Martinez escapes misconduct sanctions

Published on February 27th, 2019

Iker Martinez

The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) specify the parameters for fair play on the race course, providing the protocol for how boats must react to each other while in competition. But what about before competition? A recent incident has highlighted some shortcomings that now need to be addressed.

The incident in question occurred at the 2018 Sailing World Championships to be held on August 2-12 in Aarhus, Denmark. In addition to World titles, the event was an exceedingly important country qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The facts are that when Spanish superstar Iker Martinez submitted his Nacra 17 for measurement prior to competition, the measurement committee found the 2-time Olympic medalist had deliberately modified the boat in breach of the class rules and he concealed the modification.

In short, they believed his intent was to cheat to improve the boat’s performance.

The Nacra 17 Class had been plagued with insufficient measurement control in the lead-up to the Rio 2016 Olympics, and it was within this environment that advantages were believed to have been gained. But that was then, and this was now, and armed with better tools and standards, Martinez was caught by the Class in which he sought to compete.

Rather than correct the modification prior to competition, he chose not to race, thus limiting the range of penalties available to that jury. However, due process was not over, and Martinez said on August 9 that his innocence would be confirmed. “I have no doubt that with a little time and common sense you will get to the bottom of the question and everything will be clarified,” he said.

But after further investigation, and despite the allegation of cheating being upheld, additional disciplinary action will not occur.

In a ruling by World Sailing released February 27, 2019, Martinez remains guilty but limitations within the RRS prevent the international authority from assessing further penalties. Moreover, despite the Spanish Federation initially informing World Sailing that it was proposing a 9-month suspension under its own separate national procedures, once it was determined World Sailing was unable to act on the incident, the Spanish offer was rescinded.

Following this decision, World Sailing’s Board of Directors has requested the Executive Office to appoint a review group to examine improvements in the investigation and prosecution of equipment cheating, the use of discretionary penalties for equipment infringements, and the consequences for sailors who present boats at inspection which do not comply with the rules.

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