Oracle hit with unprecedented penalties for cheating

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SAN DIEGO – Four days before the start of the America’s Cup sailing race, the defending champion Oracle Team USA received penalties described as the harshest sanctions in the 162-year history of the event.

Oracle Team USAAn article on Yahoo Sports said that after a four-week investigation, an international jury found that the team made illegal modifications to prototype boats used in warm-up regattas last year and earlier this year.

The jury expelled a key sailor and two shore crewman from the team.  The team was also fined $250,000 and docked two points in the upcoming regatta against New Zealand.

The issue was based on the Oracle’s AC45 catamarans, which used a previous year’s model that was not part of this year’s Amerca’s Cup, according to a New York Times article.

“The rules infractions involved only a few of our 130 team members, and were done without the knowledge of either our team’s management or the skippers who were driving the boats,” Russell Coutts, the chief executive of Oracle Team USA, said in a statement to the Times. “While we disagree with the unprecedented penalties imposed by the jury, we have no choice but to make the necessary changes to personnel on our race boat and do our best to use the next four days for the new team to practice and get ready for the start of the 34th America’s Cup.”

The loss of points means that Oracle Team USA must win 11 races to retain the trophy while the challenger, New Zealand, only needs to win nine races in the best-of-17 series.

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