Rider disqualified in boot rule fiasco has decision overturned

A rider who was wrongfully disqualified in a dispute over jumping boot rules has successfully overturned the decision after taking the FEI to tribunal.

The FEI Tribunal ruled in Romanian eventer Viorel Bubau’s favour after it was found officials had disqualified him after taking photos of the wrong set of jumping boots and using a non-applicable rule.

Romanian eventer Viorel Bubau was competing in the CCI4*-S (previously CIC3*) in Poland (5 to 7 April), when he was told he had been disqualified as his horse, Arctic, was wearing “illegal boots on his front legs”. But the rule to which the officials were referring did not apply in this competition.

After the pair had finished their showjumping round, the chief steward brought the boots to the attention of the technical delegate (TD), believing them to be longer than the 20cm allowed.

“The TD came to the stall and photographed the cross-country boots (standard 30 cm), instead of the showjumping boots,” said Mr Viorel in his statement to the FEI Tribunal.

“In the stress of the moment I did not realise what he was photographing. A couple of minutes later, when I realised what he was looking for, I went after him and showed him the showjumping boots [which are standard and under 20 cm], but he ignored this.

“At that moment I was focused on writing my appeal’s update in English and I didn’t worry about the TD’s photograph.

“Both boots have the same colour but different lengths and are of soft neoprene materials, in compliance with the rules.

“They were in the same box at that time, and because of the fact that I am not an English language speaker, I did not understand what the steward was requesting or what was happening and I could not clarify the situation.”

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The FEI responded that the outcome fell in the “narrow exception” to the field of play doctrine, which on the whole cannot be challenged after a competition has ended.

It added the rule the officials were referring to did not even apply in this competition.

“In the FEI’s view the appellant has been disqualified on the basis of a rule that does not exist in adult eventing competitions,” stated the FEI. “Therefore, the FEI submitted that the disqualification decision is a manifestly arbitrary one and should not be allowed to stand.”

The FEI’s statement added that it had been in touch with the officials concerned, who had acknowledged their error and “expressed a wish for the decision to be reversed”.

The FEI Tribunal ruled this was one of the “rare field of play decisions” that it could overturn.

Mr Bubau’s disqualification was overturned and the results amended, with him finishing 22nd overall on a score that would count as a minimum eligibility requirement.

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