Irish showjumper Cian O’Connor and Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) will spend the day before Olympia at a legal hearing into the “running steward” incident at the European Championships, which they allege cost their showjumping team its Olympic place.
HSI was allowed to appeal direct to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the case will be heard in London on 16 December.
At Aachen, Cian — the London 2012 individual bronze medallist — looked on target for a clear with Good Luck when a member of the arena party dashed across his path and jumped into the flower bed around which Cian was turning round before tackling an oxer. Cian says the distraction caused Good Luck to fault. Ireland lost out on a Rio place to Spain by just 0.38 faults.
On the day, HSI’s protest and appeal were dismissed. The Ground Jury, presided over by Britain’s Jon Doney, said Cian could have stopped and signalled to the judges, but continued.
HSI’s barristers are likely to argue that the rule cited, Article 233.3, was intended for a different circumstance, when there is a physical impediment such as a rail that has blown down.
However, the FEI is likely to rely on the fundamental usually upheld by CAS in other disputes over “field of play” decisions — that even if a judge’s decision may be debateable, it is final except where arbitrariness can be proved.
Cian said: “I am confident that CAS has the power to rectify the FEI’s failure to implement their own rules.
“It is not a level playing field unless someone was running around the arena while all the 39 other horses were jumping! Good Luck had been jumping great till then, but I had to alter my approach. It has to be significant that we were the only ones to fault at that fence.”