White Marlin Open releases statement amid failed polygraph rumors

OCEAN CITY, Md. - White Marlin officials released a statement on Monday morning in regards to reports that an angler failed a polygraph test after the tournament that ended on August 11.

Officials say, "As has been the policy of the White Marlin Open since 2004, at the conclusion of the 2017 Tournament, the top money winners were polygraphed. Over this past year, the Tournament Directors have demonstrated their determination to protect the integrity of the Tournament as the largest billfish tournament in the world.

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.  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 rules allow the Tournament Directors to require additional polygraphs for the angler and others on the winning boat, and also provide the angler with a right to obtain a separate polygraph at his or her own expense.  After all tests are completed, the Tournament Directors will carefully review the results with the polygraph examiners and other polygraph experts, and will make a decision about each individual angler.

The Tournament does not intend to make any further public comment on this year's results until the process is completed. 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.

As a result, the Tournament Directors declined to award the $2,818,000 prize money to the angler, and advocated that the prize money be awarded instead to the anglers next in line. For ten months thereafter, White Marlin Open participated in a Federal Court trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before the Honorable Richard D. Bennett, who, on June 14, 2017 rendered a comprehensive Memorandum Opinion wherein he analyzed every facet of the procedures of the Tournament.

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

Regarding the public statement issued yesterday by Mr. Heasley's attorney, Christopher Sullivan, the White Marlin Open simply notes that his assertions were rejected by the Honorable Richard D. Bennett, of the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, after patiently listening to trial testimony for eight days.

Moreover, after building the Tournament's reputation for fairness and integrity over the last 44 years, the White Marlin Open Directors are not in need of any advice from Mr. Heasley or his attorneys about how to run the Tournament."

This comes a year after angler Phillip Heasley was denied a $2.8 million prize after he and his crew members reportedly failed a polygraph exam and dropped their lines early when they caught a white marlin weighing in at more than 76 pounds.

A federal judge sided with the White Marlin Open but Heasley has filed an appeal challenging that decision. He claims that the marlin was caught legally and that they did not violate any tournament rules. The appeal will be heard in Richmond, Virginia.

According to White Marlin Open's website, Glen Frost of Stevensville was the winner of this year's tournament. The weight of the marlin that he caught was 95.5 on the Wire Nut boat in Ocean City.

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