Cheating scandals most often occur at local- and regional-level events, which is perhaps why yesterday's events at the WON Bass U.S. Open continue to shock and amaze anglers across the country.
At the Open, WON Bass accused Winnetka, Calif. pro Mike Hart of cheating and banned him for life from all WON Bass competition. If true, the scandal marks the first time in several years that an angler at such a high level of competition was accused of cheating.
Paul Tormanen was arrested in 2005 at the Red River Bassmaster Central Open and charged with felony contest fraud. He later pleaded guilty to the charges, admitted he tied fish to stumps, and was sentenced to 2 years probation and ordered to pay fines and court costs totaling $588.50. Tormanen was also ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution to BASS and perform 120 hours of community service through an approved wildlife and fisheries organization.
In 2004, Tony Christian was DQd from consecutive FLW Tour events. FLW Outdoors failed to provide specifics about the consecutive DQs, other than to cite the rules under which Christian was DQd, but the lack of information from the league fueled rampant public speculation that cheating might have been involved.
The fact that a cheating scandal occurred at the U.S. Open is nonetheless shocking, given the high-profile nature of the event and the close-knit relationships shared by western pros. The effects continue to ripple through the sport.
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