The Equestrian Federation of India (EFI), buoyed by the news that all its horses bound for the Asian Games in Guangzhou (China) are disease-free, is looking to bag a rich haul in the quadrennial event, which begins on November 12.
A two-member Chinese quarantine team which is now in India has given the all-clear to the horses and the EFI has "written" to the union sports ministry to clear the team, which has been hit by charges of wrongdoing by rider Rajesh Pattu, who could not make it to the squad.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times from Bangalore, coach JS Ahluwalia said: "This is the best opportunity for us to bag not one but two gold medals at the Games. All this controversy about a Guangzhou-bound horse being infected with a protozoan disease and the fact that we did not follow proper quarantine procedures, is wrong. In fact, we, in the EFI, tested all the horses at the centre recommended by the Chinese authorities and approved by the Indian government. And it was Pattu's horse that failed the test.
"We had no choice but to drop him as the international equestrian federation (FIE) directive states that the rider and the horse should qualify together. The Chinese quarantine officials have told us that they are very happy with our quarantine procedures.
They had an inkling of what was going on here. But they are not bothered. They have gone by the book, tested our horses and given them the all-clear," said Ahluwalia.
A senior EFI official, not wishing to be named because of the sensitive nature of the case, furnished the clinical report, which showed Pattu's horse had tested positive for the protozoan disease. "The horse was immediately removed and returned to the Army.
Thereafter, no case of the protozoan disease has been detected. The period being more than 30 days is within the permissible provision as per special veterinary protocol made for India by the Chinese authorities," he said.
"The same person whose horse is a carrier of the disease is going around telling everyone that the EFI is compromising on quarantine procedures," said the EFI official.
"The team has been carefully chosen after a series of five trials each in eventing and dressage. Pattu barely managed to make it to the team, but after his horse tested positive, we dropped him. He claims to be the three-time Asian Games bronze-medallist.
Equestrianism is about team medals, not individual medals. The first time the team won bronze at the Games, he got eliminated, the second time he had no position and at the last Games in Doha, India didn't come in the placings initially. It was only after the team lodged a complaint about the long spurs of the Indonesian team, that it was promoted to third place," said the EFI official.
Ahluwalia added that in the last international Asian Games qualifying competition at Bangalore, Pattu finished seventh out of eight riders. "In fact he almost got eliminated.
All this controversy he is generating now is in bad taste. Pattu is an Army man and he should not be bringing a bad name to his organisation. As for the fairness of the selection, what more can you say when a federation virtually run by the Army, has seven civilians and just one Army man in the team". Pattu didn’t return calls or respond to repeated text messages.