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1968: Olympic Games Mexico / Banned for Life

When Larry Gough was suspended by the IAFF (Irish Amateur Fencing Federation - today, IFF - Irish Fencing Federation) in February 1967, his FIE licence (Fédération Internationale d'Escrime - World Fencing Federation) was revoked by the IAFF. He could not compete in any tournament world-wide for six months.

During Larry Gough's six month suspension, "out of consideration for your club" the IAFF lifted his suspension for one day, 30 March 1967, to allow his club compete (the reigning Irish Epée Team Champions) in the Coupe d'Europe in Heidenheim. Dublin were drawn against Ankara, Stockholm and Warsaw. Gough won 4 of his bouts which accounted for 50% of the Irish victories. He was Ireland's most successful athlete at the Coupe d'Europe 1967.

After his six month suspension, Larry Gough fenced successfully both at home and abroad. He was placed 6th in IV. International Istanbul Tournament in November 1967.

Larry Gough had fulfilled all the selection criteria stipulated by the IAFF, in the Olympic year, for nomination for the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. Nevertheless, the selectors' committee of the IAFF did not select him for the team.

Gough was surprised and disappointed at not being chosen to represent his country at the Mexico Games. Upon learning who had been chosen in his stead, Larry Gough immediately requested the IAFF to publish the results forming the basis of selection of the 4 selected fencers. His request was ignored.

He approached the Olympic Council of Ireland for help explaining that all the selectors were from the same club, that he had beaten a number of the selected fencers and that he had a superior international record in the Olympic year. As under the statutes of the Olympic Council of Ireland, the Council was not permitted to interfere in the internal matters of any national sports organisation. His request was turned down.

The well-known Irish sports commentator, Jimmy Magee, invited both the Chairman of the IAFF, K.T.M. Robinson and Lawrence Gough to take part in a live discussion on the Irish national radio station, Rádio Éireann. The stance that the Chairman took was that the selectors' decision was final and there was nothing anybody could do about the selection.

On 25th August 1968, the columnist, Frank Ward, wrote in the Sunday Press:
[...] It happened this way. When the Irish team for the Olympic Games in Mexico was picked, Laurence was not included despite the fact that he claims he can beat some of the men already picked. He has pointed out to the Olympic Council that not only can he beat some of the team but that some of the team ARE ACTUALLY SELECTORS. [...] The idea of a selector including himself on the side seems, to say the least of it, a bit thick.“ (1968.08.25 Paper Sunday Press)

On 28th August 1968, the Evening Press, one of Ireland's national newspapers, published a letter from Lawrence Gough in which he pointed out that the selection process of the Irish fencing team for the Games of the XIIIX Olympiad was very much a family and club affair.
„The I.A.F.F. has selected four fencers, two of whom were selectors [...]. All the selectors are Salle Duffy members, the other two are Vincent Duffy (brother of the proprietor of Salle Duffy) and Miss S. Armstrong (ed. note: later Mrs. P. Duffy). Of those selected, three are members of Salle Duffy and the fourth has been a member for eight years.“  (1968.08.28 Paper Evening Press).

In August 1968, at the age of 19, Lawrence Gough was expelled from the IAFF and his FIE licence was withdrawn by the IAFF. He was banned for life. From this point on, Gough could not train in any club in Ireland and was banned from entering every single competition in the world.

The manner of his expulsion was in breach of Article (VIII) Discipline of the Constitution of the IAFF.

The first he knew of his expulsion was when he received a letter from K.T.M. Robinson, Chairman of the IAFF on 7 August 1968:
„Dear Mr. Gough,
I have been asked to advise you that at the Council Meeting held last night you were expelled from the Federation from today's date for „conduct detrimental to the interests and character of the Federation".
Yours faithfully,
(signature K.T.M. Robinson) Chairman“
(1968.08.07 Letter from Chairman IAFF K.T.M. Robinson)

The actions of the Council of the IAFF when expelling Gough in August 1968 was a blueprint of their actions when suspending Gough in February 1967 - an utter and complete farce.

