Hello everyone and welcome to our live question and answer session with the Irish Examiner's John Tynan from 1pm.
We will be examining the dramatic past couple of days in Irish showjumping which have seen Denis Lynch being withdrawn from the London Olympics.
If you have any comments or questions please feel free to submit them in our comments facility.
So John, first of all the buzz word around Irish show jumping seems to be hypersensitivity; what is it?
In essence, it is where the sensitivity of the horse’s leg is increased beyond normal levels. As horses are athletes, per se, they are prone to minor injury due to the nature of their activities, but hypersensitivity can be caused by an irritant or even an insect bite, so the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) accepts it can naturally occur and do not deem it a punishable offence in terms of the rider, but will disqualify the horse from competition.
On the other hand, since it is only common sense that a horse with overly-sensitive legs will make a bigger effort to avoid hitting a fence, the FEI guard against hypersensitisation, which is the deliberate production of hypersensitivity through artificial means.
The public need to be aware of the difference.
@john.tynan So, how do they test for hypersensitivity?
Hi Patrick, without a doubt there is a fear of trouble at the Olympics, based on the fact Denis has had three horses disqualified in the past 12 months for hypersensitivity. It is true Denis and his brother/manager Shay have questioned the credibility of the Horse Sport Ireland Monitoring Group, which comprised team vet Marcus Swail and manager Robert Splaine, and which withdrew Denis's nomination on Monday after meeting the rider. And perhaps Denis and Shay have a point, but HSI says they never raised this during Monday's meeting, which weaken's their case.
@john Is this not a dangerous oversight on behalf of the HSI to to allow Swail and Splaine on the monitoring group?
@Patrick It could also be seen as the HSI being very proactive in making sure that there is no controversy attached to any of their riders.
Hi Pete, I am no voicebox or apologist for HSI, but I guess they needed Swail and Splaine at Monday's meeting as they had first-hand accounts of what happened in Aachen in the run-up to the disqualification of Denis's horse Lantinus. On top of that, Denis had legal representation at the meeting and, I reiterate, he never raised any questions as to Swail and Splaine's presence.
@Patrick Okay, but you can come back to this page later and see John's replies to your comments. Thanks for joining us.
Hi Irene, your point is one that is being made by many and it does smack of irony. However, Cian served his punishment at the time, the worst of which was his public ignominy, and has not put a foot out of place in the eight years since. In fact, he is one of the most capped Irish riders. Without a doubt, on a human level, you have to feel sorry for Denis. I think the bigger question regarding Cian's selection is the ability of his horse Blue Loyd to take on the Olympics.
Hi Patrick, HSI said the Monitoring Group was unanimous in its concerns at Lynch’s hypersensitivity strike-rate - three in 12 months - and these concerns were not allayed at the meeting, though Lynch said it was "baffling", as he had "provided a full explanation for everything that was asked... and no question was left unanswered". Sure, his statement went into detail on the reason for each disqualification and they appeared valid. But you always return to the fact there were three instances in 12 months, while there were only six instances in total of horses being disqualified worldwide in the past three years. Definitely, HSI is concerned at no controversy at the Olympics. Ireland, nor the show jumping, in general can afford another scandal, even if Denis was not guilty of any wrongdoing. I do think the process needs to be examined, though.
@john I agree that they should have had Splaine and Swail at the meeting on Monday, but could they not have been there as independent witnesses and then had others in the monitoring group to make the final decision?
Hi Peter, that's a fair point, but why did Denis and his legal representative not raise it at the time. On the other hand, as I said in my reply to to Patrick, I do think the process needs to be examined.
@irene dorgan Do you think it will affect the Irish public's perception of our show jumpers at the Olympics? What would be the reaction if, for example, O'Connor got gold in London. Would there be widespread joy or scepticism?
Anyway John, getting back to my earlier question, So, how do they test for hypersensitivity? And is it done at every meet or only randomly?
Hi Irene, there is a lot of misconception among the general public, who are not aware of the nuances involved. So, definitely, there's bound to be a 'here we go again' sentiment with Denis's withdrawal and Cian's installation. If Cian wins gold in London, bring it on, I am sure it will be deserved, and I am sure the majority of the public will welcome it, while not exactly going wild celebrating it. You are sure to have detractors and there will always be a cloud over Cian, even, considering it's eight years since Athens, if that cloud is small. If he wins gold or any medal, it will definitely put him well down the road to redemption.
Hi Peter, testing for hypersensitivity is undertaken thus: International Equestrian Federation-sanctioned vets use a thermographic camera, which detects abnormal heat patterns, be they high or low, in the horse's legs. This is accompanied by manual examination of the legs, ie palpitation.
So on Friday, It was Lantinus that was disqualified, but not Lynch. So he was not proven to have done wrong, so why withdraw his nomination?
Hi Pete, as HSI have said, it was the fact he had three hypersensitivity disqualifications in one year and HSI say these concerns were not allayed at the Monday's meeting, which Denis disagrees with.
