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No Olympic Games for Israel’s Daniel Bluman

Wednesday, 30 June 2021
FEI Tribunal

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping There will be no Olympics for Israel's Daniel Bluman and Gemma W. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Israel’s Daniel Bluman will not be able to participate at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, after the FEI Tribunal dismissed his appeal concerning the registered ownership nationality on his horse Gemma W. Earlier this year, Bluman discovered what he described to be an “administrative error” regarding Gemma W’s ownership as the nationality in the FEI database was listed as American rather than Israeli. 

According to the FEI General Regulations and the FEI Regulations for Equestrian Events at the Olympic Games, effective for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 23 July-8 August 2021, horses entered for the equestrian events at the Olympic Games had to be registered with the FEI as the property of owners of the same nationality as the rider by 15 January 2021. The same deadline applied to horses with multinational ownership; these had to be registered under the name of the nation for which the horse will be competing at the Olympic Games.

When Bluman discovered the nationality error this spring, his request to backdate a change was denied by the FEI. The registration issue has now cost Bluman – who helped Israel qualify with a team for the Olympics – a ticket to Tokyo. Bluman appealed the FEI’s decision to the FEI Tribunal, but the appeal was dismissed. The FEI Tribunal’s full decision, dated 25 June 2021, can be read here.

Bluman is one of the most experienced riders on the Israeli team, and competed at the Olympic Games in London in 2012 and in Rio in 2016 – then for Colombia. Bluman has extensive championship experience, having also competed three times at the World Equestrian Games and at the Pan Am Games as well as once at the European Championships. 

While Bluman was aware of the nationality regulations as well as the deadline in the FEI rules, he submitted to the Tribunal that the registration of the horse on American ownership was an administrative error. Bluman stated that Gemma’s nationality should have been registered as Israeli because he – in his personal capacity – had been the mare’s sole owner since he bought her in 2016. To the Tribunal, Bluman submitted that the confusion about Gemma’s nationality stemmed from his use of the name “Blue Star” when registering his horses – a pseudonym Bluman said he had chosen to reflect his attachment to the Israeli flag. Bluman explained that Blue Star is not a company, holding group or syndicate and does not exist as such. Bluman submitted that since he is Israeli and Blue Star does not exist, it was impossible for Gemma to have any other nationality but an Israeli. In support of his position, Bluman submitted the bill of sale on Gemma W, the invoice, as well as the receipt for Gemma’s FEI passport that was issued in his name by the Belgian national federation.

Among their many submissions to the Tribunal, the FEI made it clear that they must apply the rules in question “extremely strictly and with 100% consistency”. The FEI stated that Bluman was not the first and only person who had missed the deadline. The FEI also submitted exhibits of email exchanges indicating that they had always refused similar requests as that of Bluman. “The reasons for the FEI to adopt this strict approach are as follows: (i) the rules are clear and the FEI ensures that all NFs are made aware of the rule by sending the Deadline Notice to the NFs; (ii) the FEI needs to ensure transparency and treat all Athletes and NFs equally and fairly: If the 15 January 2021 deadline is missed, the consequences are the same for everyone; and (iii) the competition at stake is the most important one for Athletes and NFs. For this reason, all NFs and Athletes have a right to know that everyone is competing on the same terms and conditions and have the same eligibility requirements,” reads one of the submissions from the FEI in the 28-page Tribunal decision. 

To World of Showjumping, Bluman commented on the process leading up to the Tribunal’s decision to dismiss his appeal. “I understand that the FEI is a big institution and that there are rules and protocols that need to be followed, but this particular experience with their Legal Department has been very sad for me,” Bluman said. “I initially contacted the FEI as I was looking for help to find a way to solve this technical registration error, but all I met was obstacle after obstacle. After all, we are not talking about changing the ownership but getting the nationality right – it’s a technical aspect. I bought Gemma when she was 5 years old and have been her legal owner since. For me, the hardest part in this process is that it has felt like the FEI versus me – I have not been believed and my integrity has been challenged by the FEI Legal Department. I was very aware that we could lose this case, but I did not think that my integrity would be questioned as it has been. It’s ok to have different points of views and disagree, but I don’t believe in insulting and offending people. It has been a painful experience, and I did not expect that the FEI Legal Department would take this route.”

“I believe the Olympic ownership rules have been made to protect riders in my situation, to not lose their own horses – horses they have produced themselves – in the lead-up to the Games, and I would have wished the case could have been heard by CAS where I believe it might have had a different outcome,” Bluman continued. 

“While I am disappointed, I am relieved that my teammates – who also have been affected by this situation – eventually can focus on the task ahead and I wish them all the best in Tokyo,” Bluman closed off. 

A spokesperson for the FEI later commented: "The FEI understands Daniel Bluman’s disappointment and it is unfortunate he missed the deadline to ensure his horse met the nationality requirements set down for the Tokyo Olympic Games, despite the clear reminders issued by the FEI in advance of the deadline. This rule is based on fairness and transparency and is not simply a formality. The rule does not provide for exceptions to be granted, and it must be applied consistently to all National Federations, Athletes and Horses to ensure a level playing field."

"Mr Bluman had a full right to be heard and all his legal rights were respected at all times," the spokesperson said. "He was granted an expedited hearing before the FEI Tribunal and his request for provisional relief before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was also expedited. Mr Bluman’s request to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for provisional measures suspending the effect of the FEI Tribunal Decision, was also dismissed on 30 June 2021."


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