In reviewing the proposed modifications to the FIE rules at the November 2022, FIE Congress one of them caught my attention; specifically, the modifications proposed to RuleT45, which currently reads in pertinent part:
For a sport trauma/injury or cramp or other acute medical incident which occurs in the course of a bout and which is properly attested by the delegate of the FIE Medical Commission or, in his absence, by the doctor on duty, the Referee will allow a break in the fight lasting no longer than 5 minutes.
Note that T45 requires for the sport trauma/injury or cramp or other acute medical incident to “occur in a course of the bout.” Therefore, during the bout and not necessarily as a result of the bout otherwise the section would have read arising during the course of a bout.
There are two proposed modifications, which recommend replacing the words “trauma/injury or cramp or other acute medical incident” with:
- CHOICE A: for any sport “medical reason” (Rule Commission).
- CHOICE B: For any “injury or other medical reason” (thereby deleting the word “sport” and leaving the word “Injury” from the current rule. (Refereeing commission & Medical Commission).
The motivation for these proposed modification states as follows: The current organization rules only list injuries and medical reasons such as cramp, illness, trauma. The term medical reason should take into account all the possibilities.
Let’s see why.
Choice A mandates a connection with a sport. Meaning that the medical reason should result from a sport activity. Does that mean that if a fencer has rotator cuff pain it would only counts -for the purposes of t45, if the pain were located in the fencing arm? Not necessarily, because t45 does not refer to the sport of fencing but just to sport in general, which means that the fencer could have injured the non-fencing shoulder playing tennis (with the other arm) as a hobby. What then, if the rotator cuff injury resulted from an activity unrelated to a sport activity (e.g., snow shoveling)? One can see how the plot may thicken fast to the point of hyper technical stupidity.
Choice B, instead, removes the word “sport” from the equation meaning that fencer can interrupt the bout even, say, for a bad case of piles. At least, in such a case the FIE medical representative would be able to verify (or not) the enlarged blood vessels. But what about a headache, a backache, a sudden spell of dizziness or even a condition such as anxiety? With respect to anxiety, given its pervasiveness among out youth, should we expect to see anxiety attacks at national events because one is behind in the score? Or requests -backed by the family doctor, to have emotional support pets at the side of the strip? What if a fencer has chest pains? Of course, the bout needs to be stopped but for good; and not for a 5-minute medical break. This, for the potential liability of that fencer having a heart attack after the medical representative allowed the fencer to continue to fence after the 5-minute medical break.
In both proposed modifications the term “medical reason” is too broad. The adjective “medical” is defined as: relating to illness (including those of the mind) and injuries and to their treatment or prevention (Collins) when combined with “reason” then, the possibilities almost become infinite (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/medical-reason
Given the numerous ‘medical reasons” (both physical and mental) not subject to immediate verification, how can the referee (upon the recommendation of the FIE medical representative) give a RED card penalty when the veracity of the claim is hard to disprove? And even then, to what end? To delay the bout even further by waiting for the DT to arrive and deliberate? In fact, if the goal is to save time, it is always best to grant the 5-minute break than to get the DT involved.
These proposed modifications are really bad ideas that will run into the law of unintended consequences. Let’s not forget that former t45 rule originally granted 10 minutes. The break was then changed from 10 to 5 minutes. This, to reduce delays, especially during televised semifinal and final matches. Therefore, if I were to write the “motivation” for either one of these proposed changes it would read: To increase further, unnecessary delays during FIE events, especially during televised finals and semifinals at the Olympic Games.
With gold medals and qualifiers at stake, this rule, if modified as proposed, will be exploited for all the wrong reasons. FIE should anticipate delays during the competitions. In fact, it routinely takes at least 5 to 10 minutes for the medical representative to arrive to the strip when summoned. Add 1-4 minutes to assess the existence of a medical reason and, voilà, there is already a 10–15-minute delay, even if the 5-minute break is denied. If the 5-minute break is granted, then, the total delay could add up to 20 or 30 minutes. I would anticipate even more delays during the semifinals and finals matches especially at the Olympics even if the medical representative typically reaches the strip much sooner during those bouts.
My five cents: Let the current T45 rule stand as it is or restrict it to physical medical reasons only, which arise from the bout or competition. Instead, the FIE may cut through the chase and modify the rules to grant one time-out (for non-medical reasons) of one minute per each fencer per match in the individual competition and per team event in the team event; to be called by the +17 fencer on the strip or the coach; and, if necessary, reduce the current interval time (e.g., 5 minute) to make up for the time-outs. Lastly, in the +70 categories, the FIE may consider allowing more than one time-out.
by Gil Pezza
Artwork by Kayla Sage