An investigation by equestrian writer Pippa Cuckson, aided by a small team of experienced endurance riders who helped her scan through official results, has unearthed evidence that raises serious doubts over the running of 12 races in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Cuckson, writing last week in the Daily Telegraph, raised questions about the results officially posted on the FEI website in respect of two races in the UAE.
One was a 120km race on January 21 in Dubai; the second an 80km event on December 23 in Abu Dhabi. She identified some remarkable similarities between finishing times and loop times with previous races.
In fact, the results logged on the FEI website for the leading 47 horses in the December 23 race were identical to those of the 10th to 56th-placed horses from a race at Bou Thib on November 21-22. In the case of the January 21 race results, Cuckson identified extraordinary similarities with finishing data from riders in a contest in Dubai on December 19.
Now, in a fresh report, she discloses that a further 10 questionable races have been found in the FEI database, based on duplicate results from previous races.
Cuckson reported that all of the races in question were late additions to the FEI calendar, show high completion rates of 90 to 100 percent, and featured the same small pool of officials.
Competitors in the suspicious races were reported to be exclusively from the UAE and the Indian sub continent, with no other foreign national listed in the results.
“Thanks to some amazing volunteer helpers, all experienced endurance riders who understood what they were looking at, we now have a detailed list of 12 CEIs whose results are identical to races we assume genuinely did take place,” she said.
Cuckson said the process involved days of patient cross-checking of every line to make sure there were no mis-readings.
“But once you’d twigged how it was done, finding the ‘source’ data for each duplicate race was easier than taking candy from a baby.
“At first, I did not want to believe it. I still don’t, but any hopes this could have been a series of bizarre mistakes fade as each new set is unearthed.”
She continued: “The single rogue operative is a popular buck-stop in these situations, but there is no obvious motive for any minion at the UAE federation to engage in industrial-scale fakery.
“Apart from forging results, schedules and post-ride vet reports etc., they would have had to found the money to pay all the CEI FEI affiliation fees.”
The allegations raised have been forwarded to the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit.
Endurance in the region has been plagued by controversy, with concerns centred on excessive fracture rates, doping infractions and what some consider to be a loose interpretation of the rules.
The sport was again wracked by negative publicity when images emerged in February of an Australian-bred horse, Splitters Creek Bundy, who suffered two fractured forelegs in a major race in Abu Dhabi late in January.
The FEI has already pulled from its calendar two events scheduled for this month in the UAE, calling it an emergency measure to protect horse welfare and preserve the integrity of its rules and regulations at events under its jurisdiction.