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Epilogue and Dedication

I gave an undertaking to Pierre Ferri, President of the FIE and to Charles Louis de Beaumont, Vice-President of the FIE, promising I would not communicate the role played by the FIE in my being granted an FIE licence in 1972 and again in 1973 to anyone, especially to the Press and also to the Olympic Council of Ireland. I have kept this promise for more than 40 years. This is the first time I have spoken about this.

Lawrence Gough, Maître d'Armes AAI

I was not and never claimed to be a world-class fencer. I was, however, among the best and, at times Ireland's leading epéeist.  This was a considerable achievement bearing in mind I had not been allowed to fence anywhere in the world for five years.

I actually only fenced two and a half seasons in Ireland: 1965/66 (Salle Duffy fencing club), 1966/67 University College Dublin FC - 6 month suspension), 1967/68 (University College Dublin FC - banned for life).

Recalling what was done to me by the IAFF nearly 50 years ago, it still baffles me that a lad of seventeen could be handed down a six-month world-wide suspension because "he refused to accept the ruling of the President of the Irish Amateur Fencing Federation thereby being guilty of a breach of discipline. It was also considered that his failure to disassociate himself from the actions committed on his behalf the performance of which he was aware showed him to be in agreement."

Under Irish Law at that time, I was a minor and therefore legally a child. Children did not disassociate themselves from the actions of their parents in the 1960's (nor today). The fact that the IAFF expected this of me and punished me for not doing so raises many questions. This expectation was tantamount to inciting me to be disrespectful to my parents and advocating that I disobey them.

 

Even after all these years, I still find it difficult to understand moments that flash before my eyes - moments at tournaments - during training - comments or just silent knowing looks - all moments indelibly etched forever and ever.

Moments such as when I reached the last 8 in the Irish National Championships. The floor judge (no electric piste) was called upon to deliver an opinion even though he was deep in conversation, 15 metres from the piste, causing me to be eliminated.

When I was 17, being poked in the chest and being spoken down to in public by a national team selector and being accused of "pot hunting" and being told to "cop on".

Being threatened in public by the Secretary of the National Selectors Panel that "you had better change your attitude or you will not be going to the London Games".

Witnessing the President of the IAFF visit the gymnasium in UCD Earlsfort Terrace during the training times of the university club to ensure that I did not train/fence.

Having qualified for a barrage in the final of the National Junior Championships. I could fence my heart out, but I couldn't win - and I didn't: the organizers, my opponent and the referee were all from the same club. The referee was actually the owner of the club.

Getting through to the last 8 in the Irish Open Sabre Championships - the referee and my opponent were from the same club and both were on the National Selectors Panel. I objected to the referee presiding the bout, which was my right under FIE Rule 610§5. The organisers (Trinity College Dublin) agreed with me and requested the referee to stand down. He refused and the organisers did not insist on him doing so. I could choose - withdraw from the championships or fence. I fenced and I lost. That was the system.  This was, of course, to be expected.  After the blatently biased refereeing at the National Junior Championships, the organisers of the Irish Open (Trinity College, Dublin) requested permission from the IAFF to bring in foreign neutral judges to adjudicate at the Irish Open. The organisers maintained that permission was refused. The Chairman of the IAFF, K.T.M. Robinson, told me that permission was granted. The rumour prevailing at the time was that the Irish referees would boycott the event if foreign referees were brought in. So everything remained as usual.

There were many, many more "moments" like these. It was a daunting and harrowing experience for a young teenager. I was young, idealistic, naive and gullible.  From the age of 19, being forced to meet secretly in car parks and back gardens to get some fencing practice - I was not allowed enter a fencing club in the Republic nor would it have been advisable for anyone to be seen fencing with me. Those who did practice with me were taking an enormous risk and would surely have been ostracized. Later, of course, I realised what all this bullying was leading to.

 

In the 60's and 70's, Irish sports organisations were answerable to themselves only. There were no controlling bodies such as The Federation of Irish Sport, Irish Sports Council or Sport Ireland. The office of Minister of State for Sport was light years away. The mere idea of a Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children and Young People in Sport would have been scorned at and seen as a personal insult and threat to the authority of those in power. The position of a Children's Officer was per se unheard of in Irish sport as was also the procedure of Police/Gárda vetting.

The sport of fencing in the 60's and 70's in Ireland was not organised as a sport - it was a "business".  The "sport" was controlled by a handfull of people who considered it to be their exclusive private property.

