Luc Schelstraete and colleague Piotr Wawrzyniak were brought on board by Hermès’ owner Joop van Uytert in the case between the KNHS and the FEI concerning the rejection of Hermès’ registration for the Olympic Games. Schelstraete, who not for the first time found himself face to face with the FEI, saw this rejection coming. “As an experienced legal counsel in this field, I was afraid this would happen. As a person, however, you would hope for some measure of compassion and humanity from Lausanne. It was not to be.” Participation is now out of the question, but this is not the end of the story. Schelstraete still has some aces up his sleeves. Schelstraete announced on behalf of Joop van Uytert that further legal action was to be expected, and the KNHS represented by the director of top sport Iris Boelhouwer did not exclude joining this further legal action.
Schelstraete took some measure of faith in the CAS from the case that he and Wawrzyniak won in the Karlsson case at the CAS. “You would think they would be aware of their own jurisprudence and act on this in cases that follow. In the Karlsson case, the CAS protected the athlete’s position, judging that the FEI cannot hold other parties such as the athletes, organisers, or the French Equestrian Federation accountable for the FEI’s errors and mistakes.
Appeal against FEI Tribunal decision
But this turned out to not be the case. The CAS verdict came back ‘rejected’ to the request for an interim injunction. So what is next? An appeal against the FEI Tribunal decision has already been filed, “This has to be processed within ten days of the original decision.”
Holding both the FEI and Ingmar de Vos liable
But that is not all. Pending the CAS verdict about the interim injunction, Schelstraete has held the FEI and its president Ingmar de Vos liable for the mistakes made by the FEI in the database. “The files provided by the FEI for debate in the FEI Tribunal clearly show that they are responsible for the error regarding the nationality of Joop van Uytert in the database. I have summoned the FEI and president Ingmar de Vos to correct that mistake by 17.00 this evening.” Schelstraete does not expect much to come out of this. “Knowing the FEI, they will do nothing.” Schelstraete also tried to move the FEI in ‘the right direction’ through Frank Kemperman, chairman of the FEI Dressage Committee. He gave no response.
Schelstraete’s second ace is a civil lawsuit in the Netherlands. “The FEI always supposes that a Dutch court shall have no jurisdiction and that cases against the FEI always have to be handled in Switzerland. But in the case of an unlawful act (tort), a judge in the country where the damage was suffered also has jurisdiction. I would very much like a Dutch court to have a look at this case.”
In this case, there is a dual interest, in addition to the sporting interest of the Dutch national dressage team (which is considerable: theoretically, Hermès was a big asset to the team that would have markedly increased the chances of a team medal), there is also the interest of Joop van Uytert as a stallion owner. A breeding stallion that went to the Olympics of course would be of much higher value than a breeding stallion that was turned away from the Olympics.
Schelstraete thinks this case is an incredible shame. “Imagine your city council accidentally registers you as a Polish or Russian national. There is just no way.” The FEI did just this, however, and the international equestrian federation will not budge. “Of course they know that in case of any trouble, they will find a warm welcome at the FEI Tribunal. We recently did the rounds of the various offices and concluded that the FEI Tribunal has recently never ruled against the FEI in any of their cases. Statistically, this is just wrong.”
KNHS never suggested Tribunal candidate
About whether or not the KNHS ever noticed before that Joop van Uytert was registered as a German national, Schelstraete said; ‘you can certainly form an opinion on that’. But neither has the KNHS ever taken action to look after their own (and particularly their athletes’) interests on the FEI Tribunal. “Every national federation can put forward candidates for the FEI Tribunal. The KNHS has never made use of this. That creates this situation where people from Mexico or another non-dressage nation sit in judgment. People who are far detached from the actual reality of the sport. This quickly became apparent in the Karlsson case; the members of the Tribunal had no insight whatsoever into the actual inner workings of the jumping sport.”
Photo by Hippo Foto