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Paul Hart, the event rider who will miss out on the Olympic Games after the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) accepted the Council of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling that they include Alex Peternell, said he was “insulted” at his treatment.
Hart was due to join the rest of Team South Africa in the Olympic Village this week, but Peternell will now take his place after the council “forced” Sascoc to okay his selection late on Wednesday night.
Peternell had won an initial appeal against his exclusion by Sascoc and the South African Equestrian Federation at the council on Saturday.
Sascoc and the federation then decided that no one should represent South Africa at the Olympics in the eventing, but Peternell went back to the council and it ruled in his favour, forcing Sascoc to include him on the basis he had a higher international ranking.
“I had accepted the decision made by SAEF and Sascoc that neither of us would ride,” wrote Hart on Facebook.
“I could have still accepted it if Alex’s horse, Asih, was higher-qualified than mine. But he is not. Go to the FEI website to results horse/rider… No other country in the world would allow a horse with that result record to run and everybody knows that in eventing, it’s the horse-and-rider combination that counts… I am appalled at the treatment I received from the legal representative of the FEI and CAS. It was disrespectful.”
There has been controversy about the nationality of Peternell’s horse, which was born in Germany but registered as South African. Despite claims it had not been registered as South African by the deadline of December 31 last year, Tubby Reddy, the CEO of Sascoc, confirmed it had.
“They have chosen a horse that came in through a loophole in SAEF’s selection criteria, and Alex and his lawyers have exploited this shamelessly,” wrote Hart, who said that he would be seeking compensation.
“I have lost sponsorships at home. I had to pay people to run my yard at home… there are costs for trucking to Greenwich. My trainers, who arrived in London two days ago, have to be paid… How do I repay the people that got me here?!”
Sascoc has been sympathetic to Hart.
“It is with regret that… Paul Hart has to bear the brunt of this sad situation,” said Reddy. “While this whole affair is regrettable, for the sake of the Olympic Games it is important to move forward.”