Olympics: Modern pentathlon to drop riding after horse punching scandal in Tokyo

Modern pentathlon’s governing body has reportedly voted to remove horse riding from the programme for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games

Modern pentathlon’s governing body has reportedly voted to remove horse riding from the programme for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

According to the Guardian, the UIPM made the decision to remove horse riding during a secret Executive Board meeting this week. It plans to replace the discipline with cycling.

The decision is considered the result of an animal abuse scandal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

German modern pentathlete Annika Schleu was heavily criticised for her treatment of her horse, Saint Boy, during the Games.

Schleu had been leading the competition before the show jumping section, where athletes are given just 20 minutes to bond with a horse they have never ridden.

The 31-year-old Schleu was given Saint Boy, who repeatedly refused to cooperate during the event. As a result, a tearful Schleu was eliminated with zero points.

Outrage came after footage emerged of Schleu’s coach, Kim Raisner. She appeared to punch the horse for not performing. Raisner was also heard on German TV urging Schleu to "really hit" Saint Boy.

The former Olympian was subsequently banned from the Games for her actions.

Schleu was also criticised on social media for whipping Saint Boy too hard and digging her spurs into the horse.The German Animal Welfare Association alleged Schleu had "roughly beaten the frightened and overtaxed the horse several times".

She later claimed she "did not treat the horse extremely harshly", however. 

Saint Boy refused to jump during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

"I had a crop with me that was checked beforehand," Schleu told Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper. "Exactly like the spurs. I am really not aware of any cruelty to animals."

The UIPM has not commented on the Guardian’s story, but suggested in a statement confirmation of horse riding’s exclusion would be announced on Thursday.

"As part of UIPM’s commitment to maintaining a strong, dynamic profile for modern pentathlon, a series of strategic meetings are being held," the UIPM said.

"These meetings will include an upcoming call with national federations later this week. The outcome of these meetings will be detailed in a press release to be published on 4 November."

Modern pentathlon, an Olympic sport since 1912, comprises fencing, freestyle swimming, show jumping and a combined event of pistol shooting and cross country running.

Former British modern pentathlete, Kate Allenby, an Olympic bronze medallist at Sydney 2000, told the Guardian removing riding from the sport would be a "disaster".

"This needs talking about because it’s not modern pentathlon if it hasn’t got riding in it," she said.

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