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USA Fencing Receives Preliminary Findings from Saber Investigation, Offers Updates on Disciplinary Hearing

04/24/2024, 9:00am CDT
By Bryan Wendell

A disciplinary hearing has resulted in the sanction of two referees while the independent saber investigation will continue.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In two related but separate proceedings, USA Fencing wishes to update our athletes, community and other interested parties on the latest news about Saber.

USA Fencing Disciplinary Matter

First, as a result of charges brought by USA Fencing against two individuals pursuant to our Complaint and Hearing Procedures, Mr. Jacobo Morales and Mr. Brandon Romo have been sanctioned for violation of the USA Fencing Referee Code of Ethics, the FIE Technical Rules, and the FIE Ethical Code.

The violation in question occurred during a Division I Women’s Saber Round of 32 bout at the January North American Cup in San Jose, Calif. In that bout, refereed by Romo and observed by Morales, Tatiana Nazlymov defeated Kira Erikson, 15-14. Video evidence from that bout appeared to show Morales giving a signal to Romo after several touches, giving the appearance that Morales was influencing the calls.

A hearing panel met on April 12 and reported its findings on April 23 to the two officials involved and to other relevant parties.

The panel found that Morales and Romo did commit rule violations. Quoting from the panel’s report:

The Panel finds that Morales violated Rules t.100 and t.109, as well as the above-referenced sections of the FIE Ethical Code, by providing input to Romo during the Erickson/Navlymov bout. The Panel similarly finds that Romo violated the same Rules and sections of the Ethical Code by asking for input from Morales.

The panel did not make a finding in the matter regarding whether Morales was making the calls himself or reaffirming calls made by Romo nor did the panel determine there was any credible evidence to support collusion or other impropriety.

The ruling is as follows:

  • Morales may not referee any USA Fencing tournament for a period of nine months

  • Romo may not referee any USA Fencing national tournament for a period of nine months but may still participate at the regional and local level

  • Romo and Morales shall not be assigned to the same referee strip for a period of five years

  • Romo and Morales are recommended not to be assigned to the same pod for a period of five years when feasible.

We want to thank everyone who cooperated with the investigation. We know this has been a trying time for all involved — most especially our athletes, for whom this ordeal has served as an unwanted distraction from their training and competition ahead of the Olympic Games Paris 2024. We look forward to closing this chapter and continuing to support our athletes, coaches, officials and everyone involved in supporting USA Fencing.

Independent Investigation Update

In a related but separate matter, USA Fencing commissioned an independent investigation in early March to investigate alleged match manipulation in the Saber weapon.

However, in order to ensure that the hearing was conducted in a fair, unobstructed manner, several key witnesses involved in the hearing process still need to be addressed by the investigation. For this reason, the investigation continues following today’s preliminary findings.

A fuller report will be published as soon as reasonably possible. Those with further information not already shared with the investigation are highly encouraged to reach out to 

The investigators will bring forward findings and recommendations after the final interviews have been completed, USA Fencing has emphasized for the sake of all parties this must be as soon as possible.

The investigators highlighted the following key findings so far:

  • Found no evidence that individual U.S. fencers were actively involved in manipulating their own bouts as athletes, meaning no fencing athletes are facing disciplinary hearings at this time, but USA Fencing reserves the right to take action against other individuals if evidence arises regarding their involvement.

  • Found no evidence suggesting broader issues within the referee cadre at USA Fencing national tournaments, indicating that the refereeing improprieties that occurred at the January NAC were an isolated incident. 

The investigation is a collaborative effort involving USA Fencing and the USA Fencing Referees’ Commission (RC) who appointed Aequitask LLC, Prince Lobel Tye and Edgeworth Economics to execute the independent investigation.

The investigators have so far interviewed more than 50 individuals, reviewed documents, analyzed data, watched video and received dozens of tips (of which 12 had sufficient information to warrant further study).

At USA Fencing, we’ll never stop working to ensure a level playing field for athletes. Fencing bouts should be decided by fencers’ actions on the strip, and we’ll continue to hold everyone involved in our sport to the highest standard.

Tag(s): Updates