I remember talking to one of Ireland's leading political television commentators who had represented Ireland in fencing, about this sport in the Republic. I have never heard anyone sum up the sport so succinctly. "Fencing in Ireland is pathetically parochial - it doesn't interest me anymore." What he was actually getting at here was what one can call "the small town silence" or in this case the "very small sports organisation silence" (110 members) that was the IAFF in the 60's. The IAFF was controlled by one club - a Dublin 4 club.

As a youth, I had never experienced it before. It is the-nudge-and-a-wink culture. Intangible, a wall of silence as inpenetrable as marble. It is the practised silence, masquerading as shocked ignorance of all too well-known information and events. It is the innocent glance and half-murmur which is threatening and all the while the wall is being built higher and thicker.

When I shouted "the emperor has no clothes" in 1968, Ireland was a much different country to what it is today. Many just turned away and said "It's not my problem!" or "I don't want to get involved." Many did hear my shout but instead of coming to my aid, they simply stopped fencing altogether - they didn't want to be associated with what was happening. Officers and Council members of the IAFF stepped down. This actually served to exacerbate the imbalance of power as the vacant positions were taken by individuals whose allegiances served to ensure that the lack of impartiality was complete.

In September 1968 the enormity of my situation overwhelmed me. I remember it as though it were yesterday. I can see myself and know exactly what clothes and shoes I was wearing. I was walking along Merrion Square South towards the Pepper Canister in Upper Mount Street when for some inexplicable reason, I was overcome with a pulsating sensation surging throughout my body. I felt faint - I couldn't control my legs, I was immobile and it was necessary for me to rest on the steps of one of the Georgian mansions. My consciousness of my dilemma with the IAFF hit me full-on and my system collapsed. I was so worried. I did not feel I could cope. This split second of my life is etched vividly and indelibly on my brain. I was 19.

Unfortunately, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based in Lausanne had not yet been founded. Had this body been in existence in 1968, I would have taken my case there and I am totally confident that I would have won.

When the IAFF expelled me, I appealled to Lord Killanin, President of the International Olympic Committee, the Honorary Secretary of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), and the President of Ireland for help. All informed me that the affairs of the IAFF were an internal matter and they could not help me.  Both, Lord Killanin and the Olympic Council of Ireland advised me to appeal to the FIE.

Let there be absolutely no mistake about this: if my appeals for help to Charles Louis de Beaumont and Pierre Ferri had gone unheard, I would never again have fenced anywhere in the world as long as I lived. I am eternally grateful to both of these men who did not take the easy way out and turn a blind eye to the despicable behaviour of the IAFF towards me.

Luckily, I was strong enough to realise that after my non-selection for the Mexico (1968) and Montreal Olympic Games (1976) and after having read the IAFF statement of 07.02.1976 ("I wish to inform you that the I.A.F.F. considers that, irrespective of the results you may achieve, it would not be in the best interests of Irish fencing that you represent Ireland in the Montreal Olympics.") it was time to look after my life and not throw everything away on something I had lost out on. I was cheated out my rightful place on the Irish Olympic Fencing Team - not once, but twice.

I studied at University College Dublin (National University of Ireland) taking a BA in English, History and Mathematics with Irish as a fourth subject. I followed this up by taking the Higher Diploma in Education, also at UCD and passing the Ceard Teastas Gaeilge from the Irish Department of Education. In 1971, I was a fully recognised and registered second level teacher at 22 years of age. In 1972, I already held a permanent wholetime employment contract with the State Authorities and taught in Marino, Dublin. This was a contract for life.

From a professional point of view, everything was perfect - but I could not enter any fencing club in Ireland, not to mention actually fence. I was banned for life. I had no FIE licence so I could not compete anywhere in the world. The dispute with the IAFF and my unjustified and unconstitutional suspension and unjustified and unconstitutional expulsion cost me five years of my sporting career during which time I was not permitted to fence at all and ultimately forced me to emigrate to Germany in 1973. I left my native country, but I refused to give up my identity - I kept my Irish citizenship.

I am indebted to the Deutscher Fechterbund (German Fencing Federation) and the Rheinische Fechterbund (Rhineland Fencing Federation) for opening their doors to me and welcoming me all those years ago. After 5 years of nothing (1968-1973), literally overnight, here in Germany I could fence 7 days a week. I trained with two fully qualified fencing masters: Maître Franz Marx and Maître Andre Shiettecatte. This was the first time I trained with a Maître d'Armes. I could also compete whenever and wherever I wished.

