacceptable extremes during the entire process by questioning the motives for my protest and appeal, diminishing my professional capabilities and dismissing my personal accomplishments in an all-out attempt to ensure that we lost the case,” continued Losos de Muñiz.
In addition, she pointed out that her future in the sport looked dim considering the witnesses against her included the entire FEI Dressage Committee, the FEI Director of Dressage Trond Asmyr, the Chair of the FEI Dressage Committee Frank Kempermann, as well as more than 10 international judges.
“My sincere hope is that at least out of my decision to follow through with the process and willingness to go public on this issue, any rider who in the future believes that he or she has to file an appeal or protest against the FEI does not receive the appalling mistreatment I received from the FEI Legal and Dressage department,” said Losos de Muñiz. “Many things need to change in the FEI and its approach to development and universality if there is a hope for dressage to be a sport for all nations, regardless of their size and resources.”
In response, the FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos issued the following statement:
“The FEI has the responsibility to enforce and, in this case, to defend the implementation of its rules. This is particularly important given the fact that under these rules athletes are competing for Olympic qualification, and it is the duty of the FEI to ensure athletes have equal opportunities to qualify for the entire duration of the qualification period. I have full confidence that the FEI team, and Ms. Lisa Lazarus in particular, have defended this case, as always, in a professional manner with the utmost respect for the rights of all parties involved. It is regrettable to see that Yvonne Losos de Muñiz has now made the decision to leave the sport.”