If you didn’t see my post from last week, you might want to take a wander back there before reading today’s, which is an update to the story I wrote about last week, a story that is getting weirder by the minute.
First of all, I’d like to give my weekly ‘intrepid reporter’ kudos to Pippa Cuckson, who has posted as a guest here before and is a regular contributor to the parent mag of this blog, Horse Sport International. Pippa wrote both of the stories I will refer to here today in my pathetic (and possibly fruitless) effort to make sense of WTF is going on in Sheikh/HRH/FEI land. And ‘intrepid’ is actually insufficient as a term for Pippa’s forthrightness, since it takes more than an ounce of courage to stick one’s neck out in such company.
At the curious hour of one minute before midnight on Tuesday, the Telegraph published an online article written by Pippa with the following headline: ‘Endurance horses trained at Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai stables involved in doping scandal’. So it wasn’t just that loony Zarooni who was giving out the roids to the ponies. Someone in the Endurance barn was delivering a little juice to the distance runners too.
And here’s where it really goes sideways. If you are up to speed as per my advice above, HRH accepted her husband’s invitation to become Chair of the Dubai Equestrian Club last week. Well, today, the British Endurance community is gobsmacked by the sudden announcement – in a single, sad sentence posted on the Euston Park website – that all four of its FEI sanctioned endurance races for 2013 have been cancelled. Now, just to get an idea of how thickly intertwined the British venue (and by extension, British endurance racing) is with the Ruler of Dubai, the logo features the Union Jack and Dubai’s flag joined together by a rather ugly beige silhouette of an endurance rider and horse.
You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to make the very small hop to the conclusion that this sudden cancelling of all the races at Euston Park is connected to the latest public airing of many years of doping busts suffered by the Sheikh’s endurance horses (it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Maktoum steeds have something of a drug habit). Read Pippa’s other, even ballsier, article to understand just how this tale of doping woe has unraveled. Of course it’s not news at all that the Sheikh’s endurance horses have been caught red-hoofed on a routine basis, nor is this the first time I have scratched my head about the contradictory situation arising from the fact that the ‘clean sport’ FEI Prez is married to probably the single worst offender the FEI has ever had when it comes to doping. But if HRH had a rat’s chance in hell of helping clean up the mess by taking over the Dubai Equestrian Club last week, that’s up in smoke now. How can any of us think the Sheikh has any interest in changing his spots, given this latest development? It’s equivalent to a law student, upon getting caught cheating on exams, dropping out of law school. Not really the way to prove your innocence, is it?
I wonder what the chats are like around FEI HQ’s water cooler these days. I imagine there’s quite a bit of whispering. Or the bedtime patter at a certain Royal household…