Triple suspicion of plagiarism in the scientific papers of Alin Petrache, the president of the Romanian Olympic Committee/The Ethics Committee of the National University of Defense will verify the charges

UPDATE: In a response sent to the RCIJ after the publication of the material, the Press Department of the Ministry of National Defense stated that “In reference to the suspicions of plagiarism, the university has appointed an Ethics Committee which shall issue a decision within 30 days”. The National University of Defense is subordinated to the Ministry.

Suspicions of plagiarism in two articles and a book published in 2012-2013 by Assistant Professor Alin Petrache, PhD. In 2014 he was elected president of the Romanian Olympic Committee. The articles, published in the Newsletter of the “Carol I” National University of Defense contain, almost completely, fragments taken word by word from other authors, without quotations and footnotes. In the book, dozens of pages are copied using the same method. Petrache claims “error” “negligence” and promises to withdraw the articles and to review the book.

Alin Petrache (Sursa foto: blogsport.gsp.ro)

Article – Internet compilation

About 99% of the article “Teoriile producerii oboselii” (“Carol I” National University of Defense Newsletter, no. 2/2012, pp. 276-279) is copied, word by word, from the book “Refacere –recuperare: kinetoterapie în activitatea sportivă”, 3rd edition, Fundaţia România de Mâine Publishing House, Bucharest, 2009, pp. 19-22. Without quotations and without footnotes, as required by the academic regulations. Elenei Sabău’s book is mentioned in the bibliography, fact which does not exclude guilt, as shown by the Ethics Committee of the University of Bucharest in similar situations in the former Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s PhD thesis.

Things are the same in the article „Tipul somatic şi antrenamentul”, published in the same edition of the Newsletter (pp. 270-275). This time, the information was taken from several websites dedicated to advice in nutrition and fitness exercises, with minimal modifications, such as: instead of „according to some”, „specialists’ opinion.”

„Finding that these articles didn’t exactly contain the material I wanted at the time, meaning that I sent, by mistake, another material, I already requested the institution to withdraw these from the Newsletter and I will send the articles with the correct content for publishing in the next issue”, Alin Petrache explained a in an e-mail, (throughout this article, his answers were rendered as such, only adding diacritical marks). The President of the Olympic Committee is now in Brazil for the Summer Olympics, together with the Romanian team.

The weak point of the “mistake”

The version of attaching another document, from the computer, was also the explanation received from Alin Petrache by Elena Sabău, who contacted him after the RCIJ contacted her for a quote. The Bucharest professor said that „He was very surprised and very nervous. He rushed to verify and discovered that, when he prepared the article, he had several documents for inspiration, including my pages, and made a mistake when he sent it by e-mail for publishing”, and agreed that “the article doesn’t comply with academic regulations”. He seemed satisfied with Petrache’s explanations, who apparently “was very busy at that time”.

Yhis version, however, has a weak point: although minimal, there are some changes/editing done to Elena Sabău’s text, meaning that the order of certain fragments was changed and some of them were cut. Moreover, the names of the authors quoted by the two authors were reversed: Sabău used „C. Bota” and Petrache „Bota C.”, and some of the words were replaced: „perspectivele unei mari descoperiri” (Sabău) versus „perspectivele acestei mari descoperiri” (Petrache).

„The publication of these articles brought me no benefits”

The “Carol I” National University of Defense Newsletter presents itself on its website as a “scientific publication of renown prestige in the field of «Military sciences, information and public order» of the National Council for the Attestation of University Titles, Degrees and Certificated (CNATDCU).”, „indexed in the Central and Eastern European Online Library: http://www.ceeol.cominternational database.” The website also mentions that „the articles sent to the “Carol I” National University of Defense Newsletter for publishing must represent original works, previously unpublished, approved by specialized reviewers”.

Up to the time this material was published, no answers regarding these articles were received from the editorial management of the Newslette, nor the university, Alin Petrache being an assistant professor for the latter, in the Faculty of Command and General Staff, Department of Military Physical Education.

„I would like to mention that publishing these articles brought me no professional benefits, as evidenced by me being an assistant professor since 11 years ago”, Petrache added. These could, however, be considered in calculating the scoring for promotion to a superior didactic position, of associate professor.

Tudor Vianu, on the “victims” list

One year later, in 2013, Alin Petrache published with the Military Publishing House, the book „Sportul şi armata”, dedicated to his grandfather, „colonel Ion Petrache, professor with the Military Academy of Bucharest.” There are also several suspicions of copied fragments from other authors, integrally or by minimal rephrasing for a large part of this book.

Thus, in pages 22 and 24 there are two fragments with ideational similarities to works written in 1931, at page 230 of the Gândirea magazine (year XI, no. 5) by critic Tudor Vianu, the author of an article called „Valoarea sportului”. Vianu’s name doesn’t appear in the footnotes, neither in the bibliography.

He copied the same fragment twice

However, most of the pages – dozens of them – for which there are suspicions belong to Associate Professor Viorel Ceascai, PhD, a member f the teaching staff of the National University of Defense, author, in 2010, three years before Petrache’s book, of „Introducere în istoria educaţiei fizice militare” (Carol I National University of Defense Publishing House).

There are two situations suspected of plagiarism in the Ceascai-Petrache duo: integral copying, or with minimal rephrasing, with or without attributing the source. As a novelty fact: in one case, one paragraph taken from page 108 pf Ceascai’s book, „the development of motor abilities and skills necessary to soldiers in the modern combat field entails a complex physical process, materialized in a physical training aimed at creating the physical potential necessary to accomplishing individual and collective missions, for prolongued periods of time and space, in any terrain or weather conditions”, appears in Petrache’s work, without attribution, both in page 105 and in page 125. The suspicions of plagiarism in „Introducere…” begin from fragments no longer than 10-15 lines and stretch to fragments on one or two pages.

