‘Phantom rides’ scandal: second senior figure suspended *H&H VIP*

  • A second senior figure in Middle East endurance has been provisionally suspended by the FEI in connection with the “phantom rides” scandal.

    Abdul Aziz Mohd Yasin Sheikh, head of endurance at the UAE Equestrian Federation, has, according to the FEI, been “consistently failing to observe the FEI rules and regulations at a number of events”.

    Last month, the UAE federation’s head vet, Dr Hallvard Sommerseth, was suspended in connection with the same scandal.

    The scam unravelled earlier this year when H&H was tipped off that a 21 January qualifier may not have taken place. Its detailed horse data was lifted from an earlier ride. Volunteer researchers found 12 further rides going back to 2012 with duplicate results.

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    An official enquiry by the FEI Equine Community Integrity Unit found a total of 16 “phantom” rides. In most cases, a ride had taken place but no timing system was employed and the results were fabricated. Dr Sommerseth and Mr Sheikh officiated at the majority of these rides, occupying the roles required to submit reports to the FEI.

    More than 500 combinations were listed in the results, though their punishment seems likely to stop at disqualification.

    A FEI spokesman said: “Disqualification is sufficient in these cases, as it is not the fault of these athletes that the proper timing systems were not in place.”

    Late admission to the FEI calendar was a feature of the “phantom rides.”

    The FEI has now tightened up its schedule approval process and has supervised the UAE’s new online entries software. Ride results must be delivered to the FEI within one hour.

    Last week, nearly 1,500 riders, trainers and officials attended educational workshops in the UAE, a condition of reinstatement following the federation’s suspension for “major horse welfare” issues back in March.