Ocean City Today

WMO releases statement on polygraphs, Kallianassa crew

By Brian Gilliland | Aug 31, 2017

(Sept. 1, 2017) With the news that additional polygraph tests were ordered on two individual winning anglers during the 2017 tournament while the appeal in the case of last year’s presumptive winner is still tied up in the courts, the White Marlin Open released a statement regarding its policies and practices involving lie detectors.

“The Tournament Directors make every possible effort to ensure complete fairness to all participants, including a post-tournament protocol to verify compliance with the rules,” it reads. “The White Marlin Open, like many other tournaments, has found that the use of polygraphs is an effective method of ensuring compliance with the rules, particularly with over 300 boats participating over tens of thousands of square miles.”

The polygraph policy dates back to 2004, and anyone eligible for more than $50,000 in prize money can be subject to the testing, per the tournament rules agreed to by every angler as a condition of participation.

Additional polygraphs may be ordered by directors, the statement reads, and participants also have the right to have their own tests done at their own expense. Once the tests are done, the directors review the results with polygraph examiners and other experts to make a decision about each individual angler.

In this year’s tournament, one angler failed the initial exam and another test was deemed inconclusive. The participant that failed the initial test passed a subsequent one, and the outcome of the second test on the inconclusive result has not been made public.

According to the statement, the tournament does not intend to make any further comments about this year’s results until the process is complete.

But the same is not true for last year’s result.

“After the 2016 tournament was complete, the winning angler and his entire crew (four persons) were allowed five chances to pass polygraphs and none passed,” the statement continues, describing the court case that followed. On June 14, District Court Judge Richard Bennett ruled last year’s presumptive winner, Philip Heasley, had violated tournament rules by beginning to fish early, and that the tournament upheld its responsibilities by refusing to award him the more than $2.8 million in prize money.

“Judge Bennett specifically held that the use of polygraphs are widely accepted in fishing tournaments, and the White Marlin Open’s procedures are fairly and competently administered,” the statement continues.

Via the Facebook page for Heasley’s boat, the Kallianassa, an official statement issued by unknown authors addressed the news of the new round of testing. The Facebook page contains several statements by Heasley, his lawyer Christopher Sullivan and posts about the efficacy of polygraphs.

After the news broke that additional tests were ordered, a new statement appeared on Aug. 25.

“The Kallianassa doesn’t delight at anyone’s misfortune … As we’ve learned throughout our yearlong involvement, polygraphs are unreliable – even when conducted to standards the polygraph examiners set for themselves,” the statement begins. “We had hoped that the White Marlin Open would have learned this lesson as well and eliminated polygraphs from its competition. Polygraphs have no place in our society, be it in government hiring or in fishing.”

The Kallianassa statement ends with a promise to monitor the results “with intense scrutiny” and the suggestion that “you don’t win a contest by winning a polygraph — or a court case. You win it by catching a fish fairly.”

As part of the tournament’s response, the organizers countered the criticism with barbs of their own.

“… The White Marlin Open simply notes that his assertions were rejected by the honorable Richard J. Bennett … after patiently listening to trial testimony for eight days. Moreover, … the White Marlin Open Directors are not in need of any advice Mr. Heasley or his attorneys about how to run the tournament.”

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