Article (VIII) Discipline
Section 1.
The Council shall by a two-third majority of the members voting have power to reprimand, suspend or expel any member whose conduct it deems detrimental to the interests or character of the Federation. No suspension shall be for more than one year.
Section 2.
Notice must be served upon the member against whom the action is being taken, setting forth generally the conduct forming the basis for the action.

Lawrence Gough was not informed that action was being taken against him. He was presented with a fait accompli – action had been taken against him and he was presented with the fact that he had been expelled. The IAFF failed to inform him of any pending disciplinary action. This was in breach of the Constitution of the IAFF 30.04.1967. The IAFF had done exactly the same when suspending Gough in February 1967. They got away with it then, so why shouldn't they repeat the action?

Section 3.
If requested within ten days by the member disciplined or by three members of the Council, a committee of not less than five Fencing Members of the Federation shall be appointed by the President to investigate the conduct charged against the member, and shall meet within ten days of receipt of the appeal. The signed minutes of the Council Meeting disciplining the member shall be made available to the Committee. The Committee shall give the member an opportunity to be heard on the matters before it. The Committee shall endorse or reject the Council's decision.

Gough lodged an appeal against the decision of the Council of the IAFF to expel him. A committee of five Fencing Members was appointed by the Chairman (see 1968.09.02 Official result of L.Gough's appeal).  This was contrary to Article VIII Section 3, which stipulated that the Appeal Committee be appointed by the President of the IAFF. What actually transpired was that the same person who chaired the Council meeting expelling Gough then proceeded to appoint a committee to hear Gough's appeal. This action by the Chairman was calculated and the IAFF tried to justify its actions by feigning adherence to the Constitution when stating in the Report of the Appeal Committee, „The members of the Committee were appointed by the Chairman of the Federation as provided in Article 8, Section iii.“ This was clearly in breach of the Constitution of the IAFF and was a lie.

Section 4.
In cases of appeals by a minor, the minor shall be accompanied to the meeting of the Committee appointed to hear the appeal by a Senior Member of his Club over 21 years, who is not a member of the Federation Central Council.

On 23 August 1968, Lawrence Gough received a letter from the Chairman of the IAFF informing him that his appeal would be held on 24 August 1968 - the next day. Gough still did not know what he was charged with apart from the phrase „conduct detrimental to the interests and character of the Federation“ – he had been given no further information. So he should defend himself without knowing the charges which were brought against him. To make matters worse, Lawrence Gough was given less than 24 hours notice of his appeal date. Time was too short to find an adult member to accompany him to the Appeal Hearing which was expressly stipulated in the Constitution: „[...] the minor shall be accompanied [...]."

Lawrence Gough – aged 19 and still a minor under Irish Law - presented himself before the Appeal Committee. He was alone.

The IAFF were well aware of Gough's juvenile status (under 21 years) as can be proven when reading the „Summary of Council Meeting No. 7.68/69“.  The Appeal Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr. P. Toal did not request Gough to explain why he was not accompanied by an adult as stipulated in Article VIII, Section 3. Instead, the Chairman  proceeded with the Appeal Hearing. The Appeal Hearing was not only in breach of the IAFF Constitution but far more seriously, it was in breach of the Law of the Irish State (Age of Majority Act) as a juvenile is a person who is still legally a child. Larry Gough's Constitutional Rights were breached. It was quite clear that most members of the Appeal Committee had never seen, not to mention read, the IAFF Constitution as they asked Gough during the Appeal Hearing whether he would lend them (the Appeal Committee) his copy of the IAFF Constitution.

The same as in February 1967 when Gough was suspended - the whole procedure in August 1968 was a farce.

The procedure which the IAFF, a national sports organisation, adopted in selecting the Irish fencing team for the Mexico Olympic Games must surely be ranked amongst the most shameful Olympic team selections in the free world to this day. The ensuing imposition of a world-wide life-ban on a 19 year old because he questioned the selection system of the team must be deemed as one of the harshest sentences ever handed down in amateur sport in the democratic world.

Shameful as it was, the consequences for Lawrence Gough were far-reaching and brutal. He could never fence again as long as he lived.

While Lawrence Gough was struggling desparately to come to terms with the end of his fencing career, the Irish Amateur Fencing Federation's four-man Olympic Team travelled on a four-week trip to Mexico City to participate in the Games of the XIXth  Olympiad on 19th September 1968.

