A sad day for the sport (no, I’m not referring to Lance Armstrong)

I have just received an official statement from Yvonne Losos de M

By: Straight-Up |

I have just received an official statement from Yvonne Losos de Muñiz in which she explains the reasons for her retirement from dressage competition. I know you don’t need an introduction to who Yvonne is, and chances are you have already learned either first or second hand about her indisputable talent, integrity and generosity to the sport.  I leave her statement here without comment today so that you can absorb it. I will have an awful lot to say in the coming days, and I am already drafting my request to the organizers of next week’s Global Dressage Forum to add this topic to a question period so that anyone in attendance (including journalists like myself)  will have the opportunity  to stare Trond and any other FEI reps in attendance in the eye and ask them how they can sleep at night.

Statement from Yvonne Losos de Muñiz:

Following the publication of the ruling from CAS that represented the end of my Olympic participation attempt, and after careful consideration and much thought, I have concluded that much to my regret it is now time for me to withdraw from participating in the sport I love, to which I have dedicated much effort for so many years. My decision is not a result of losing the appeal, but rather a direct and unfortunate consequence of the manner in which I was treated by the FEI, specifically by its Dressage and Legal departments, during my protest and appeal.

I feel at least vindicated that the CAS panel finds in its just-published decision that the FEI and its Dressage Department are ultimately to blame for this fiasco. The CAS panel concluded that it would be unfair for the rider fromBrazilto lose the points that ultimately allowed her to participate in the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately, that meant that I lost my right to be a part of that event. I assume it was easier to be unfair to me than to the other rider, which is hard to understand.

Nonetheless, the panel repeatedly points out how the FEI and its Legal Department failed to convince them that the famous 2010 Exception Memo was correct in its application and spirit, and instead maintains that the FEI failed in doing its job of applying the Olympic Qualification rules correctly in the Brazilian events.

It view of all this, it will be very difficult for me to continue competing in the sport of dressage after witnessing the unjustified, unfair and biased approach that the FEI Legal Department, headed by its Legal Counsel Lisa Lazarus-who worked in very close coordination with the other respondent, Brazil-used to confront our protest and latter appeal before both the FEI Tribunal and CAS, despite being at fault for its mismanagement of the 2012 Olympic Qualification events held in Brazil. The FEI legal team went to unacceptable extremes during the entire process by questioning the motives for my protest and appeal, diminishing my professional capabilities and dismissing my personal accomplishments in an all-out attempt to ensure that we lost the case.

I was repeatedly portrayed by the FEI in a manner which totally contradicts my values as a professional athlete with regards to fair play, sportsmanship, training and riding. My motives for filing the protest were characterized by Mrs. Lazarus as those of a sore loser and improviser. My personal life and my decision to train and compete in the USA, as do many other international riders in that country or in Europe, was examined and questioned to the point of promoting ridiculous, unfounded allegations.

The FEI, through Mrs. Lazarus, investigated by means unknown where I lived and what vehicle brand, model and color I owned in the USA, in order to prove that I was a permanent resident there, which I was not and never have been. They also incorrectly implied-without providing any proof- that I had part ownership in thePalm BeachEquestrianCenterand veterinary clinic, where I stabled my horses. All this was done to apparently demonstrate that I had “connections” and received “favorable” treatment from local event organizers in that country, which is unfounded and untrue as well as offensive not only to myself but to all the riders, organizers, staff and volunteers that make up the wonderful circuit inFlorida.

We were also threatened in no uncertain terms by Mrs. Lazarus during both the FEI Tribunal and CAS hearing that if we won the case, the FEI Secretary General might retaliate by annulling the scores I obtained in the CDI events that I participated in the USA since they were organized without full compliance with the FEI rules, according to her.

Even our witnesses´ motives to testify were unfairly questioned. I had the privilege to count with the support of Eva Salomon, prior FEI Director of Dressage, Michael Stone, prior FEI Secretary General, and Carl Hester, Olympic, European and WEG medalist, as my witnesses. During their testimony, all three endured unfair insinuations as to why they were supporting me, and in all three cases it was implied that personal or financial motives were behind their decision to do so. This innuendo was untrue-all three testified in my favor because they believed there was a clear breach of the rules in the Brazilian events and my protest and appeal were completely justified.

More damaging to my career and future in the sport is the fact that FEI Legal Department prepared and gathered witness statements against me from the entire FEI Dressage Committee, the FEI Director of Dressage Trond Asmyr, the Chair of the FEI Dressage Committee Frank Kempermann, as well as from more than ten international judges. Those judges included FEI Judge General Ghislain Fourage and a number of 5* judges, unfortunately headed by a surprisingly enthusiastic Maribel Alonso fromMexico, who also happens to be our FEI Group Vice-chair. FEI Dressage Committee member Thomas Bauer, clearly not wanting to be left behind, went as far as to question in his testimony my decision of where and how I showed my Grand Prix horse in theUSA, insinuating I was threatening its welfare. On what basis he did that, I do not know.

