Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov fell off his horse just after he crossed the finish line in first place in Ashgabat this week — and then tried to cover up the tumble by forcing spectators to delete all evidence of the incident.
Berdymukhammedov won the $11 million purse when the horse he was riding won by about a length and half at the racetrack — a fact trumpeted by the former Soviet republic's tightly controlled media.
But the leaked video footage shows that the horse then stumbled and Berdymukhammedov flew over its shoulders. The other horses barely missed trampling the motionless president. A group of men in black suits swarmed onto the track and, after a few moments, an ambulance pulled up and whisked away the apparently unconscious Berdymukhammedov.
About an hour later, a stiff-looking Berdymukhammedov returned to the event and waved to the cheering crowd, indicating that he was well.
During the hourlong interval, Berdymukhammedov's security detail went through the crowd, which included members of top international equestrian clubs invited to attend the event on an all-expenses-paid junket, and forced them to delete videos and photos of the incident, EurasiaNet.org reported.
Law enforcement officials also searched passengers flying out of the Ashgabat airport, seizing mobile phones, tablet computers, laptops, cameras and any other devices that could be used to record the fall, Fergana news agency reported.