The Irish team competed in all six men's events spread over a ten-day period, 15 -25 October.

How did they acquit themselves?

The Official Results of the Fencing Events at the Mexico Games – as reported in L’Escrime Francaise, November/December 1968.

The Irish Team: John Bouchier-Hayes, Fionnbarr Farrell, Colm O'Brien, Michael Ryan.

Italy v Ireland      15/1
Farrell: 1 victory/3 defeats, Bouchier-Hayes: 0 victories/4 defeats, Ryan: 0 victories/4 defeats, O'Brien: 0 victories/4 defeats.

Germany v Ireland    15/1
Farrell: 0 victories/4 defeats, Bouchier-Hayes: 1 victory/3 defeats, Ryan: 0 victories/4 defeats, O'Brien: 0 victories/4 defeats.

Ireland eliminated 1st round.
17 teams participated – Ireland placed 17th.

Sweden v Ireland    13/3
Farrell: 1 victory/3 defeats, Bouchier-Hayes: 2 victories/2 defeats, Ryan: 0 victories/4 defeats, O'Brien: 0 victories/4 defeats.

Germany v Ireland    15/1
Farrell: 0 victories/4 defeats, Bouchier-Hayes: 1 victory/3 defeats, Ryan: 0 victories/4 defeats, O'Brien: 0 victories/4 defeats.

Ireland eliminated 1st round.
20 teams participated – Ireland placed 19th.

Hungary v Ireland    16/0
Farrell: 0 victories/4 defeats, Bouchier-Hayes: 0 victories/4 defeats, Ryan: 0 victories/4 defeats, O'Brien: 0 victories/4 defeats.

Germany v Ireland    14/2
Farrell: 1 victory/3 defeats, Bouchier-Hayes: 0 victories/4 defeats, Ryan: 0 victories/4 defeats, O'Brien: 1 victory/3 defeats.

Ireland eliminated 1st round.
12 teams participated – Ireland placed 10th.

In the three team events, the Irish Team scored 8 victories/88 defeats.

Participants: Foil: 64,  Epée: 72,  Sabre: 40

Fionbarr Farrell:
Foil: 1st round: 0 victories/4 defeats        eliminated 1st round
Sabre: 1st round: 0 victories/6 defeats    eliminated 1st round

John Bouchier-Hayes:
Foil: 1st round: 1 victory/4 defeats           eliminated 1st round
Sabre: 1st round: 0 victories/5 defeats     eliminated 1st round
Epée: withdrew due to injury

Michael Ryan:
Foil: 1st round: 0 victories/4 defeats        eliminated 1st round
Epée: 1st round: 0 victories/5 defeats      eliminated 1st round

Colm O'Brien:
Epée: 1st round: 2 victories/3 defeats      qualified 2nd round
           2nd Round: 0 victories/5 defeats    eliminated 2nd round
Sabre: 1st round: 1 victory/4 defeats        eliminated 1st round
In the three individual events, the Irish Team scored 4 victories/40 defeats.

In total, throughout the six fencing events, Ireland’s four-man Olympic Team scored 12 victories /128 defeats.


Michael Ryan: 0 victories/33 defeats
Fionbarr Farrell: 3 victories/31 defeats
John Bouchier-Hayes: 5 victories/29 defeats (epée:withdrew due to injury)
Colm O'Brien: 4 victories/35 defeats

John Bouchier-Hayes, Captain of the Irish Team, wrote in the Olympic Council of Ireland – Official Report 1968:
„The errors made by our fencers, though small, were costly in points, and quite a number of near-victories became defeats. These mistakes can only be eliminated by more and more international competition, and an all-out effort must be made to participate fully and gain the needed confidence.“

On 24 November 1968, Dave Guiney, the Senior Sports Editor of the Sunday Mirror wrote:
„After Ireland's pathetic display in the Olympic Games, it seems Gough may have had a point when he issued his challenge to our Olympic fencers.“

The Irish Amateur Fencing Federation could now boast of having two additional Olympians among its ranks – Farrell and O'Brien and that Bouchier-Hayes and Ryan were now two-time Olympians having already competed at the Tokyo Olympics 1964.


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