Lead investigator in Propulsion case fired by Swedish governing body

Lead investigator in Propulsion case fired by Swedish governing body

July 10, 2020

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Steen Morten Johansen told Swedish website Aftonbladet that his dismissal as the head of security and investigations for Svensk Travsport (ST) is directly related to the association trying to make him a scapegoat in the Propulsion investigation.

by Dave Briggs

Steen Morten Johansen, the head of security and investigations for Sweden’s governing body Svensk Travsport (ST), was fired Tuesday and he told Swedish media he believes his dismissal is because ST is trying to make him “a scapegoat” in the Propulsion investigation (background story here).

In an English translation of what Johansen, 61, told Swedish website Aftonbladet (trav365.se) originally in Swedish, he said he feels “controlled in certain investigations,” and that he is concerned about his credibility.

“My sincere feeling is that the Swedish association wants to make me a scapegoat for certain parts of this story with Propulsion.”

A few days after Daniel Redén-trained Propulsion won this year’s Elitloppet on May 31, word began circulating out of Sweden that the U.S.-bred son of Muscle Hill—Danae might be stripped of that victory — or worse: ALL European victories — because he underwent a lower nerve procedure on both front legs in the United States while under prior U.S. ownership.

Horses that undergo nerve procedures — regardless of how long ago that procedure was done — are not allowed to race by Sweden’s strict rules.

Redén, 40, said he was not aware Propulsion underwent the procedure before he purchased the trotter for $210,000 at the 2015 Tattersalls Summer Mixed Sale on Aug. 2 at The Meadowlands.

Though the procedure was properly disclosed by Propulsion’s prior connections (full story here) months before the horse was sold, United States Trotting Association (USTA) records were only updated after Redén bought the horse.

Though, before Propulsion first raced in Europe on Oct. 7, 2015 at Solvalla, ST was, allegedly, in possession of a document (available here) that clearly states the horse had undergone the nerve procedure in the United States, making the horse ineligible to race in Sweden by ST rules.

Questions remain as to why ST either did not notice that the export certificate clearly stated the procedure had been done or why ST — as the body responsible for the integrity of racing and for controlling the importing of horses into Sweden — didn’t simply stop Propulsion from racing in Sweden in the first place five years ago.

Instead, the trotter went on to successfully race in Europe earning some $3.6 million (U.S.) there.

”Last year I received a tip from the Norwegian Trotting Society that Propulsion had been nerved,” Johansen said. “Shortly before my employment at Svensk Travsport, I had listened to a lecture by an expert in nerve cutting, Mette Uldahl, which meant that I had some knowledge in the subject.

“I contacted Daniel Redén around midsummer last year in Rättvik and we decided that I would visit him on his farm. There, it was established by his veterinarian, Sune Hansen, that Propulsion responded to pain in all four legs.

“My feeling is simply that ST wants to put the blame on me for parts of the investigation I did earlier. I think it’s important to tell my version even if I cannot go into all the details right now. My legal representative has asked me to lie low, but it is my credibility with people that is at stake.”

In a release, ST CEO Maria Croon confirmed Johansen’s firing and said, “We have different views on how the role and assignment has been designed over time and what needs Svensk Travsport has in the future. In such an important role, it requires total mutual trust and a consistent view, which we do not have. It is better to go our separate ways.”

Croon said it is “not at all true that we have placed any blame on (Johansen). The investigation is ongoing and not yet complete, so we have no answers… (But) his mission is finished.

“We have had different views on things in the (Propulsion) matter, whether Steen Morten could be ultimately responsible for the investigation that is currently underway in the Propulsion case. We have not considered this to be possible due to a previous investigation in the case. (His firing) is not about debt issues but about pure objectivity in its formal sense.”

Johansen said Croon asked him to sign a letter stating that both sides agreed to part ways. He declined.

“I said, ‘You can say what you want but if anyone asks me, I will tell the truth,’” Johansen said.

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