Age Ineligibility for Division 2 and Division 3 Championship Events at Summer Nationals 2019


Earlier this month, Fencing Parents received numerous messages and complaints from parents and clubs about the age ineligibility of 2 competitors in the Division 2 and Division 3 championship events at Summer Nationals 2019 in Columbus, OH. FP wrote to US Fencing on July 6 about the issue, requesting for clarification and resolution.

To have been eligible to compete in the Division 2 and Division 3 championship events at Summer Nationals 2019, US Fencing’s qualifying path rules required that :

1) a fencer must be born in 2005 or earlier, or

2) if a fencer was born after 2005, that fencer must be on the National Junior Points List.

Unfortunately, 2 fencers born in 2006, without national points were approved by US Fencing to compete in the championship events in July 2019 in Columbus. These fencers were not age eligible.

In US Fencing’s response to FP on July 18, US Fencing states that:

An error was made during the approvals process for these two athletes. We will continue to review and update approval processes to ensure it does not happen again in the future. The two athletes will not be penalized as a result of this process error.”

Although the US Fencing Rules of Competition at t158 reference disqualification, US Fencing chose not to impose any penalty.

t158 states “Disqualification of a competitor (for example, because he does not conform to the rules regarding age, qualification, etc. required for the competition) does not necessarily incur his suspension or permanent suspension, if he has acted in good faith; a request for supplementary penalties for fraudulent intention may, however, be made against the competitor.”,

While we have sympathy for the fencers who cannot be held personally responsible for not following the rules (they were Y12 fencers at the time), Fencing Parents believes that for the future, US Fencing must clarify what its’ policies are when there are violations of qualifying rules.

Even if US Fencing’s system made a mistake, should not the primary responsibility for rule compliance still lie with the fencer and his/her parents? Should ignorance of the rules ever be an excuse, especially since the rules are publicly and widely available.

FP has written the following response to US Fencing, and we will keep you updated.

Thank you for the update. Whether the mistake was a one of human error or a technical glitch in the registration software, parents and fencers will benefit for US Fencing to respond clearly to the following issues:

1) What is US Fencing's policy when a fencer fails to adhere to the qualification rules? Is ignorance of the rules an acceptable excuse?

2) For championship events when there are clear qualifying paths, a fencer typically competes in one or more qualifying events. This means that a fencer may have, potentially, engaged in multiple instances of rule violations. What is US Fencing's policy in these circumstances?

3) What penalties will be imposed on fencers who compete in violation of the qualification rules?

The issue of moral hazard is very real. If violation of qualification rules does result in penalties, then this is potentially a message to the community that rules need not be taken seriously. Clear rules that are applied consistently is the only way to ensure fair competition, and promote trust in US Fencing's ability to adjudicate issues fairly.

We look forward to US Fencing's response to these issues.”

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