In 1975, I had my first contact with Fechtmeister Oskar Adler, President of the ADFD - Akademie der Fechtkunst Deutschlands/German Academy of Armes.  In 1982, I became a member of the ADFD thus becoming the first Irishman to hold membership. In 1995, upon completion of a two-year course of studies, I became the first Irish citizen to be awarded a Maître d'Armes Diploma by the ADFD.

In 1994-95, as part of my studies, I wrote a thesis for the German Academy of Armes entitled "The History and Development of Fencing in Ireland from 1933 to 1964". In order to help with my research, the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Evening Press and numerous Irish regional newspapers published a letter from me, asking for assistance from former fencers. I was overwhelmed by the response; former members of the IAFF Council, former club captains and a former Olympic Council representative contacted me, offering their files which included vast correspondence between Council members and officers of the IAFF. I gladly accepted these kind offers and appreciated their support.

Phrases like "Irish fencing owes you a lot..." or "The only Irish fencer to have achieved anything internationally..." or "You were a victim of unprofessional behaviour and it leaves a sour taste in the mouth." could be found in the accompanying letters. All this was very flattering in the mid 90's when I was 45 years of age - I wish these people had said all this publicly 20 years earlier.

In June 2011, while I was in Hénin-Beaumont for the European Veterans Fencing Championships, I received a phone call from the Chairman of the IFF, Tom Rafter (Chairman IAFF/IFF 1987 - 2015), who was also present in Hénin-Beaumont. We met up for dinner. This was my first meeting with an official of the IAFF/IFF in 35 years. During the evening, the Chairman stated "Larry, all that should never have happened".

I have been involved in education all my life, teaching at comprehensive school, private schools and nearly 30 years at Düsseldorf University. I have been dealing intensively with young people on a day-to-day basis for over 40 years. I have also been teaching fencing to young people since 1978. I just cannot fathom how a National Governing Body of a sport could mistreat and abuse the civil rights of a teenager of 17 years as the IAFF did - and be allowed to do so - and get away with it. The IAFF operated unconstitutionally with no regard for my legal or constitutional rights as a minor. But of course, in those days, they believed that I should have "obeyed my elders" and some might even have added "and your betters".

Looking back today, nearly 50 years on, what angers me most, is the sadness, the anguish and the loneliness which was caused to my parents and my brother by those self-appointed megalomaniacs sitting on the Council of the IAFF. Those people who acted so ruthlessly against me and my family may have been fine men and women in their personal lives. These very same people saw nothing wrong in crucifying me as a young boy and later as a young man. What these people did to me is unprecedented in World Fencing and probably in World Sport.

There were many additional incidents between the IAFF and myself: The Turkish Matter, The Irish Times Report, The MacGabhan Story, The Threatened Suspension of UCDFC, the UCDFC Captaincy, The UCDFC Accounts, The Hibernia Articles, and so on.

As I write, it has just been announced that Sepp Blatter (79), ex-President of the FIFA and Michel Platini (60), President of the UEFA have both been suspended for 8 years by the Ethics Committee of the FIFA.  According to the FIFA, Sepp Blatter gave Michel Platini 2 million Swiss Franks in 2011 for his services between 1998 and 2002. The Ethics Committee of the FIFA did not accept this "story". The prosecutors called for a life-ban for both of the defendants. This was refused.

So the 79 year-old and the 60 year-old have been suspended for 8 years - at 19, I was expelled for life by the IAFF and, in addition, my FIE licence was revoked for life by the IAFF.

Those involved in the Gough Affair were never asked to account for their actions. Many remained in office on the Council/Committee of the IAFF/IFF for decades and some are still in office to this day - fifty years later.  Many are still in the service of the IFF.

 

This is my story. And I would do it all again.

Lawrence Gough
Solingen, December 2015

 

Dedication

My story is dedicated to the memory of my dear parents, Máiréad and Richard, and also to the memory of "my big brother", Tony. Without their unending support and understanding, I would never have been able to survive the personal attacks and down-right brutality with which the IAFF attempted to destroy my fencing career year after year, decade after decade. I thank my dear family for imparting to me an unwavering sense of integrity, justice, righteousness, and fairness.

The individual epée event of the Montreal Olympics took place on 22nd July 1976 and on that day my father presented me with "my Olympic Medal". It was his way of expressing his admiration for, and belief in his son. It is my most-prized fencing memento.

 

© Christine Gough

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