Modern pentathlon's governing body denies accusations that its decision to include obstacle course racing was made behind closed doors

2 months ago 29
  • Modern pentathlon is testing obstacle course racing as its new fifth discipline after ditching show jumping.
  • Athletes have accused the sport's governing body of not involving them in the decision, a claim which it refutes. 
  • "Everyone has had an opportunity to put forward their proposals," James Cooke told Insider. 

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Modern pentathlon's governing body, Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), has refuted accusations that it made the decision to choose obstacle course racing as its new fifth discipline behind closed doors. 

UIPM announced in May that it would test obstacle course racing as a replacement for show jumping after announcing the equestrian discipline would be ditched following the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The decision was made by a "working group" consisting of 21 people – including Olympic pentathletes and media experts – in conjunction with the input of the sport's various committees and national federations, said UIPM.

Speaking to Insider at the time, the reigning men's Olympic champion, Joseph Choong accused the governing body of using the working group as "facade."

Speaking again to Insider last month, Choong, as well as American pentathletes Heidi Hendrick and Avery Niemann – all of whom are part of Pentathlon United, a group which is campaigning for show jumping to remain in modern pentathlon – claimed they and other athletes were not consulted about the change.

"The entire process has shocked me the way that athletes matter so little in decision making processes in sport," said Choong. "It's clear that a huge majority of active athletes don't want these changes, and yet it's been forced through anyway."

James Cooke, a UIPM athlete representative who was one of four Olympic pentathletes in the working group, told Insider that his colleagues' claims are wrong.

"Everyone has had an opportunity to put forward their proposals," he said. "Every national federation, I think there's 131 of them, were allowed to speak among each other and then put forward their proposals.

"The technical committee, which is made up of referees, judges, were also allowed to put forward their suggestions, as were the coaching committee, and the athlete committee.

"We [the fifth-discipline working group] spoke to the athlete representatives from individual nations and asked them to speak to their athletes and then we put together an athlete focus group which was a mix of demographics. 

"We had members that had strong opinions for riding in that focus group and we also had athletes that had strong opinions against it.

"I think in terms of that process we did a really, really good job."

UIPM President Dr. Klaus Schormann also rejects the notion that athletes weren't involved in the process of selecting modern pentathlon's new fifth discipline.

"The voice of the athletes has been heard from the very beginning," he told Insider. "The athlete committee members are elected by all athletes from all around the world and in all the continents separately, so there's a voice for Asia, a voice for America, and so on."

"The athlete committee is at every competition, and they have meetings, they speak with the athletes," he added. "We are very democratically active."

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