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Sailing federation rejects complaint of gross misconduct against America's Cup jury

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SAN DIEGO — Sailing's international governing body has rejected a former official's complaints of gross misconduct filed against the America's Cup jury that handed down the harshest penalty in the history of sailing's marquee regatta.

In a statement posted on its web site on Monday, the International Sailing Federation says that along with outside attorneys, it reviewed the complaints by Paul Henderson of Toronto and "considers there is no case to answer." Henderson has the right to appeal, ISAF said.

ISAF has refused to divulge which of its officials reviewed the complaints.

Henderson is a former ISAF president and a former member of the International Olympic Committee.

He filed complaints in January contending the five-member jury failed to provide a fair hearing to sailors from Oracle Team USA while investigating the biggest cheating scandal in America's Cup history.

Messages were left seeking comment from Henderson.

Henderson filed his complaints a few weeks after the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced sailor Dirk de Ridder's suspension from sanctioned events from three years to 18 months. De Ridder was banned from the 34th America's Cup in September 2013 and Oracle Team USA was docked two points in a scandal involving manipulation of the weight distribution of boats that Oracle sailed in warmup regattas.

Henderson filed individual complaints against jury members Bryan Willis of Britain and Graham McKenzie of New Zealand, based on depositions they gave during hearings before CAS, and a single complaint against the other three jury members, David Tillett of Australia, Josje Hofland of the Netherlands and John Doerr of Britain.

Four days before the first race between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand in the 34th America's Cup, de Ridder, a key crew member, was banned from the regatta and the American-based crew was docked two points. Two shore crew members also were expelled, grinder Matt Mitchell was barred from the first four races and the syndicate was fined $250,000.

After falling behind 8-1, Oracle Team USA staged one of the greatest comebacks in sports and won the final eight races to retain the Auld Mug.

ISAF later suspended de Ridder from sanctioned events for five years, a penalty ultimately reduced to three years. De Ridder then appealed to CAS.

In a majority decision announced in December, CAS, finding fault with both de Ridder and ISAF, reduced the suspension to 18 months.

De Ridder has denied involvement in the scandal.

Mitchell also filed complaints of gross misconduct against the five jury members, alleging "a trail of conspiratorial ineptitude that is hard to refute."

In a separate complaint, Mitchell asked ISAF to investigate former Oracle Team USA teammate Simeon Tienpont for breaking a racing rule and lying during a hearing. Mitchell says he was punished because Tienpont lied to the jury.

Mitchell said his final submissions are due by April 30.

"So obviously we won't get our decision for a few months yet, but I am confident it will echo Paul's," he said in an email to The Associated Press. "This is what happens when the rabbits are in charge of the lettuce."

One of Mitchell's complaints says Willis and McKenzie chose not to bring charges against Tienpont despite having a signed admission from the Dutch sailor, and that the jury failed to share with the accused sailors the notes of a meeting between Willis and McKenzie, and Oracle Team USA general manager Grant Simmer and attorney Lee Ann La France, hired by the syndicate to conduct an internal investigation.


Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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