Olympic modern pentathlon medallists from the past 60 years have called on IOC President Thomas Bach to keep riding in the sport ©Getty Images

A total of 46 modern pentathletes who have won Olympic medals over the past 60 years have signed an open letter calling upon International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach to intervene personally and prevent riding from being dropped from the sport.

The list of those calling for Bach’s "strong counteraction" to the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) move to drop the equestrian element after the Paris 2024 Olympics includes Britain’s current Tokyo 2020 champions Joe Choong and Kate French.

Ten men's champions from the last 16 Olympics, and four of the six women’s gold medallists, have called upon Bach to use his influence "against a decision that is clearly damaging and destructive to not just modern pentathlon but also to the prestige of the Olympic Games."

The oldest of the signatories is Hungary’s Ferenc Németh, now 85, who won men’s gold at the Rome 1960 Olympics.

The letter, which carries two main final signatures from Britain’s Sydney 2000 bronze medallist Kate Allenby an Hungary’s London 2012 men’s bronze medallist Ádám Marosi, describes the sport as having been "thrown into turmoil by the executive board of UIPM which decided in a secret meeting - without any consultation with the Pentathlon community - to drop riding from the format after the Paris 2024 Games."

The letter continues: "It has been claimed that the International Olympic Committee demanded this in return for keeping the mutilated sport in the Olympic program.

"Regardless whether this is the case, we, Olympians of modern pentathlon, turn to you personally on behalf of all competitors in this sport to ask for your strong counteraction…

"As the past two decades have proven, we are all ready to adopt changes in the competition rules in order to modernise our sport and make it more possible and accessible.

"Nevertheless we are deeply convinced that leaving out riding will not solve any of the common reservations about modern pentathlon.

"Instead it will create additional challenges and ruin years of hard work for hundreds of athletes."

The focus should instead be on making the riding element of the sport safer, the letter goes on.

This year's Olympic modern pentathlon competition was marred by a horse-abuse scandal which saw German coach Kim Raisner sent home in disgrace after punching the horse Saint-Boy.

The horse refused to jump for Annika Schleu, the competition leader at the time, which led to angry reactions from both rider and coach.

A Riding Working Group was set up by the UIPM in the aftermath and the governing body's leadership was urged to  "engage positively with the recommendations".

Other men’s Olympic champions backing the message are Hungary’s Tokyo 1964 gold medallist Ferenc Török, Sweden's Björn Ferm, who won at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, Hungary’s gold medallist four years later in Munich, András Balczó and Italy’s Los Angeles 1984 winner Daniele Masala

More recent men's Olympic champions adding their names include Seoul 1988 winner János Martinek from Hungary, Alexander Parygin, Kazakhstan’s Atlanta 1996 Olympic gold medallist, David Svoboda, the Czech Republic’s London 2012 gold medallist, and Rio 2016 winner Alexander Lesun of Russia.

Chloe Esposito is one of four Olympic women's champions to have signed a letter calling upon IOC President Thomas Bach to resist the UIPM's plan to drop riding from the programme ©Getty Images
Chloe Esposito is one of four Olympic women's champions to have signed a letter calling upon IOC President Thomas Bach to resist the UIPM's plan to drop riding from the programme ©Getty Images

Britain’s winner of the first Olympic women’s title at the 2000 Sydney Games, Stephanie Cook, has added her name, as has Hungary’s 2004 women’s winner Zsuzsanna Vörös and Australia’s Rio 2016 champion Chloe Esposito.

Hungary’s team gold medallists from the Seoul 1988  have signed up - individual winner Martinek, Attila Mizser and László Fábián - as have all three of Britain’s team gold medallists at the 1976 Montreal Games - Jim Fox, Danny Nightingale and Adrian Parker. 

On November 4, the UIPM Executive Board exercised a force majeure clause to remove riding prior to the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics programme being ratified due to, it was suggested, pressure from the IOC.

In response, the Modern Pentathlon Association of Denmark has filed an appeal which will be heard first by the UIPM Court of Arbitration.

The UIPM Congress is scheduled for November 27 to 28, with the UIPM President Klaus Schormann, 75, set for unopposed re-election for an eighth term.

The UIPM has told athletes that there will be "consultation" at the Congress regarding what discipline should replace riding - although Schormann told a German news outlet that it "would not be cycling" and then implied the choice was made but would not yet be made public.

He denied the report the next day.

Allenby is one of the leading lights in the new athletes’ pressure group, Pentathlon United, which gathered signatures of almost 700 past and present pentathletes expressing no confidence in the entire UIPM leadership and calling for their resignation.