But if he already had two strikes before his nomination, then why was he nominated in the first place? Shouldn't O'Connor, who has had a clean record for eight years now, not have been nominated in the first place?
Hi Peter, the first point is interesting on a number of levels. Firstly, Denis won the place for Ireland through his individual performances on a weekly basis putting him top of the Olympic rankings. Despite winning the place for Ireland, it is the manager Robert Splaine who picks the rider to compete in London. HSI were very public in their pronouncements that if they had any doubts about a rider they would take action. In fact, they introduced a rule this year that said if a rider had two horses disqualified he would have to explain himself to a disciplinary group. HSI claims it could not apply the rule retrospectively. Also, I assume HSI must have been assured that Lynch would not have a third case.
Plus, if Lynch's horses are found to be sore or hypersensitive three times in 12 months, would this be a case for animal welfare groups to examine? Or do the HSI have any power to do anything about it?
Hi Peter, on the point of Cian been selected to replace Denis. Cian was not an automatic choice, particularly as he has only been riding Blue Loyd for seven months. Many, in fact, believe Cork's US-based rider Shane Sweetnam would have been a better more solid choice with his horse Amaretto d'Arco.
@john So Cian has only been working with his horse for seven months? Is this not a bit of a risk considering it is the Olympics he is entering and there will be loads of top-class competitors in London? I would imagine Shane Sweetnam is not happy with the decision....
It is vital to note: Horses, like athletes, pick up injuries; I think even animal welfare groups, responsible ones at least, would recognise this. There is no suggestion whatsoever that any horse is being mistreated. In fact, the FEI has not detected one case of hypersensitisation - the deliberate production of hypersensitivity through artificial means - in the past three years for definite and never, as far as I can recall.
Hi Peter, on the question of Cian's Blue Loyd versus Shane's Amaretto D'Arco: He has only had the horse for seven months, a relatively short time to build up a partnership for the biggest challenge in show jumping.
It is believed that the performances in the nations cups in Rotterdam and last week in Aachen — in both cases the pairing had a single error over two rounds — convinced Splaine to nominate O’Connor over Sweetnam.
He told me yesterday, that he had built up a good relationship with the horse, and said "given our display under pressure in Aachen, when we were the last combination on the team. If we can reproduce that form in London, we have as good a chance as anybody".
The real issue is can the partnership remain consistent over three days of physically and, crucially, mentally taxing competition. It can be a lonely place in the arena when things are not going to plan.
@john So do you expect O'Connor to be on the podium in London?
H Peter, Sweetnam also has a strong case and I know he is very upset. He would not comment on the record last night. He is currently ranked 45 in the world, the third Irish rider behind Lynch and Billy Twomey, who was also selected by Splaine to compete in London. In 2011/12, he lined out in an impressive eight of the 11 top tier nations cup contests, while he provided clear rounds in two of his three nations cup outings this year with Amaretto d'Arco. His current form is good too: Recently at the five-star show in Calgary, Canada, he was second in the World Cup Qualifier.
Okay, but getting back to Denis Lynch. What now for him?
Hi Jordan, in March some scoffed when I wrote that Cian had laid down an early marker for Olympic selection when he jumped a double clear with Blue Loyd in the US Nations Cup. It might not have been the stiffest test, but this must be qualified by the fact he had only been riding Blue for four months.
Thus, having held gold once, albeit briefly, it wouldn't surprise me to see him lifting some sort of metal again in London in three weeks' time.
Hi Peter, Denis says he is considering appealing the withdrawal of his nomination. Crucially, HSI have no appeals process, which the Olympic Council of Ireland told me on Tuesday was “extraordinary”. Nevertheless, Lynch can appeal to the Olympic Council directly, or the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
@john So what is the deadline for the appeal for Lynch to be able to attend the Olympics? I would imagine the clock is ticking....
Hi Peter, I am awaiting a response from the Olympic Council of Ireland and the International Olympic Committee as to a deadline for an appeal by Denis. If I hear soon, you will be first to know!!
Doesn't Lynch have a wealthy backer? What will be his reaction to his man not being allowed to go to the Olympics?
Hi tayto, your cynicism is perfectly understandable, but Cian is entitled to go to the Olympics. Interestingly, Michelle Smith still has her Olympic medals.
Hi Peter, Denis is “devastated” and “distraught”, but the backing of Straumann, a wealthy Swiss industrialist, is crucial if he is to remain as Ireland’s most successful rider. For all his talent, no rider can perform without good horses and, through Straumann, Denis has acquired some of the best in the world. Denis's brother/manager Shay was categorical yesterday that Denis retains the 100% support of Straumann. Denis, I know, will be liasing with Straumann and his legal representatives as to his next move.
Hi Peter, Denis's brother/manager Shay has literally just told me not to expect a decision on any appeal to be made until 'tomorrow morning at the earliest'.