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FEI Tribunal dismisses Twomey’s appeal over blood-on-the-flank elimination

Tuesday, 14 July 2020
FEI Tribunal

The FEI Tribunal has dismissed Billy Twomey’s appeal over an elimination from the CSI5* Grand Prix at Deeridge Farms in March 2020, where he had delivered the winning round worth $99,000.

As last to go in the jump-off, the Irish rider and his horse Lady Lou posted the winning round of the Grand Prix but were later eliminated by the Ground Jury as blood on the horse’s left flank was discovered during the boot and bandage control. It was determined that the blood was caused by the spurs. As a consequence of the elimination, Twomey spiralled down to sixth place – losing out on the winner’s purse.

Twomey lodged an appeal to the FEI Tribunal over the Ground Jury’s decision, with the main question being whether or not the matter was appealable. Whereas Twomey argued that the appeal was admissible, the FEI’s opinion was that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction on the matter. 

As to the admissibility, Twomey referred to having a “legitimate interest” as required by the FEI General Regulations art. 162.1. Furthermore, he disagreed with the FEI that the case at hand concerned an elimination for veterinary reasons – arguing against the appeal not being admissible under the GRs art. 162.2 ref. 161.2. The Irish rider said that there was no indication that the decision was a veterinary matter.

Twomey argued that the FEI erred in its submission that “the blood occurred during the competition”. The Irish rider provided a close-up of a frame of a video which showed that there was no blood on Lady Lou at the moment after the jump-off or while he remained in the ring, so there could have been no blood on the horse during the competition. Twomey assumed that the mark occurred as he left the ring through the hustle and bustle of spectators, fans and well-wishers and explained to the Tribunal that: “(...) At the entrance/exit to the arena was a large arch, that I think has the sponsor’s name on it. As I was riding out of the ring, there were a lot of people in that area all wanting to say well done and high-five me. This meant that there was less room to get through and I felt my Horse get a little unsettled by the crowd and bump the arch. (...)”. 

In this regard, Twomey argued that the FEI Stewards Manual for Jumping Annex XVI [protocol for handling cases of blood] had been implemented deficiently. He stated that the protocol is specific to “any time in connection with the warm-up for a competition or at any time in connection with a horse leaving a competition arena” and by contrast to the Jumping Rules the protocol has no function or application “in Jumping Competitions”.

Twomey also argued that protocol had not been followed. In particular, when he went to the boot and bandage control where he was told that blood could be seen on the horse’s flank, no pictures had been taken as outlined in Annex XVI of the Stewards Manual.

From Twomey’s side it was further argued that this was not a field of play decision, as the elimination was only starting from the point of boot and bandage control when the competition was over. 

The FEI submitted that the matter was not appealable and that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction. The General Regulations were clear that there was neither the possibility to lodge a protest [as per the GRs art. 161] nor to file an appeal [as per the GRS art. 162] when it comes to elimination for veterinary reasons – such as in case of blood on the horse’s flank. The FEI stated that: “Once a Ground Jury has decided upon a field of play matter, or in this case more specifically the elimination of a horse for veterinary reasons, that decision was considered final and binding, with no further right of appeal as specified in Article 162.2 of the GRs.”

Furthermore, the FEI argued that the matter at hand was a field of play matter and was clearly a veterinary matter. The FEI stated that the blood occurred during the competition and the fact that it was only discovered during the boot and bandage control was a natural consequence on how jumping works. 

To start with, the Tribunal noted that Twomey [inter alia] had argued that he could not be eliminated as (i) there was no evidence that “the blood occurred during the competition”; and since (ii) elimination could in essence not be retroactive and had to start from the time after the boot and bandage control. 

In their decision, the FEI Tribunal discussed the parties’ various arguments with regard to how “Competition” and “In-Competition” is to be defined. After looking at the Veterinary Regulations, the Jumping Rules and the General Regulations, the Tribunal came to the conclusion that the only logical explanation is that a competition cannot be understood as being concluded unless the final and official results have been announced. In their decision, the Tribunal stated that: “In casu, this does not mean when the Appellant had completed his Jump-off as argued by the Appellant, but only once the Ground Jury has taken into consideration all eventual disqualifications, eliminations, protests etc.”

The Tribunal pointed out that the boot and bandage control is part of the competition, and – as in Twomey’s case – it might determine the final results.

The Tribunal also stated that the Jumping Rules art. 241.1 clearly allows for retroactive elimination: “For the avoidance of doubt, the literal wording of the relevant provision – Article 241.1 of the JRs -, clearly allows for retroactive elimination. Such elimination is also confirmed in Annex XVI of the Stewards Manual, which clarifies that if blood on a horse’s flank is detected after the Jump-Off, the Athlete/horse combination is to be eliminated from the Jump-Off (as outlined in par. 4.18 ff.).”

Furthermore, the Tribunal concluded that Twomey’s elimination had been for veterinary reasons. It was pointed out that there had been a veterinary incident [blood discovered on the flank of the horse] during the Grand Prix and that the stewards – despite not being official veterinarians – were entitled to conduct the boot and bandage control and more specifically the protocol for handling blood on a horse’s flank, thus reaching conclusions of a veterinary nature. These conclusions had been duly reported to the Grand Jury, which in turn had determined the elimination. 

The Tribunal also dealt with Twomey’s arguments in relation to the execution of the “blood protocol” – hereunder that no pictures were taken when the blood was detected, and the glove test was only conducted about 20 to 30 minutes after the end of his round. It was stated that: “(…) the Tribunal wishes to clarify that the elements raised do not suffice to possibly question the results of the Boot and Bandage Control and, in any case, the Appellant had a possible mean to contest the procedure followed in the event of dissatisfaction. Pursuant to Article 161.3 of the GRs, the Appellant had the possibility to lodge a Protest on site no later than 30 minutes after the announcement of the results of the Competition, which he did not execute.”

Reaching its decision, the Tribunal declared that Twomey’s appeal was not admissible as it was against a decision of the Ground Jury in relation to the elimination of a horse-and-rider combination for veterinary reasons. 

The Tribunal’s decision can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

 

Click here to read the full decision.

 

 



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