Dr Hallvard Sommerseth, one of the most prominent figures in global endurance, has been suspended for two years by the FEI for his role in the UAE “bogus rides” scandal, first revealed by H&H in March last year.
Abdul Aziz Mohammedd Yasin Sheikh, head of the endurance department at the UAE federation, is suspended for 18 months for his part. Both will also have to qualify as four-star judges before they are allowed to officiate again.
The scam unravelled following a tip-off to H&H that a 120km race purportedly staged on 21 January, 2015 did not take place at all. Its detailed results were cut and pasted from an earlier ride.
Volunteers from the “clean endurance” community then found 12 further rides going back to 2012 with duplicated detailed results. These were mostly “qualifiers” entered into the FEI calendar at short notice, and with the same small pool of key officials.
An official enquiry by the FEI’s Equine Community Integrity Unit found that the duplicate rides had all taken place, but without official timing systems. The results were then fabricated, though the employee who fabricated the results submitted to the FEI has not been identified.
Dr Sommerseth had been “hands on” organising these rides without timing systems, while Mr Sheikh had been chairman of the ground jury at eight of them and was deemed to have known the absence of timing systems broke the rules.
The Tribunal said: “One and the same rule breach had been repeated multiple times over a vast period of time.
“Given the seniority of Dr Sommerseth as an FEI official and his involvement within the sport, the Tribunal is of the opinion that Dr Sommerseth has at least been grossly negligent with regards to his duties.”
The Tribunal did, though, reject the FEI’s assertion that faking the results poses a horse welfare concern.
It stated: “The Tribunal is of the opinion that this claim is too far of a reach.
“In this respect the Tribunal understands that the rides were not competitive because they were organised as such, without prize money and with modest average speed, none of which is against applicable rules; thus it was not the lack of timing that made the rides not competitive.”
More than 500 horse and combinations were listed in the results, though their punishment has stopped at disqualification. A FEI spokesman said: “It is not the fault of these athletes that the proper timing systems were not in place.”