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Touche fatale: what's going on in French fencing?

A few month before the Olympic Games, heralded by the IOC as a renewal of the movement, French sports are still tainted by the most serious scandals at all levels. The latest instance being the mysterious departure of the former president of the fencing federation, Bruno Gares.

Bruno Gares. (Photo: IMAGO/PanoramiC)
Bruno Gares. (Photo: IMAGO/Panorami

On September 29, 2023, Bruno Gares, president of the Fédération Française d’Escrime (FFE) and member of the executive committee of the Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE), announced his immediate resignation from the FFE for "personal reasons". It is a reason that does not convince anyone, including those involved in the small world of French fencing. Between political connections, the double game with Russia, layoffs and stifled cases, the FFE has indeed never experienced such a crisis less than a year before the Olympic Games in Paris.

"I am available this afternoon to exchange," writes an internal source at the FFE in a long message. A call is agreed and then, two hours later, a reversal of the situation. "I wish to exercise my right of reservation. Thank you for your understanding."

What happened during this short period? It is a mystery, but the episode symbolizes the paranoia that has seized the French fencing federation for two years. "We spy on each other, we distrust each other, it's not healthy," points out an executive on condition of anonymity. "Usually, our sport enjoys a certain stability. Since the election of Bruno Gares, it has been the opposite. We have never had so many departures."

Political connections, a deleterious atmosphere

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