You could say it’s a very old fashioned concept, first espoused in the form of ‘woe to the conquered’ in the works of Homer in the eighth century B.C.; but the belief that whoever is in power is the one who dictates the law is apparently still alive and well after almost three thousand years – in the FEI. This morning the FEI issued a press release which states that they are intitiating proceedings to suspend the International Dressage Riders Club (IDRC) from its associate membership. Wow. Wow. A third time, Wow.  This is not democracy’s finest hour.

When I saw the press release in my inbox this morning, the very first thing I did was email Wayne Channon, the Sec. Gen. of the IDRC, and the rejected nominee for position of Rider Representative for the FEI Dressage Committee – where the seeds of this melodrama first took root. Of course Wayne had already been at work on an official IDRC response, which he forwarded to me and which I share with you here:

“I have read the PR from the FEI and I am disappointed to note it is inaccurate and misleading. Furthermore I believe the application to suspend the IDRC’s Associate Membership of the FEI to be wholly misconceived.  The FEI is trying to deviate the issue away from the crucial point that this is about the democratic rights of riders to nominate their own representative on the Dressage Committee.
The background to this is that the Dressage Committee (DC) decided not to recommend the IDRC’s representative (me) on the DC.  Kyra Kyrklund, IDRC President, asked Frank Kemperman and Trond Asmyr who the DC had recommended and they said it was confidential.  Their recommendation only came out when we saw the Annexes to the FEI General Assembly and the reason was only disclosed when our lawyers requested full disclosure.  The DC in fact decided to recommend Luis Lucio on the basis that there was already a GBR member on the DC and they did not want to have two DC members from the same NF.  It seems to have escaped their attention that:
  • neither Luis Lucio nor Maria Ines were actually members of the IDRC at the cut-off date for applications to the DC and so were not eligible to stand and therefore appointment of either of these riders to the DC would have been an invalid and unlawful appointment;
  • neither of them were elected by riders to represent the interests of riders; and
  • the only eligible candidate under the FEI’s own rules and regulations was the candidate nominate by the IDRC
If they had told us that there was now a rule stating “no more than one member per NF” (it isn’t a rule it is a recommendation by the Dressage Task Force and in fact there have been many occasions when a Technical Committee has had more than one representative from the same NF) then we would have proposed another rider.
We have proposed that Kyra Kyrklund, President of the IDRC, will represent riders on the Dressage Committee but the FEI has not responded to that.
So, far from the IDRC attempting to manipulate its rules to suit a situation, it is quite clear that it is the FEI who have manipulated the situation to refrain from appointing a candidate who was validly nominated under FEI rules.
One could even go further to state that the FEI may also be in breach of its own regulations by postponing indefinitely the appointment of an Athlete member of the DC.  Article 6.5.2 (iii) of the Internal Regulations of the FEI states:
Where an applicable international Athletes’ and/or Organizers’ association is recognized by the FEI for the given Discipline, these [ the relevant Discipline Committee] shall include one member (provided there is a qualified Candidate) from each such association, though s/he may not serve as Chair or Deputy Chair during his/her term in this capacity.
By refusing to appoint an Athlete member (even where one has been validly nominated by the IDRC) the FEI is in breach of its own Regulations. This is made even more serious where the decision to postpone constitution of a lawful DC is taken in an Olympic year.
The current issue
From what they write below, the FEI’s main issue now seems to be that the removed riders should have the right to an appeal from the decision of the IDRC General Assembly.
The fact is that the IDRC Board also thinks that this is reasonable and we intend to change our Statutes so that all members have the right to an appeal.  No one thought that we would ever remove a member, and Maria and Luis are caught in the middle here, so we had no appeal process for this.  This is purely an oversight not a decision.  Incidentally, the IDRC Statutes in their original form  (without the right for appeal) were approved by the FEI as part of  the process of appointing the IDRC as an Associate Member of the FEI.
If this were the FEI’s main concern then they would have jumped at our suggestion that we redraft our Statutes so that riders do have that right.  Why have they not even responded to this?
What is the real issue?
It appears to me that the FEI just wants to win.  It appears that the DC does not want a strong riders representative body.  It is also apparent to me that it is crucial that riders stick to their rights and stand-up for what they know to be important.  Riders have almost no rights and a weak IDRC with no representative on the DC means they would, in effect, be toothless – to the detriment of the sport.
This whole issue begs the question – just whose interests are being best served by this action of the FEI?”
As you can see from the logic of this statement, Wayne is no slouch as a thinker. He thinks a lot. But right now he doesn’t think much of the so-called democratic process of the FEI. Why would they choose to ignore both the IDRC’s alternate proposal of Kyra Kyrklund (surely the world’s most beloved, and one of the most accomplished dressage riders of this generation) as Rider Rep on the DC, and their willingness to change their statutes to give members – including Luis and Marie Ines – to appeal their denied membership in the IDRC? I can think of only one reason. Someone is getting a real rush out of their Popeye-esque muscle flexing.
Another bit of evidence that the FEI has abandoned democracy in favour of the ethics of the battle field: the IDRC was informed of this move by email, this morning. The same day the press release came out. As IDRC prez, Kyra was given the courtesy of an email yesterday, though there was no mention of any  press release declaring the IDRC on the road to becoming personae non grata with the FEI.
There is one bit in the FEI statement that smells particularly of rotting fish: “As a result of the IDRC’s actions, a majority of the FEI members (the National Federations of Regional Groups I, II, IV, V and VI) formally requested that the FEI undertake proceedings to remove the IDRC as an Associate Member of the FEI for violation of the core principles of the FEI and good governance.” Really? And how did they do that? It certainly didn’t take place as a vote during the FEI GA in November. I find it a wee bit of a stretch to buy the story that the ‘majority’ of countries that are FEI members took time out of running their own little fiefdoms (yes this is a dig at EC) in order to fire an unsolicited email or wax-sealed letter to the FEI to say, “Hey. You know, that IDRC is really getting on our nerves. Why don’t you kick them and their silly little Olympian asses right out of the FEI?”  And since when do member nations have the right to poke their noses into the business of associate members, whose actions have no impact whatsoever on the NF’s relationships to the FEI behemoth, anyway?
There is OF COURSE more to this story than is represented in the combined documentation of one FEI press release and one riposte from the IDRC. But on the face of it, I’m going to go with the IDRC on this one.  It really looks as though they are rightfully outraged at the course of action the FEI has taken, action apparently motivated by a sudden interest in listening very closely to what its member federations want it to do.