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What did the ACBL Appeals & Charges (A&C) Committee do in Orlando? Cone of Silence descends upon the ACBL
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The ACBL Appeals & Georgia Committee (current Chair is D. 8 Board member Georgia Heth, also a member of the WBF Executive Committee) is the Supreme Court of the ACBL. Unfortunately it is a political body made up of politicians -- members of the ACBL Board of Directors.

Clearly, before a case is heard and a decision reached, confidentiality is a must. But after a verdict has been rendered and accepted by the full ACBL Board of Directors and the results conveyed to the parties involved, it becomes a matter of record.

When I served on the ACBL Board (1994-2008) and for many of those years was a member of the Appeals & Charges Committee, the procedures were clear. Decisions of the A&C Committee became a matter of record and were included in the official minutes of every Board meeting. Often the findings were given to the Board of Governors at their Sunday meeting following the ACBL Board meeting.

To the best of my knowledge the ACBL Board has not voted to change that policy. It is the ACBL Board that sets policy. Management is supposed to implement those policies.

Which brings us to 2016. There was no report, re: A&C decisions, given to the Board of Governors in Orlando. There was nothing in the Daily Bulletin regarding any ethical cases. At a recent NABC, the finding of the EOC Committee were published in the Daily Bulletin along with strong comments from the ACBL President and CEO that the ACBL took cheating seriously and appropriate actions were being taken.

What disturbed me a year or so ago, were the actions of the A&C Committee that overruled the EOC (Ethical Oversight Committee) and instituted the now infamous two week holiday suspension for a convicted bridge professional. I have yet to be given the rationale behind that decision.

My understanding is that A&C reviewed some of the high profile cheating convictions in Orlando. Did they overturn the EOC actions? Did they alter the punishment? Will NABC titles be removed from the convicted cheaters? Were there threats of lawsuits from multi-millionaires if the ACBL removed past NABC titles from the players?

Was the ACBL Board told by Georgia Heth, Robert Hartman and new League Counsel Linda Dunn to keep silent and say nothing about what Appeals & Charges did? Is that the new ACBL policy? That all disciplinary matters shall forever remain confidential?

So many questions and so few answers. Perhaps ACBL management and/or current ACBL Board members will enlighten us.

The following pages contain a specific motion and a discussion item regarding how the ACBL should deal with cheaters.

 

The following motion was in the ACBL Journal and should have been voted upon in Orlando.

Bridge Integrity Task Force Item 163-06: Forfeiture of Masterpoints/Titles for Unethical Behavior.the ACBL Code of Disciplinary Regulations be modified as follows:

4.1.8 Forfeiture of Masterpoints/Titles for Unethical Behavior.

(a) Any participant(s) in an ACBL sanctioned event convicted of premeditated or collusive cheating in an ACBL sanctioned event, or any participant(s) who admits to such action or actions, shall forfeit all masterpoints, titles and ACBL status ranks or other ACBL related awards theretofore earned by said participant(s) through participation in all ACBL sanctioned events.The partners and teammates of said participant(s) shall forfeit all masterpoints, titles and ACBL status ranks or other ACBL related awards earned while playing with said participant(s) during the four years preceding the admission or finding of guilt.

(b) Any participant(s) in an ACBL sanctioned event suspended as a result of ethical transgressions, other than those set forth in this CDR 4.1.8 (a), shall forfeit any masterpoints and titles won in the event(s) in which the offense(s) occurred.

Further:(1) When a suspension of less than one year has been imposed, the committee may remove the masterpoints, titles and/or ACBL status ranks or other ACBL related awards won within the twelve (12) calendar months preceding the date of the offense(s).

(2) When the discipline imposed is a suspension of one year or longer, the committee shall remove, as at a minimum, all masterpoints, titles and ACBL status ranks or other ACBL related awards won within the twelve (12) calendar months preceding the date of the offense(s). The committee may remove additional masterpoints, titles and/or ACBL status ranks or other ACBL related awards previously earned by said participants through participation in all ACBL sanctioned events as it deems appropriate.

(c) Teammates and partners of (a) participant(s) who suffer(s) penalties as provided in CDR 4.1.7 and 4.1.8 (b) shall forfeit any title(s) and masterpoints won in events in which the offense or offenses occurred.(d) Titles forfeited in pursuant to CDR 4.1.8 (a), (b) or (c) shall remain vacant and there shall be no change in rankings or awarding of masterpoints for other contestants. First place awards for Unit masterpoint races forfeited pursuant to CDR 4.1.8 (a), (b) or (c) shall not remain vacant. The second place awarded shall move up to first place and lower ranked awards will be filled by a relevant change in rankings for other lower-ranked contestants. Awards for other than first place forfeited pursuant to CDR 4.1.8 (a), (b) or (c) shall remain vacant and there shall be no change in rankings for other contestants(e) Management shall assign eligibility points to equal the number of masterpoints that have been forfeited by the disciplinary body’s decision.

Effective date: January 1, 2017

Perhaps an ACBL Board member will let us know the vote on the above motion

This was a discussion item on the agenda for the Board of Directors in Orlando. Perhaps an ACBL Board member will inform us if any actions from this report will follow:

DISCUSSION ITEM Date: October 21, 2016 DI 163-BI1: How to deal with the results of cheaters and their teammates

Context: In the wake of the cheating scandals, there has been significant discussion about what to do with the results of the cheaters and their teammates. The Bridge Integrity Taskforce has recommended that titles not be left vacant, but that we find a solution to remove the cheaters and fix the results. We would like to find a solution that both the Taskforce and the BoD find palatable, that restores equity to the extent possible and helps erase the stain of this era of bridge.There are three separate issues — the results of the cheaters themselves, the results of their teammates, and the results of the rest of the field; we will deal with them separately. In some cases, the different types of events (pair games vs. KO, for example) will need to be handled separately as well, as knockout events present unique challenges.