Copying „by intermediary”

At least for the field of press materials which dealt with scientific papers with such irregularities, „Sportul şi armata” contains an innovation.

The method can be so resumed and starts from the description of the same fact by A, B and C. Chronologically, A is the first author, B takes it over and C presents the same fact, in B’s exact words, but quoting A. In Petrache’s case, there are several such situations, especially from works written by Mihai Floca and Constantin Kiriţescu, „rephrased” by Ceascai, from whom Petrache copied. The odd thing is that the footnotes mention Floca and Kiriţescu.

The boss is a diplomat: “some shortcomings”, but “it’s not plagiarized”

In a reaction sent to the RCIJ, Viorel Ceascai, the boss of Assistant Professor Alin Petrache in the Department for Military Physical Education of the National University of Defense declared: „I’ve read Mr. Petrache’s book and I was glad to see that he made many references and notes to my paper, being one of the sources quoted in the bibliography. I have also noted some shortcomings related to the fact that he didn’t mention the source of the information and the lack of quotation marks for the fragments he used, but it didn’t stop me from believing that “Sportul şi armata” is a valuable paper by content and relayed message. I made an overall analysis of his book and the conclusion was appreciative for the connection he very well captured between the two phenomena of human existence: military and sport. It is a brave paper through its approach and interpretation, given that currently very few people noting the close connection between the two phenomena and the implications arising thereof. The author observed this very well, formulating pertinent and valuable conclusions. There are certain mistakes in the editing of the paper, but it is not plagiarized.”

Alin Petrache declared about this book: „In reference to the book Sportul şi armata I would like to state that in case certain paragraphs and ideas taken from other works haven’t been appropriately quoted (about 8-10 % of the entire paper), this fact is not deliberate, but it is due to inattention in the final editing of the book, and in the future reviewed edition, which I hope to finalize after the Olympic games, I shall make the proper rectifications.”

Isoc says that “it is plagiarism”

Cluj professor Dorin Isoc, the coordinator of the plagiate.ro website, studied the examples presented in this material and declared:

„In this case:

a) these are plagiarisms and it is very unlikely that these examples are the only ones;

b) these are plagiarisms made by taking over a text, without indicating the length and without the intervention, by criticism or processing, of the person taking over the text. There is only one purpose: misleading the reader, who will be unable to distinguish between the words belonging to the author of the authentic work and the one belonging to the author taking over the text.

c) at point b) there is also the particular answer: plagiarism does not depend on the length of the text, but only on the conditions where it is possible to identify the true author of the work. Any text taken over, regardless on its reduced length, must at least comprise the name of the true author, of the work and the time of publishing and it is mandatory to delimit it by using quotation marks or other means.”

A second opinion comes from the Iasi academia. „The examples credit the suspicion of plagiarism. In the Romanian education system, as more factors with negative impact converge, plagiarism acquired, in certain environments, the magnitude of a trend and the harmful nature of a disease. If it is perpetuated, this nefarious practice has the potential of eroding the prestige and credibility of all types of academic institutions. Romanian universities, both civil and military, are already facing the specter of endemic plagiarism, maintained on more or less occult channels, and this aspect can only harm the values the national education process cultivates and maintains”, declared Ioan Milică, Associate Professor at the a Faculty of Letters of the „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University.

The Petrache Family: Oprea Inflation and Plagiarisms

After his retirement, former rugby player Alin Petrache (39 yars old) had a swift rise in public life. In 2009 – 2014, he was the president of the Romanian Rugby Federation (the youngest candidate in history for this position), PSD deputy (elected in 2012) and in 2014 he became the president of the Romanian Olympic Committee.

Gabriel Oprea (Sursa foto: www.amosnews.ro)

Journalist Cătălin Tolontan wrote that his election to this last position occurred with the support of the UNPR president at the time, Gabriel Oprea, who allegedly tried to force one of his opponents, Elisabeta Lipă, to withdraw from the race. „The current COSR management made the same move, doing everything in its power to consolidate Alin Petrache’s position as the favorite, irritating the other strong candidate, Octavian Belu. (…) it is clear that the games are rigged in favor of Alin Petrache”, Tolontan wrote at the time.

The COR president declined to answer if the violation of the academic regulations in the works above affects the fundamental principle of the Olympics: „The Olympics are a life philosophy, exalting and combining in a balanced ensemble the qualities of body, will and spirit. Associating sport to culture and education, the Olympics seek to create a lifestyle based on the joy of effort, on the educational value of the good example, social responsibility and respect for the universal fundamental ethical principles.” (fragment of the Olympic Charta) or the principle of Honor in the Romanian Army. Petrache wrote about the two institutions in the preface to his book, „Sportul şi Armata” that „they have left a decisive mark on me and continue to influence my life and career.”

Gabriel Oprea was PhD thesis coordinator to Alin Petrache’s father, Adrian, paper in which the weekly newspaper 7EST recently detected several indications of plagiarism. Oprea himself recently received such verdict for his own PhD thesis.

During the documentation stage for this material, we also verified the PhD thesis defended in 2004 by Petrache Junior, at the National Academy for Physical Education and Sport. We did not find any paragraphs non compliant to the academic requirements. The title of the paper was „Strategii moderne de pregătire pentru rugby-ul de performanţă.” One year after the defense of his thesis, Alin Petrache became assistant professor at the National Defense University.