The Dark Side

Sat, 02/08/2014 - 11:40

A curious thing about sitting in the Eurodressage headquarters at home is that you get sent quite a lot of inside information from riders, trainers, coaches, breeders, owners about what is happening behind the scenes and behind closed doors. Most of this information is not for publication, or are rumours which need to get checked before they can be turned into articles.

Regularly I get first hand information about the dark side of the sport: back-stabbing money-stealing horse deals, horses failing vet checks and then miraculously getting fixed in one week in order to sell for millions, passport and chipping fraud by horse dealers, horses which had a skin transplantation to cover up spur scars, top sport horses spotted standing for hours in icing machines before they can move sound again, buscopan being used as painkiller for a feigned minor colic in order for a horse still to compete at a CDI under medication, show officials bullying riders with misinformed rules, the list is in fact never ending.

It always makes me question how much I should live up to the duty to publicize this information; to put the finger on the sore spots of the sport. Such internal debates always generate major dilemma because as a journalist you will get criticized instantly that you are too "negative" or "harking at the same people all the time" (even though this is not true!). The accusation I hear most often is "you are destroying the sport" when you comment on poor riding, poor judging or poor human behaviour.

Usually I try to stay ethical and consider it a moral duty to expose wrongdoers. I feel an urge to set the record straight or at least shed light on the uglier sides, but I try to do it as fair and diplomatically as possible. I normally do this in an editorial, which is an opinion piece, but then I receive complaints, "you are ruining the sport, you're a bad journalist, you should be objective, not subjective."

It is actually easier not to write about it, to stick one's head in the sand and ignore it. You can ask whether not writing about it is better journalism. It certainly is safer...

-- Astrid Appels

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