Russia and Belarus have been banned from competing in FEI events due to the invasion of Ukraine ©Getty Images

A three-member International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Tribunal panel has dismissed an appeal from the Federation of Equestrian Sports of Russia (FESR) against the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, horses and officials from FEI events.

In line with recommendations from the International Olympic Committee, the FEI announced on March 2 that both countries would be unable to participate in its events until further notice, effective from March 6.

This followed the widely condemned invasion of Ukraine which has led to Russia and Belarus being largely frozen out of international sport.

Russia has pursued legal routes in an attempt to overturn sanctions imposed by several International Federations, although the overturning of an International Luge Federation (FIL) ban on its athletes, coaches and officials by the FIL Court of Arbitration currently represents a rare victory.

This decision was referenced by the FESR in making its case to the FEI Tribunal panel.

The FEI Tribunal panel, chaired by Canadian official Harveen Thauli and completed by Colombia's Cesar Torrente and Armand Leone of the United States, found in favour of the FEI.

It dismissed the appeal and ruled that no deposit will be returned to the FESR, which has been ordered to pay CHF 3,000 (£2,500/$3,100/€2,900) towards legal costs.

The FEI Board invoked Article 20.3 of its statues to implement the sanctions, covering an "emergency situation" which is defined as "a serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and clearly requires immediate action".

The FESR disputed the use of this Article, and claimed that the FEI had not provided evidence that the war in Ukraine impacted equestrian.

"There is no evidence that the alleged invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces constitutes an 'emergency basis'," its submission read.

"Furthermore, the case file does not have any evidence that the equestrian sport in Ukraine has been shut down, Ukrainian athletes face risks to their lives, and Ukrainian Athletes are restricted from practicing the equestrian sport."

The FESR claimed during the hearing that
The FESR claimed during the hearing that "there is no evidence that there is a war in Ukraine" ©Getty Images

Responding to a question from the Tribunal Panel, the FESR claimed "there is no evidence that there is a war in Ukraine".

Moscow has claimed that it is conducting a "special military operation" in neighboring Ukraine.

However, the United Nations (UN) has described the attack as "a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine", and has reported that at least 4,031 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, although it is feared the true figure is far higher.

More than 6.7 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since February 24, according to the UN.

The FESR cited lack of sporting sanctions imposed in response to "other recent military conflicts, including between the US and Syria, Israel and Yemen, and Turkey and Cyprus".

It argued that "the FEI has suspended the FESR, a fully compliant National Federation, and discriminated against its athletes and officials", and accused the FEI of "mixing politics and sports".

The FEI said that "the circumstances relating to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces have been widely reported and documented", and that "invasion met (and still meets) the definition of an Emergency Situation because it was (and remains) a serious situation or occurrence that happened unexpectedly and required immediate action even when only viewed in the context of equestrian sport".

"The military action effectively had the effect of shutting down equestrian sport in Ukraine, placing the lives of Ukrainian athletes, officials and horses at risk and severely limiting, if not completely restricting, their ability to compete in FEI events," the FEI submission read.

"By adopting the Resolution, the FEI Board wanted to ensure the fairness and integrity of FEI events."

The FEI argued that
The FEI argued that "the military action effectively had the effect of shutting down equestrian sport in Ukraine" ©Getty Images

It added that the resolution "has the same legal effect as a rule that is approved by the FEI General Assembly".

The FEI also expressed "concern that FEI athletes, officials, teams and NFs [National Federations] would boycott FEI events rather than participate alongside FESR athletes, officials and teams while the war is ongoing", and said in disciplines such as dressage and vaulting, "a possible scenario is that a Ukrainian athlete would rather withdraw than be subject to scores of a Russian judge".

It also insisted that the FESR has not been suspended, and "their membership rights are not affected by the resolution".

In its legal discussion, the panel said: "The Russian military invasion of Ukraine has been widely reported on different media platforms.

"It is difficult to ignore what is happening in real time such as a cluster bomb landing on an apartment building in Mariupol or a school in the Luhansk region.

"These images are real and enough for this Panel to state that a reasonable person would conclude that Russian military forces invaded Ukraine and the war is ongoing."

The panel also found that the FEI resolution "ensures fair and even conditions", and agreed that "the potential for boycotts could arise if FESR athletes, officials and teams were permitted to compete in FEI events".

It also agreed that the FESR had not been suspended by the FEI.

With regards the FESR argument on other military conflicts, the panel said it "is not in a position to comment on other military conflicts except for this one, which precipitated the resolution", and pointed out that the Russian Government had breached the Olympic Truce.