Defending Olympic show-jumping champion Eric Lamaze says he will not compete for Canada again unless Equine Canada shows more support for rider Tiffany Foster, whose horse was disqualified from the Olympics over a small scratch.
Foster’s horse, Victor, was taken out of competition last week after failing a hypersensitivity test intended to protect the welfare of competitive horses. Lamaze had called the decision a “miscarriage of justice” because the sensitivity amounted to a minor scratch above the hoof and that the horse was fit to compete.
After riding the first round of the individual show-jumping event on Wednesday, Lamaze said he was “shocked” by a statement released on Tuesday by Equine Canada president Michael Gallagher that supported the International Equestrian Federation’s hypersensitivity protocol. Gallagher also thanked FEI president Princess Haya Al Hussein for making it clear that the disqualification did not imply any wrongdoing on the part of Foster.
Online reports that surfaced late Tuesday said Lamaze would be boycotting the Spruce Meadows Masters at Calgary next month and the Sunshine Tour in Spain unless Equine Canada changed its tune.
“This is very early, and I’m not going to make any more statements on that,” said Lamaze, referring to the Olympic-class event in Calgary, after his round aboard Derly Chin de Muze on Wednesday.
“Yes, I was hurt by the press release from Equine Canada,” he said Wednesday. “I feel there was a little lack of support there.”
Lamaze coaches Foster.
He said he hopes Equine Canada can change its statement, and he will continue to ride for Canada. “I love riding for Canada and, hopefully, I will continue to do that,” he said.
Lamaze said Foster is recovering from the shock of being disqualified, but “this meant so much to her, you have no idea,” he said.
“She loves that horse so much. The idea of anybody assuming she would ride a horse and put it in any danger is so hurtful to her because she absolutely loves the horse. She was devastated and I feel for her.”
Lamaze said Foster, who has competed in few international tournaments, did not understand what was happening when FEI veterinarians disqualified her horse.
“The main thing is that she did nothing wrong,” Lamaze said. “This was a small cut that could happen to any horse. It was the decision. She has to respect that decision and that’s it, But it’s been quite hard.
“No one came here with more desire.”
Lamaze said he was surprised by the Equine Canada statement because he felt the whole Canadian team was “on board” about the FEI decision. “We don’t always have to agree with all decisions,” he said. “If we think it’s unfair, it’s not wrong to voice your opinion.”
Former Equine Canada chief executive officer Akaash Maharaj calls the Equine Canada statement “a public obscenity” and “an affront to every athlete who has ever carried the maple leaf into competition.”
He told The Globe and Mail that the FEI had wrapped “indefensible decisions in the false flag of horse welfare,” had wronged individual athletes and brought its commitment to horse welfare “into disrepute.”
While he said the regulations to check for hypersensitivity are legitimate that the FEI’s attempt to apply them to Foster’s situation was “absurd.”
Source: Globe and Mail