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Foster Heartbroken After Hypersensitivity Disqualification; Lamaze Declares FEI Ruling a Miscarriage of Justice
[London, England] An emotional press conference was held today at the Greenwich Park Olympic Stadium to discuss Canadian rider Tiffany Foster’s disqualification from the Olympic Games due to hypersensitivity on her horse Victor’s left front leg.
Tiffany Foster and Victor, competing for Canada on Saturday, August 4th in the Olympic Games First Individual Qualifier.
With FEI officials outlining procedure rules, and Canadian team member Eric Lamaze furiously lashing out at the injustice of the situation, the issue was reminiscent of McLain Ward’s similar disqualification from the 2010 FEI World Cup Finals, a ruling that was later overturned, albeit months after the competition ended.
Foster made her first Olympic appearance yesterday when she competed in the First Individual Qualifier yesterday with Victor, a 10-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding. But her plans to return today to continue in the second day of the Olympics were dashed before the start of competition today. While she was walking the course this morning with her teammate and coach, Eric Lamaze, FEI officials were performing a hypersensitivity evaluation on Victor back in the stables.
The observation was made that Victor was hypersensitive in the area around a small cut near his coronary band. FEI vets used a combination of clinical exam and thermography to find enough sensitivity near the area to deem Victor unfit to compete. Victor and Foster were immediately disqualified. Although team Canada immediately appealed the decision, the rules state that in the case of a veterinary matter, there is no opportunity for the horse and rider to return to competition. Hypersensitivity is defined as a veterinary matter.
Foster and Lamaze listen to FEI President Princess Haya making a statement about the situation.
FEI President Princess Haya.
After the day’s competition, in which Foster sat on the sidelines while Lamaze, Ian Millar and Jill Henselwood rode for Canada, a press conference was called to discuss the matter.
Foster, sitting next to Lamaze while he tried to console her, was in tears from beginning to end, clearly shattered by the situation.
“I do want to be very clear that there is absolutely no accusation whatsoever of malpractice here,” said FEI President Princess Haya Al Hussein. “It’s a well being of the horse issue and not anything else.”
Twenty-eight year old Foster, choking back tears, responded; “I just want to say that I would never do anything to jeopardize the welfare of my horse, and what happened today was obviously very disappointing and devastating to me.”
Lamaze was far more candid.
“This is a complete miscarriage of justice,” he said. “We all know why they use the test and we all understand it. This has nothing to do with this rule.
This horse was exercised in the morning, jumped in the morning, was fit to compete, fit to compete, how can five people poking at a horse’s coronet band declare him unfit to compete?” Lamaze continued. “This would not have put this horse in danger by any means, and it would not have mitigated any advantage in the ring.
“I’m very ashamed of my sport today to have put someone like Tiffany in this situation. Tiffany can hold her head up high, she did absolutely nothing wrong.”
FEI Foreign Veterinary Delegate Kent Allen was on hand to defend the FEI’s decision. He confirmed that 86 Olympic horses were monitored on the first day of the competition, and 70 were monitored the second day, and Victor was the only horse found to have abnormally excessive evidence of hypersensitivity.
FEI Foreign Veterinary Delegate Kent Allen.
“The equine Olympic athlete is the most closely monitored athlete at the Olympic Games, and the FEI’s mandate is for the welfare of the horse and the well being of the horse,” Allen stated. “It’s very regrettable in this circumstance, that the horse was simply too hypersensitive in that leg to continue on.”
The Canadian Team’s protest was denied based on Annex XI of the FEI Veterinary Regulations, which state: "there is no appeal against the decision of the Ground Jury to disqualify a horse for abnormal sensitivity from an Event." The FEI General Regulations also clearly state that there is no appeal against an elimination of a horse for veterinary reasons.
“We have to take a hard look at what’s happened today,” Lamaze concluded. “Because we have no power, and within four minutes a group of people can go in a horse’s stall and declare him not fit to compete. I do not agree with that at all. I sure hope Canada can win a medal for Tiffany. I am very much ashamed for our sport today.”