Can They Do That? Questions Surrounding the USOC Complaint from Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke

Professional hunter riders and trainers Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke have filed a United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Section 10 Complaint against the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) regarding their suspension by USEF following a positive drug test.

The complainants seek to have the USOC put the USEF’s National Governing Body (NGB) status on a six-month probation based on allegations that the USEF Hearing Process was unfair and did not provide due process to them as required under the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act and the USOC Bylaws. They want the USOC to intervene and find that the USEF Hearing Committee has not been compliant with its requirements to provide a fair hearing. More details can be found here and here.

But do Farmer and Glefke really have a legitimate claim with the USOC? Armand Leone weighs in briefly on this interesting new development in the Farmer and Glefke suspension case:

Q: I thought the USOC only oversees athletes that compete in the Olympic Games and championships. Is this really something that they would be involved with?    

A: While the role of an NGB under the USOC includes the regulation of national competition, its primary focus is on the international equestrian disciplines and their pipelines. Given that the Farmer Glefke suspension case does not affect participation in international sport, this is not something I see the USOC getting involved with. As hunter riders and trainers, Farmer and Glefke are participating in a non-FEI discipline and the charges against them have nothing to do with the selection for either an Olympic Games or a World Equestrian Games. The USOC is currently getting ready for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, and my guess is that there will be more pressing matters for it to deal with in the upcoming 6 months.

Q: Will Farmer and Glefke’s complaint hold up? Will we see the USEF put on probation?

A: I don’t think there is any way the USOC is going to disrupt a national governing body and put it on suspension for allegations by an athlete who is not part of Olympic or FEI World Championship sport. Hunters just are not an international high-performance sport. The USEF Hearing process has a long-standing history of deciding national drug violations under its rules and these have been upheld by the courts.

Q: But if Farmer and Glefke do not think they were given due process, this was probably their only remaining option, right?    

A: I’d argue it’s actually premature. They haven’t yet exhausted all remedies within the USEF, as they have been offered a rehearing on June 6. Lastly, the arguments they want to make to the USOC about the validity of the testing can also be made to USEF. I’m not seeing why they would file a complaint with the USOC. I don’t see it as a realistic strategy to defend against these doping charges, but it gets great press. Until the USEF concludes its hearing process, I think it is premature.

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