Dr Hallvard Sommerseth (pictured), a leading figure in world endurance, has been provisionally suspended as an FEI official in connection with the UAE “fake rides” scandal.
Dr Sommerseth is a former FEI bureau member, when chair of its endurance committee.
Originally from Norway, he has worked in the UAE for many years and, in his current role as head of the UAE federation’s veterinary department, was in a position to influence ride organisation.
The FEI stated that Dr Sommerseth had also shown a “consistent failure to comply with FEI rules and regulations over a period of several years.”
The fake rides came to light in March when H&H was tipped off that President’s Cup qualifier, purportedly staged on 21 January, did not take place.
H&H contributor Pippa Cuckson investigated and with the help of volunteer researchers identified 12 other CEIs reportedly staged in the UAE since 2012 whose loop times were lifted from earlier rides.
In 11 of the 13 rides, Dr Sommerseth was one of the key officials required to send post-event reports to FEI headquarters. By the time the last two duplicate rides (23 December, 2014 and 21 January, 2015) took place, the FEI’s new conflict-of-interest rules had come into effect (1 August, 2014), limiting the activity of federation employees.
The suspect rides had been scheduled at very short notice, with unusually high completion rates. Some “rides” comprised horses from a single stable.
The FEI then instructed its Equine Community Integrity Unit (ECIU) to investigate.
It appears that in most cases, an informal ride did take place. But the FEI said: “According to the ECIU report, timing systems were not used. Instead, the times submitted in the official results were copied from other events.”
Dr Sommerseth is also a four-star endurance course designer, four-star veterinary treatment official, four-star endurance judge and official veterinarian for jumping and dressage.
More than 500 horses were listed in the fake rides. Those that started later rides on the basis of false qualifications are now being disqualified, in a marathon task for the FEI data department. To date, 30 horses have been disqualified from the President’s Cup alone.