Loophole in the Rules Allow Some Cadet Fencers to Easily Switch Nationalities for Designated International Competitions and National Championships
Having observed dual US and foreign country nationality cadet fencers benefit from the loophole, several concerned parents raised the issue with Fencing Parents believing that:
the loophole unfairly benefits those cadet fencers with dual US and foreign country nationality,
dual nationality cadet fencers are able to utilize their non-US nationality to enter designated international cadet competitions while still enjoying the benefits of US citizenship for purposes of entering US Fencing national championships, and
dual nationality cadet fencers who are not high enough on the Cadet National Points List to represent the US in designated international cadet competitions can:
utilize their non-US nationality to enter designated international competitions to earn international points
these international points earned as a foreign fencer hugely boost the fencer’s standings on the Cadet National Points List such that they qualify to represent the US, (international points are worth 75% more than domestic points)*.
the dual nationality fencer then switches back to US nationality and represents the US at designated international competitions usurping the spot of an otherwise qualified US cadet fencer.
Our conclusions based on a reading of these rules - the loophole is there, and gives dual nationality fencers the advantage of being able to nationality shop.
* We previously stated international points are worth double domestic points. That is incorrect. International points are worth 75% more than domestic points.
THE ALL IMPORTANT FIE STATUTES SECTION 9.2
The overarching rule on country representation and nationality is found in Section 9.2 of the FIE Statutes. US Fencing’s Athlete Handbook rules on nationality and representation of the US are based on this Section 9.2.
Basically, the rule says that there is a 3 year required waiting interval imposed on fencers who have competed in FIE level tournaments, and who wish to change nationality and country of representation. During this 3 year interval, the fencer cannot fence for either the 1st or the 2nd country in FIE competitions.
FIE competitions include Junior World Cups, Senior World Cups, Grand Prix and the Cadet World Championship.
Designated international cadet events are not FIE events, and are not governed by Section 9.2 of the FIE Statutes.
For your information, here is the relevant excerpt from Section 9.2:
“For official competitions of the F.I.E., competitors must be strictly of the nationality of the country which they are representing:
a) The fencer who enjoys multiple nationality must choose which country he wishes to represent. The fact that he has fenced for one of the countries implies that he has made a choice. If he wishes to represent another country of which he enjoys nationality, he must so advise the Office of the F.I.E. and he may only represent this other country after an interval of three years from when he advised the Central Office of the F.I.E., during which he can no longer represent the other country.
b) A fencer who has already represented a country and acquires a new nationality (from being stateless or through naturalisation) can only represent his new country after an interval of three years from his last participation in a competition for his previous country.
c) The fencer who acquires a new nationality as a result of marriage may fence for that new country immediately, without waiting three years”
US FENCING ATHLETE HANDBOOK SECTION 2.2.4 ON THE JUNIOR OLYMPICS
Below is the excerpt from Section 2.2.4 applicable to Junior Olympics, the cadet and junior championship event.
“Athletes that have represented another country in the last three years at FIE level competitions (Senior/Junior and those athletes that represented another country in the Cadet World Championships) are not eligible to compete in a National Championship.”
Designated international cadet events are not FIE events, they are governed by the EFC (European Fencing Confederation).
As such, the limitation in Section 2.2.4 to wait a 3 year interval does not apply to dual nationality cadet level fencers who utilized a non-US nationality to compete in designated international cadet events.
It would seem that under section 2.2.4, dual nationality fencers are eligible to compete in cadet events at Junior Olympics as US citizens without the mandatory 3 year waiting period imposed by the FIE.
In Section 3.4, which we discuss later, it is implied that a cadet fencer needs US Fencing approval to switch back to US nationality after representing another country in an EFC designated international cadet event. However, that approval is not subject to any waiting period.
The language is Section 2.2.4 looks like a conscious exemption for cadet fencers, especially when read in the light of the language applicable to the Division 1 championship and Division Qualifiers.
US FENCING ATHLETE HANDBOOK SECTION 2.2.4 ON DIVISION 1 CHAMPIONSHIPS
Below is the excerpt from Section 2.2.4 applicable to Division 1 championships.
“Athletes that have represented another country in the least three years at FIE level competitions (Senior/Junior and those athletes that represented another country in the Cadet World Championships) are not eligible to compete in a National Championship, unless the athlete has been officially approved by the FIE to represent the USA.”
