The four Blenheim Horse Trials officials who faced allegations of wrongdoing by the FEI following confusion that resulted in a competitor being allowed to restart after a cross-country fall will not be suspended.
The president of the ground jury for the 2021 CCI4*-S for eight- and nine-year-old horses, Laure Eslan, and members Angela Tucker and Douglas Hibbert, plus the event’s technical delegate Patricia Clifton, each faced the allegation of “failing to comply with duties and obligations as an FEI eventing official”.
The proposed minor sanctions were initially suspensions of three months for Mrs Clifton and Mrs Eslan, and one month for Mr Hibbert and Mrs Tucker. But these have all been downgraded to formal warnings following a hearing with the FEI’s legal department, during which factors in the officials’ favor were taken into account.
The cases relate to a situation around the cross-country start and finish area on 19 September 2021, whereby Izzy Taylor and Carolines Air KM were allowed a fresh start by the technical delegate and ground jury after a fall at fence one. But the information the officials acted on turned out to be “unreliable”, so the failure to follow the rules was “not due to bad faith”, but rather “failure to duly verify the initial oral report” they received. There are no allegations against Izzy, she was not the person who provided this “initial oral report” and has no FEI disciplinary case to answer.
“It is the FEI’s position that not eliminating an athlete who has a fall on the cross-country course is serious from a risk management perspective,” said a statement from the FEI’s administrative disciplinary procedure.
“The FEI, and FEI officials who act on behalf of the FEI, have a duty to protect the athletes’ (and horses’) safety and to apply the FEI rules and regulations fully and consistently.
“Allowing an athlete to have another start on the same cross-country after a fall undermines all the FEI’s efforts to protect the athletes.”
The statement added that the FEI legal department “took note” of several factors in favor of the officials.
These included the officials’ acceptance that they took the wrong decision and that the athlete should have been eliminated.
The FEI also accepted that the ground jury and technical delegate were acting on what turned out to be “unreliable information” that represented a different situation to what had actually happened, and that their failure to apply to rules was “not due to bad faith but rather a failure to duly verify the initial oral report”.
“They did at least ensure that Izzy Taylor was checked by a doctor prior to restarting the competition,” continued the mitigating statement.
“They indicated a willingness to share their experience with other eventing officials as part of the FEI’s officials education programme.
“If a similar situation were to arise in the future, they would take all necessary steps to verify the information before taking a decision and would ensure that such decision is in accordance with the FEI rules and regulations.”
An FEI spokesman confirmed to H&H that there are no other pending cases in relation to Blenheim.
The officials did not wish to comment when contacted by H&H.