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The Olympic pentathlon champion says the way the sport's chiefs chose to replace horse riding with an obstacle course is 'all quite suspicious'

Barnaby Lane   

The Olympic pentathlon champion says the way the sport's chiefs chose to replace horse riding with an obstacle course is 'all quite suspicious'
  • Modern pentathlon's governing body will trial obstacle racing as the sport's new fifth discipline.
  • Olympic champion Joe Choong claimed to Insider the decision was made months ago behind closed doors.

Olympic modern pentathlon champion Joe Choong claims the sport's governing body made the call to introduce obstacle racing as its new fifth discipline months ago, despite only announcing the decision earlier this week.

The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) announced Monday two variations of a so-called "Obstacle Discipline" had been selected for testing to replace modern pentathlon's scrapped horse riding section, which was thrown out after a German coach was seen striking a horse at the Tokyo Olympics Games.

In a statement, the UIPM said the decision had been made by a working group consisting of athletes amd UIPM board members — including UIPM President Dr. Klaus Schormannafter two days of "intense meetings" in Budapest.

The working group said that in reaching its decision, it "rigorously followed" pre-established criteria set out by the UIPM including "athletes' views, medical aspects (including workload, injuries and anti-doping), TV, media and marketing opportunities."

Great Britain's Choong, who won gold in the men's pentathlon event in at the Tokyo Olympic Games, told Insider that he believes the working group was a "facade."

"I've known since since maybe the end of November, December, that the new discipline was always going to be obstacle course," he said.

"Around 2016, an American called Bob Stull joined the UIPM executive board, and it until very recently, he was also listed on the world obstacle course racing website as being on their board."

Robert Stull, a former Olympic pentathlete and fencer, is listed on he UIPM's website as its "President of NORCECA [North, Central America and Caribbean] Confederation." He is also a member of the UIPM's fifth discipline working group.

He is not currently listed on the central board of the Federation Internationale de Sport d'Obstacles (FISO), also known as World Obstacle. According to Inside the Games, however, the American was previously a member.

Shortly after Stull was named in the UIPM's working group, USA Pentathlon, of which Stull is chief executive, also changed its name to USA Pentathlon Multisport and newly listed "Obstacle Course Racing" as one of its sub-sites.

"So that's where the link came from in 2016," continued Choong. "And then back in December, Klaus [Schormann] did a German interview where he said the best sport had already been decided."

As Choong claims, Schormann told German sports magazine Sportschau last year, though it was in November, that agreement had "already been reached" on the new fifth discipline.

"I'm not yet revealing what it will be here," said Schormann.

"Obviously, the UIPM went back on [Schormann's interview] saying, 'No, no, we're having a discussion,'" said Choong, referencing the working group's meetings in Budapest.

"But it's all quite suspicious, he added, saying he believes that "they'd already decided on obstacle course racing years ago."

Following Monday's announcement by the UIPM, Choong was one of five modern pentathletes, writing collectively as Pentathlon United, to send a letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach calling for an independent investigation into the sport, which it says is in "crisis."

Choong's fellow Briton Kate Allenby, Australia's Alex Watson, Denmark's Eva Fjellerup, and Ukraine's Pavlo Tymoshchenko, men's silver medalist at Rio 2016, are the others who signed the letter.

"It is clear that the UIPM does not engage, represent or listen to its athletes, as so breaches the Olympic Charter, which recognizes the athletes as 'a fundamental element of the Olympic Movement'," the letter alleges.

"In taking these steps, the UIPM has catalyzed broader, longstanding concerns from the athletes about the management, governance and probity of the UIPM."

Pentathlon United said in its letter that last month it surveyed 310 athletes, 168 of whom are currently competing internationally, about the UIPM and the process of finding a new fifth discipline.

The group said it found that over 95% of respondents are unhappy with how the UIPM has conducted the riding replacement process and that more than 90% believe "the UIPM is not capable of building a strong future for the sport."


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