Carruthers: WBF must take the initiative

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ibpa logoAt the initial press conference in Chennai during the 2015 World Championships, cheating was the hot topic. During that press conference, Ron Klinger stood to relate that, a couple of years previously, he had reported suspicious activity from a pair he had played against to WBF officials. Since he had heard nothing in return, Klinger asked Gianarrigo Rona what had happened to his (written) report. Rona stated that he had no knowledge of the report and promised to investigate and get back to Klinger with his findings.

That incident reminded me of another, similar one, from the World Championships in Shanghai in 2007. Alan Sontag reported to the tournament directing staff that a pair he had played against was cheating and even provided details of their methods. Nothing was done by either the TD or WBF officials and the pair in question is still competing today.

I began to wonder how many other similar incidents had occurred over the years. Accordingly, I sent out an email to about a hundred top players worldwide, asking if they had ever had occasion to report to a bridge organisation that they suspected a pair of cheating and had received no response of positive action. (Some of the recipients forwarded the email to others.) There was good news and bad news: the good news was that there were only two positive replies, from Sabine Auken and Tom Hanlon; the bad news is that those players’ reports and the outcomes were depressingly similar to Klinger’s and Sontag’s: no discernible action.

The WBF continues to disclaim reponsibility for catching cheats, stating repeatedly that the players and NBOs are responsible. Yet, at the same time, officials from the WBF and other organisations excoriate Boye Brogeland and his methods. We ask, “where would we be without Brogeland?” The answer is obvious: the cheats would still be playing, perhaps under investigation, but perhaps not. There would at least be the appearance of total inactivity.

We laud the ACBL Bridge Integrity Task Force’s Chair, Howard Weinstein, for stating publicly, in the Task Force’s initial report, published in the Denver NABC Daily Bulletin: “The bridge community owes a debt of thanks to Boye Brogeland and the other players who put themselves on the line this summer pushing this issue to the forefront.” Indeed.

The International Olympic Committee took ownership of the drug problem by creating WADA and not leaving the catching of cheats to its member nations (we see how successful that would have been with the recent WADA revelations about organised Russian government-sanctioned and -sponsored cheating). The WBF must take the initiative.

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John Carruthers

International Bridge Press Association – Bullettin No. 611  – December 10, 2015

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