It is bewildering and unacceptable that judges were also not protected but instead drawn haphazardly into this process, considering my position as a rider and how I was depicted by Mrs. Lazarus and her associates before them. It is also incomprehensible that the FEI Legal Department specifically chose to involve judges who would be a part of the 2012 Olympic panel, in view of my possible participation in that event if I won the appeal. In an unprecedented move, nearly the entire dressage section of the FEI was called to testify against our side in this case.

As an athlete, I had absolutely no protection, support or consideration from the FEI at any point of this process, and certainly even less from now on.  My position was attacked with a ferocity and recklessness that was in my opinion simply disproportionate and appalling by its clear bias and unprofessionalism. Instead of looking to see what could be done in order to ensure a fair solution, the only response from FEI since the onset of the case was to delay, deter, threaten and bully in order to make sure they prevailed. Instead of looking for ways in which both the Brazilian rider and I could participate in the 2012 Olympics, as was done already at the 2004 Olympics in a similar case, the FEI turned the case around as a trial against me, apparently for the audacity to challenge the status quo. Fortunately, at least now the decision from CAS sheds a different light on this story and who is really to blame.

Throughout my career, I have won two individual medals at the Pan American Games, five more at regional games, have been ranked in the top hundred riders in the FEI World Dressage Rankings, and won or placed in numerous FEI events in Europe and North America. I have trained numerous horses to FEI levels, and coached riders from theDominican Republic,Colombia,Guatemala,Chile,Canada,Spain, Puerto Rico, theUnited StatesandCanada. I have also sponsored and provided horses for entire teams from my country for participation in Pan American and regional games. Any respect or recognition I might have achieved during my career in the sport and contributions to it were entirely disregarded by the FEI.

Nonetheless, I am convinced we did the right thing by standing for our rights and a correct interpretation of the rules, and I would do it again. As a matter of fact, it seems that at the end of the day our position was the right one even to the FEI itself-immediately after the Olympics, the FEI Dressage Committee announced it would annul in January 2013 the 2010 three-home judge exemption which we originally protested. If the exemption was of such benefit for the sport, and was so vehemently defended by the FEI in this case, it begs the question why was it changed, and so soon? Why was it not included in the dressage rules in 2011, 2012 or even 2013, if it was of such benefit for the “development” of dressage?

It is also important to point out the absolute futility of the current Olympic Qualification Rules that the FEI has in place as an instrument to promote universal participation. It makes no sense that individual riders from all of Central andSouth Americahave to fight for one single, lonely quota place for the Olympics. It makes even less sense that national federations from the region that have individual Grand Prix riders which have fulfilled their minimum Olympic qualifying scores are unable to receive the quota spots from other national federations whose riders did not achieve those minimum scores, since these unfilled quotas simply go back to the FEI rankings, which usually means to riders from “traditional” dressage nations that have easy access to numerous CDIs and thus ranking points. If the FEI really seeks to promote participation by developing nations in the Olympics this is hardly helping its case, since there is no motivation to make the effort to compete at Grand Prix level for such an impossible, limited objective. Even the latest proposal for a mixed-team event in the Pan Ams is confusing for riders, spectators and organizers.

For these reasons, it is difficult for me to continue competing in a sport where its apparent that a rider from a small country that has no resources to organize international events-much less future Olympics-invite numerous international judges, or sponsor expensive competitions, will not be respected, protected and considered on equal grounds by its international federation, even when that governing body has acted incorrectly and knows it.

In any event, my sincere hope is that at least out of my decision to follow through with the process and willingness to go public on this issue, any rider that in the future believes that he or she has to file an appeal or protest against the FEI does not receive the appalling mistreatment I received from the FEI Legal and Dressage department. Many things need to change in the FEI and its approach to development and universality if there is a hope for dressage to be a sport for all nations, regardless of their size and resources. Hopefully, the FEI will evaluate its many mistakes not only towards me but also towards the spirit of the sport though this process, and have the courage to admit it and change what and whom needs to be changed.

I also need to express my heartfelt thanks to all those that have supported me during this process, especially my family, my friends, my federation and the numerous fellow riders that expressed their support for me during this ordeal. Also, my gratitude to Eva Salomon, Michael Stone, Carl Hester, Jose Manuel Ramos, and the Dominican Republic Olympic Committee, all of whom had the courage to support my protest and appeal, as well as John Risley for his trust, faith, and being such a wonderful partner in our Olympic dream.