Spanish endurance chef d’equipe successfully appeals to Court of Arbitration for Sport *H&H Plus*

  • The Spanish endurance chef d’equipe suspended for his actions at the 2018 World Equestrian Games has had the sanction reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. H&H looks into the case...

    The Spanish endurance chef d’equipe suspended for his actions at the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) has had the sanction reduced – as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rules it may be more useful for the equestrian world to have him as involved “as much as possible”.

    In February 2019, the FEI Tribunal found Ignasi Casa Vaque, who at the time of WEG was also endurance director and national head FEI vet for the Spanish national federation, deputy chairman of the FEI endurance committee and an FEI official vet, broke rules after the endurance ride was restarted, then cancelled (news, 20 September 2018).

    In videos circulated online, Dr Vaque could be seen arguing with and shouting at the ground jury president. He was suspended for 12 months, the maximum sanction available, and fined 2,000 Swiss francs (£1,700).

    In his appeal to CAS, Dr Vaque said the WEG endurance ride had been “disorganised, chaotic, and extremely disappointing”. He said following the cancellation, there were already “high tensions”, and while he was “very emotional”, he had not been remotely aggressive or violent.

    It was his view the FEI had acted disproportionately and “legally incorrectly” by imposing the 12-month suspension, adding other cases of “much worse incorrect behaviour” had been given lesser sanctions.

    The FEI argued that given Dr Vaque’s high-ranking position, he is expected to maintain the highest standards of integrity and conduct, and had a “heightened duty” to act appropriately during the event.

    The FEI accepted the circumstances around the endurance at WEG had been challenging but added this did not excuse Dr Vaque’s behaviour, and there was no basis to overturn the Tribunal’s decision. The FEI said the 12-month suspension was not disproportionate, and Dr Vaque had not been treated unequally.

    The CAS panel did not “entirely” agree with the FEI Tribunal’s findings, stating Dr Vaque’s reactions were in connection to the FEI’s omissions in connection with the whole WEG endurance event, not just the cancellation of the race – and extreme reactions from others surrounding Dr Vaque could be seen in the video footage. The panel also considered the FEI Tribunal decision was not well reasoned.

    “There is no doubt the appellant crossed the line, but there is also no doubt that he was provoked. Having that in mind, in the view of the panel, to punish only the appellant, both with the longest possible suspension available and the additional fine, is not appropriate nor necessary,” the panel stated.

    The panel added Dr Vaque was a first-time offender who never disobeyed any of his duties, and was “extremely helpful” to the whole community, in extremely challenging conditions at WEG.

    “Since [Dr Vaque’s] exceptional character and the veterinarian expertise were not challenged in the present dispute, it may be more useful to the equestrian world to have the appellant involved as much as possible,” said the panel.

    Dr Vaque’s appeal was partially upheld; his suspension was reduced to three months, and his fine remained at 2,000 francs. The FEI was ordered to contribute 5,000 Swiss francs (£4,200) to his expenses and legal fees.

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