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Dressage sheet adding error costs eventer national championship title

An eventer who was denied a national championship win by 0.1 of a penalty after her dressage sheet was added up incorrectly by “human error” has lost her appeal.

Evelina Bertoli and Seashore Spring were declared runners-up in the CCIO4*-S at Montelibretti (22 to 25 October), which was also serving as the Italian national championships.

Score sheets are normally given out to riders, but the FEI rules were modified owing to the coronavirus pandemic. This meant sheets should not be given out at the event and could be requested to be sent via email following the competition instead.

But when her dressage tests were emailed to Ms Bertoli the following day, she spotted the calculation error. This email was not submitted with her appeal.

The Italian equestrian federation sent a letter to the FEI eventing department, dated 27 October, informing them of the error so the FEI “may make the amendments it deems necessary to the classification of the competition.

The FEI replied via email that day, explaining that the results cannot be changed if an appeal is not lodged within 30 minutes of the final scores’ being published at the event, under any circumstances.

An appeal was then lodged with the FEI tribunal by Ms Bertoli’s mother and the horse’s owner, Argenta Campello, and legal representative Mariano Salvatore on 6 November. The appeal called for the results to be amended and for the Covid rules concerning dressage sheets to be modified.

The hearing went into deep detail over the rules surrounding field of play decisions, deadlines for objections over results, even down to the wording of “should” and “shall” in terms of the distribution of score sheets to riders.

The FEI stated that Ms Bertoli “should have requested the judges’ score sheets directly after the dressage test“.

“If she had requested the score sheets directly after the dressage test, the [organising committee] would have plenty of time to email them to Ms Bertoli and she would be in a possession of all necessary information in order to file a protest within the mandatory deadline, which elapsed on 24 October 2020 at 4:37 pm,” argued the FEI.

The FEI said that “the outcome of the competition is really unfortunate for the participant and that mistakes happen”.

“While the FEI has a sympathy for all athletes who are ‘victims’ of such ‘honest’ mistakes, the FEI, as the world governing body of the equestrian sports, is in charge of applying and respecting the sport-specific rules, even if those rules are strict and do not foresee any exceptions,” it argued.

“They maintain that [this is] the only way to ensure fairness towards all the participants of sports competitions, including other athletes who act in good faith and rely on the results (and following from its consequences) once they have been approved and announced.”

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The FEI Tribunal concluded it does not have jurisdiction over rule changes. It also concluded that it could not change the result, citing previous rulings and Court of Arbitration for Sport decisions.

“Consequently, the appeal must be dismissed,” the hearing concluded.

“The FEI Tribunal has sympathy for the appellant and regrets that it cannot assist. It notes the FEI does not ask for costs. The deposit is to be returned to the appellant.”

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