Cheaters: We believe that cheaters’ results need to be nullified from the beginning of their partnership. It seems that the BoD had adopted this for the recently convicted pairs. We would urge you to extend this policy to pairs convicted prior to 2016. For example, Sion-Cokin.The results of a pair that confesses (e.g., Piekarek-Smirnov) should be removed in the same manner as those of a pair that is found guilty. The pair that confesses should receive a lesser sentence, but cheating results are cheating results and should be removed.Another issue here that warrants discussion is the effective date of suspensions. It should be the date of the conviction. This will maximize the penalty and provide a disincentive for needlessly delaying hearings.

Teammates: Results won with a tainted pair should be forfeited. The 4-year window the BoD has imposed seems inconsistent — why remove the cheaters’ results to the beginning of their partnership but not their teammates’? No ethical bridge player wants to win unfairly; many of the teammates of the recent cheaters have renounced their titles. It seems to be what the majority of players want, and it feels like the right thing to do. Our recommendation is that teammates’ results also be forfeited back to the beginning of the cheaters’ partnership. As above, a confession should not affect this policy.Imposing an arbitrary look back window raises a couple of unnecessary side issues. The first is when that window starts. If there is to be such a window, it is essential that it start as early as possible — the first event for which there is substantial evidence of cheating. It absolutely cannot be the date of conviction, as this provides an incentive for the cheating pairs to postpone their hearings. For example, an unscrupulous sponsor who won the Vanderbilt 4 years ago with a cheating pair might encourage them to delay their hearing from the Spring NABC to the summer so that he could keep his title.

Another issue created by an arbitrary look back period is what happens when teammates whose results fall outside that window wish to renounce their titles. Many of the teammates of the cheaters have indicated their desire to forfeit their titles, and many others are intending to do the same if the ACBL does not do it for them.The ACBL currently has no procedure for voluntarily forfeiture of results. This will create both an administrative and political headache. It would seem we have to allow players to forfeit results when we have acknowledged they were ill-gotten by convicting their teammates and stripping them of said results. Do we really want to put the onus on the players? Will others not feel pressured to do the same? Do we want to allow someone to accuse a former teammate of cheating, without a conviction, by forfeiting a title? A much simpler solution is to forfeit the results automatically and have a policy that results cannot be voluntarily forfeited. Once a hearing is concluded and guilt determined, the results will be struck. If a pair is not brought up on charges or is found innocent their teammates should not be able to forfeit their results. If the system works, there is no need to voluntarily forfeit results.

This brings up an important issue: what should be done during the limbo period between accusation and verdict? Our recommendation is that all masterpoints and seeding points won with the cheating pair (or, if there must be a look back period, the masterpoints and seeding points that would be lost should the pair be convicted) be “frozen” — not officially removed yet, but subtracted from players’ totals for purposes of seeding. We believe this is what the Seeding Committee did during 2016, but we would like to see this policy formalized and publicized.There is a separate but related issue of how to properly seed clean players who have had their results stripped because they were teammates of cheaters. (Helgemo-Helness is a good example.) A vindictive approach would suggest doing nothing to “correct” their seeding status, but that is an injustice to the field; the point of seeding is to accurately gauge a pair’s/team’s likely results and spread strength out evenly. It would be silly to give Helgemo-Helness no seeding points and have them face a top seed in the Round of 64. We recommend that the Seeding Committee be given authority to confer a one-time deposit of seeding points to teammates of former cheaters (much as it has the ability to assign seeding points to foreign players).

 

The Field: The most contentious issue seems to be what to do with the results of the rest of the field once the cheaters’ results are nullified. Our contention is that having so many winner-less events is a shame and a black mark on the game. From 2011 to 2015, of the 10 winning teams in the Reisinger and Spingold 7 included convicted cheaters and would be vacated. Yes, the game has been stained, and yes, there is no way to truly determine who would have won had the cheaters not cheated. But we know who came closest to winning, and if that’s the best we can do it is much better than having a bunch of vacant titles. And we should provide some closure to all the teams who played against the cheaters. Of course we will never know what might have been, but let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The players who competed on an uneven field for all those years deserve some rectitude, and the game deserves a winner for these events.For events with overall rankings — Pairs, Swiss, and BAM — we recommend removing any cheating pairs/teams and moving everyone else up a spot. This benefits not only the people at the top, but those in the middle and bottom of the overalls. Someone who finished 51st gets to be upgraded into the overalls. It’s no substitute for a clean event, but it’s something. A similar approach of removing cheaters and moving everyone else up could apply to masterpoint races.

For knockouts, the best we can do is move the teams that lost to the cheaters up one spot (with the increase in masterpoints and seeding points that go along with the new result). So if a team including cheaters won the Spingold, the team they beat in the finals would be the winner, the team they beat in the semis would be the runner-up, the team they beat in the quarterfinals would get credit for making the semis, etc.

Vol. 134/Orlando FL 11/7/2016 Index. A&CHeth (C)Bagley, Carman, Fairchild, Hennings, Morse, Subeck Staff: Whitten

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