UIPM President Klaus Schormann has claimed the process to ditch horse riding has been "open" and "democratic" ©ITG

International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) President Klaus Schormann has hit back at his critics, insisting the organisation has been "open" and "democratic" under his leadership.

Schormann, who has led the UIPM since 1993, has come under fire and faced calls to resign over the decision to ditch horse riding.

Pressure group Pentathlon Union has been leading calls to keep riding and criticised the UIPM leadership over a lack of transparency in the removal of the discipline.

Last year, hundreds of modern pentathletes, including Britain's Tokyo 2020 champions Joe Choong and Kate French, issued a vote of no confidence in Schormann and the UIPM Executive Board following a decision they described as having "undermined 109 years of modern pentathlon".

Riding is set to be axed as a modern pentathlon discipline after the Paris 2024 Olympics, with the UIPM making the controversial move in the wake of the Tokyo 2020 scandal when German coach Kim Raisner was sent home in disgrace after punching the horse Saint Boy when it refused to jump for Annika Schleu who led the competition at the time.

However, Schormann insisted that discussions over the future of horse riding have been an "ongoing process through many Olympic Games".

Annika Schleu's coach was thrown out of the Olympics after striking the horse Saint Boy during Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
Annika Schleu's coach was thrown out of the Olympics after striking the horse Saint Boy during Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

Schormann said he had held talks with IOC President Thomas Bach as well as his predecessors Jacques Rogge, Juan Antonio Samaranch and Avery Brundage.

"We never had the discussion at World Cups and World Championships but there we had horses in the past from the military, used by other people and horses that we know," said Schormann.

"I cannot say the horses were not good in Japan.

"The horse selection was a very high level but not linked to our sport and we could not go there to observe this based on COVID.

"When we had the test event in 2019 there was a super presentation of riding and all the horses were selected weeks and months before, we saw them and tested them.

"If people had been listening to all our colleagues in all our continental championships they could learn that there was a process so to say now that it was a surprise, it was not a surprise.

"This is ignorant and not understanding the process over years already seen.

"I discussed with Samaranch, with Rogge, with Bach and Brundage.

"Brundage said there was no fairness with the horses.

"We knew this but there was not a point where we weren't loving our discipline."

Schormann has stressed that penathletes have been involved in the process to remove riding ©UIPM
Schormann has stressed that penathletes have been involved in the process to remove riding ©UIPM

Last November, 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.

However, the UIPM received criticism over a lack of consultation with athletes.

"It’s always addressed that we are not asking the athletes," said Schormann.

"This is absolutely not true.

"From the early beginning, the athletes have been involved in all the decisions and all questions and analysis.

"That’s not only the athletes from the Athletes’ Committee, they communicated by themselves at World Cups and other competitions.

"Our athletes are in all commissions and committees, so they have the right to discuss.

"We are very democratic in our union.

"The IOC knows this so they gave us a really good ranking in good governance.

"If you don’t listen to the athletes, you are lost."

When asked to explain the reasons behind the use a force majeure, Schormann added: "That was a clear discussion.

"We made something by French and Monaco law.

"Everything was done by legal part.

"The Congress accepted our process with 82 per cent.

"Suddenly we had to give a message to the [IOC Olympic] Programme Commission so we had no time and based on COVID and all the things changing.

"Otherwise, we could have had the Congress in 2020 and a completely other procedure but we were just in a rush.

"It’s all forgotten that we had been together in the world under special circumstances to make some decisions and prepare something.

The fourth and final test for the obstacle discipline is taking place in Poland ©UIPM
The fourth and final test for the obstacle discipline is taking place in Poland ©UIPM

"We did it properly.

"Everyone was involved, we checked it legally so everything was fine."

Schormann added: "We had a Congress last year and the motion was accepted by 82 per cent.

"For all the motions the minimum was 81 per cent.

"I think it’s very democratic and very open and nobody can say the union is not following democratic-wise."

A Fifth Discipline Working Group, headed by Schormann, was formed to oversee the process, with the UIPM claiming that it considered 61 proposals to replace riding.

Two variations of obstacle racing were selected for testing with events staged in Ankara in Turkey, Manila in the Philippines, Lignano in Italy and Zielona Góra in Poland.

This year's Congress, where the obstacle discipline is expected to be proposed as the new fifth discipline, is to be held online rather than in Guatemala as first planned, with the UIPM citing COVID-19 restrictions and prohibitive costs as the reasons for the change.

Schormann has defended the decision after the Modern Pentathlon Association of Denmark described the move as an "absurd situation", claiming that poor translations, weak sound quality, no active helpline and "zero overview over the voting process" had undermined last year’s Congress.

"COVID is coming back and I am surprised the Lufthansa was allowing us to fly without masks when everything is increased," said Schormann.

"We know that if we are together, we can have a coffee break where we can debate and that is much more comfortable.

"But when we calculate, we have 137 nations who has the money to travel and has to get the visa, there are obstacles to come.

"We have to be fair to those who are rich and those that don’t have so much money.

"If you just give to dominating countries, that’s not fair, that’s not democratic."