Corruption in Endurance horseracing - phantom races, horse welfare and the way forward

Published 02 November 2015 By: Elizabeth Rhodes, Arun Chauhan


Horseracing, as with many professional sports, is no stranger to a number of different types of scandal including allegations of corruption, including fraud, - most notably - race fixing, and doping to improve (or reduce) the performance of a horse. Recently, however, a lesser-known form of corruption has come to the fore within the discipline of Endurance racing – that of staging of “phantom” events.

This article explores the detrimental effects that phantom races (like so many other forms of corruption) have had on horse welfare. It then explores what is being done by the International Equestrian Federation to tackle and improve horse welfare before stepping back to reflect upon what more the industry could do to fight corruption at source.


What are phantom Endurance races?

Endurance racing is a long-distance horse race where participants race each other against the clock often over distances from 80km up to 400km.1 In March 2015, Telegraph newspaper alleged that ‘bogus’ or ‘phantom’ Endurance races were occurring within the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the sport is particularly popular.2 The story revolved around two 80km races that were recorded as taking place on 23 December 2014 and 21 January 2015, although the Telegraph alleges that they never took place. The races supposedly acted as qualification heats for February’s 160km President’s Cup; motivation for which could have been financial gain although, given that gambling is prohibited in the UAE, is likely to have been to affect rankings and allow competitors access to more prestigious races.

Unusual patterns within the race results recorded on the official website of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI - the international sports federation that governs a number of equestrian disciplines, including Endurance) raised the suspicions of the Telegraph, as the data included identical results to previous genuine races.

Following this exposure, the Telegraph reported that it had discovered a further ten allegedly ‘phantom’ races taking place within the UAE recorded on the FEI database.

The FEI ordered an independent investigation into the scandal, which resulted in it suspending the UAE National Federation.3 Under the terms of the suspension, the UAE National Federation was not permitted to:

  • Attend or be represented at any session or meeting of any body of the FEI;
  • Organise international events; and,
  • Its members were not allowed to participate in any international events (although UAE athletes from disciplines other than Endurance could compete under the FEI flag in international competitions organised outside of the UAE). 


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Elizabeth Rhodes

Elizabeth Rhodes

Elizabeth is a member of the Fraud and Risk team at DWF LLP and advises clients in respect of a wide range of commercial disputes with a particular focus on complex fraud disputes. She is a member of the Midlands Fraud Forum and Fraud Women’s Network.

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Arun Chauhan

Arun Chauhan

Arun jointly heads up the Fraud and Risk team at DWF LLP, and specialises in commercial litigation arising out of complex corporate fraud disputes. He deals with a broad range of fraud investigations, bribery and corruption investigations and fraudulent misrepresentation claims arising out of investments or acquisitions in cases of value up to £100m.

Arun chairs regional meetings for the Fraud Advisory Panel and is a member of the Midlands Fraud Forum.

Tel: 0845 404 2391

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