Fédération Equestre Internationale Secretary General Ingmar De Vos has dismissed remarks by Belgian national coach Pierre Arnould that endurance riding could become a banned sport if the FEI cannot end the escalating crisis about doping and horse welfare issues in the Middle East.
Arnould made the comments in leading British newspaper The Daily Telegraph yesterday. He felt the FEI was not coping with the escalating public relations crisis, with the global press "going wild" about equine fractures, doping and conflicts of interest within the sport. He mentioned measures the endurance committee had discussed in June, which included extending sanctions for doping to owners and federations and overseeing officials at competitions, claiming that money sometimes changed hands.
In a statement in response to Arnould's comments, De Vos said that Arnould, as a member of the FEI endurance committee, had made these “unsubstantiated allegations” without consultation.
“As an individual Pierre Arnould can speak his mind, but he cannot speak on behalf of an FEI committee without consulting its chair and his fellow members,” stated de Vos. “This is not just a legal issue. His actions show a total lack of respect. Mr. Arnould is in clear breach of this signed agreement and his behavior is totally unacceptable.
“I am currently looking into whether any further action needs to be undertaken,” de Vos added. “I state categorically that the FEI is working to address the issues in endurance and has been for some time. In preparation for next month’s General Assembly, the FEI President [Princess Haya] has sent a statement on endurance to all member national federations today.”
Since the spring, there has been worldwide media coverage of doping in Middle Eastern endurance, spreading beyond equestrianism. Recent newspapers who have weighed in include The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde in France and Le Matin in Switzerland.
Endurance fell under the spotlight again last month with revelations that illegal drugs had been seized from an endurance barn in the United Kingdom and a passenger jet owned by Sheikh Mohammed. Sheikh Mohammed has ordered internal investigations across his global Thoroughbred racing and endurance operations and recently hired former London police chief Lord Stevens to help.
De Vos' statement, issued this morning, Oct. 18, says it was Arnould who, in stating his personal opinion, has “brought the sport and the FEI into disrepute.”
In July, the FEI convened a strategic group to look at the development of the sport for a period of the next 10 years. Arnould wrote a strongly worded email to group chairman Andrew Finding earlier this week, a copy of which was leaked by a third party to Pippa Cuckson, who is the Telegraph's equestrian correspondent and a regular contributor to the Chronicle.
Cuckson then approached Arnould about an interview, the first he has given on the endurance crisis.
Before publication, the Telegraph advised the FEI press office that an endurance committee member had disclosed the content of discussions at its June meeting. In reply, the FEI made no mention that these discussions should be viewed as confidential.