Again, the prohibition applies only to fencers who competed in FIE level competitions.
So, theoretically, a dual nationality cadet fencer who competed in a designated international cadet competition is not subjected to the same 3 year waiting interval before that fencer can compete in a Division 1 championship as a US citizen.
US FENCING ATHLETE HANDBOOK SECTION 2.6.1 ON DIVISION QUALIFIERS
The excerpt from Section 2.6.1 is below:
“Fencers must be U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents. Any fencer who is a U.S. citizen who has also represented another country in the last three years, in any FIE and/or Union International de Pentathlon Monderne (UIPM) event, and who has not yet been granted permission to represent the USA by USA Fencing and the FIE, is not eligible for any USA Fencing National Championship competition, individual or team, including division qualifying competitions.”
Section 2.6.1 reiterates the rule in Section 2.2.4 on Division 1 championships, except it widens the scope to include UIPM events which relate to international pentathlons.
The 3 year waiting interval only applies to fencers who have competed in FIE level or UIPM events, and who want to switch nationality and country of representation.
The 3 year waiting period does not apply to dual nationality cadet fencers who compete in EFC designated international cadet events and who want to switch back to US nationality to compete in national championships.
US fencing Athlete Handbook Section 3.4 on Structure of Earning Domestic Points
Here is an excerpt of Section 3.4
“If a fencer who previously represented another nation in EFC and/or FIE international competition is approved, in accordance with the relevant statutes, to represent the United States, and at the time of approval has USA Fencing national points, his or her cadet, junior, senior and veteran national points standings will be adjusted based on the principles listed below. The following principles apply to individuals who previously competed for another nation in EFC and FIE competitions, including all cadet, junior, senior and veteran events and currently have national points: Consistent with each weapon’s selection criteria, points earned at a domestic event (while representing either another nation or the USA), will count in both national rolling and team point standings. Consistent with each weapon’s selection criteria, points earned at international events (EFC cadet events, World Cup, Grand Prix, World Championships, etc.) while representing another nation will count only in the national rolling point standings; and points earned at international events (EFC cadet events, World Cup, Grand Prix, World Championships, etc.) while representing the United States will count in both the rolling and national team points standings.”
While switching back to US nationality still requires US Fencing approval, the 3 year waiting interval does not apply to a cadet fencer who represented another country in a designated international cadet event.
According to Section 3.4, domestic national points and international points earned by that fencer while representing a foreign country stay with the fencer through a nationality change and these cumulative points are used to calculate the fencer’s ranking on the National Points List.
While international points earned while the fencer represented a foreign country only count towards the National Points List but not the Team Points Standing, this only takes the dual nationality fencer out of the running for a spot on Team USA for international championship events.
That fencer is still competitive for a spot for designated international cadet events as a US citizen.
Spots for designated international cadet events are allocated based on a fencer’s position on the relevant Cadet National Points List not the team points standing.
Spots are allocated to the top 20 positions on the Cadet National Points List, skipping foreign fencers on the list.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF SECTION 3.4
In practical application, a dual nationality fencer who is not high enough on the Cadet National Points List to represent the US, can activate his/her non-US nationality to compete at a designated international cadet event in Europe.
International points earned by this fencer are counted towards his/her rankings on the Cadet National Points List. Take note that international points are worth 75% more* the number of points earned domestically for an equivalent placement in competition.
** We previously stated international points are worth double domestic points. That is incorrect. International points are worth 75% more than domestic points.
This fencer, therefore, has an opportunity to elevate his/her ranking on the Cadet National Points List through international competition. That opportunity would not have been available if the fencer did not possess dual nationality.
This fencer, therefore, has the opportunity to elevate his/her ranking on the Cadet National Points List and become eligible for a spot to designated international cadet events as a US representative.
Because there is no 3 year waiting interval for changing country of representation, the cadet fencer is able to switch nationality and represent the US. This then deprives another fencer, who could not take advantage of dual nationality, of a legitimately earned spot.
Parents have voiced strong concern at the unfairness of this situation.
Streamlining the rules so that all fencers, whether they fence internationally at the FIE level or at the EFC level, are treated the same would be a fair way to solve the issue.
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