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The Scales of Justice

Ever since Boye Brogeland first posted allegations about the F-S partnership and cheating, non-stop discussion has filled the bridge world. Thousands of comments – evidence – and challenges to same - have been posted at Bridgewinners.

At the end of the day, I see the overall bottom line being this. Everyone abhors cheating. They wish to catch, punish and eliminate from the game those who are cheating. Yet, at the same time, we recognize that you cannot condemn on the basis of “whispers” alone. Evidence – convincing, consistent evidence is required.

What level of proof is required to convict? As we sort through the all the posts, we recognize that the level differs dramatically throughout the community. Most people now, due to heroic efforts of some, feel the level of proof is sufficient to determine that long term, planned cheating occurred in the F-S partnership. Still, some hold outs do not believe the proper threshold was reached. Others talk about the venue in which guilt must be determined, how investigation should begin, and so forth. All this matters and is important.

At the same time, however, other factors are critical and must be weighed.

While I think it is fair to say that most of us believe the standard of proof for cheating must be set high, high enough that most are convinced – at the same time, we cannot ignore the damage done to our game, its competitors and – dare I say it? – it’s very existence if we allow cheating to go unabated for long periods due to extremely high levels of “evidence” being required for conviction.

Already, I am hearing people say “I had no idea there was so much cheating. Why should I show up if my chances of doing well are highly diminished by cheaters?”

What do we say to the top competitors in our game, who literally devote their lives to honing their partnerships, studying, working with coaches – only to find that some opponents had an illegal edge that no amount of practice nor brilliance could overcome?

I maintain that our bridge organizations need to review standard channels for discovering and rooting out cheating - and improve them. While I am sure that discovering who might be cheating, getting enough evidence to convict and then having more swift justice may be a large task, it nevertheless is a quite necessary task.

Having standards that allow cheaters to go on unabated for years is a standard too high. We need to develop methods to make cheating more difficult. We need to have a system in place so those who are still able to cheat can be found out earlier. We need to appreciate that the level of proof to convict must be high – yet not so high that the game itself dies due to disillusionment.

I do not have answers myself. I leave the details to the brilliant work horses of our game, like Boye, Kit and many others (forgive me for not listing names) who have produced what we see here.

I only know that if we do not undertake these tasks, we may well find the game we love mortally wounded.

My thanks to Boye for having the courage to raise whispers to a shout, and to all those who love our game and wish to compete honorably.

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