ian O’Connor & Good Luck at the 2015 European Championships. Ph. ©NoelleFloyd.com
Cian O’Connor and Horse Sport Ireland are preparing to face off with the FEI in mid-December, when O’Connor’s protest regarding the interference debacle at the European Championships goes in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
O’Connor today confirmed that the hearing date will be finalized this week, and while neither party is giving much detail on the particulars of their argument prior to the hearing, the Irish Examiner quoted a confident O’Connor today: “I firmly believe that we will win our case before CAS. There are multiple anomalies that are not appropriate for me to discuss today, but we are certain of our ground and both HSI and my legal teams are very confident that, ultimately, Horse Sport Ireland will be awarded a showjumping team place at Rio next year.”
The argument hinges on whether the path of O’Connor and his horse Good Luck was interfered with as he turned between fences during what was a clear round in the Team Final of the European Championships at Aachen, Germany in August. A member of the jump crew who was not paying attention ran in front of O’Connor, and the horse had the next fence down. The subsequent four faults incurred by Team Ireland were the vital decider that caused Ireland to lose out on their Olympic qualifying position by 0.38 penalties to Spain.
O’Connor, who was visibly furious as he exited the arena after the round and immediately lodged a protest with the Aachen Ground Jury, has steadfastly maintained that he was forced to compete on a playing field that was unequal to his competitors, and the fault should therefore be reversed.
However, the Ground Jury reasoned that since O’Connor had continued with his round after the interference, they didn’t find reason to stop him by ringing the bell. Athletes are allowed to stop voluntarily due to unforseen circumstances under Article 233.3 of the FEI Jumping Rules. The Appeal Committee stood behind the Gound Jury’s decision, ruling that the fault would stand.
Stay tuned as this case reaches the CAS, which is the only international governing body of sport with the power to overrule the FEI.
Here again is video of the incident; this poor quality video is the only one that has been made public, despite the round being filmed from multiple angles by the FEI itself: