I wasn't too worried about this. In fact, to me it suggested that by the time the worlds came round in Madrid I'd be in just about perfect shape for the 100. The race was on the first day. We had heats in the afternoon and the final in the evening. I remember it well - it was an outdoor pool and a lovely day, and I got through the heats no problem, setting a European record and the fastest qualifying time by 0.8 of a second, which is a lot over such a relatively short distance.
What I had not realised was that I'd been spotted doing something which was illegal but which I didn't even realise I was doing. This is where it gets a bit complicated, but basically the problem was to do with the turn, the moment just after you've pushed off and before you start stroking again. Your feet are normally together at this point but mine were crossed. That in itself did not matter - what did was that as I uncrossed them I gave myself a little push with them which was quite involuntary but against the rules.
It was the Italians who had spotted it - their man Gianni Minervini was a title contender along with me and Davis - and they alerted the judges. When I got to the turn in the final there were three judges looking down at me, whereas there was only one at the end of each of the other lanes. Not that I noticed them. I was too busy concentrating. Normally I reckon to do better on the second length, so to be trailing a little at the turn was fine by me. But here I was just about level, so it was looking pretty good. I pulled right away after that and won it by 0.9 of a second, with Davis second and Minervini third. To begin with everything was fine. The big scoreboard confirmed the result with me in first place. But then we got back to the medallists' room.
We'd only been there a minute or two when I noticed another swimmer having a rather serious conversation with one of the girls who carries the medals for the presentation ceremony. After a few moments he came over and told me that, according to the girl, I'd been disqualified. Then an official came in and told me I'd been disqualified and would have to leave the room. Outside, there was pandemonium. I tried to find my coach, but the press were surrounding me and I just had to stand there trying to answer their questions. The whole thing was incredible.
After the medal ceremony, Davis came over to me with the gold medal and said as far as he was concerned this one wasn't going to count. He'd be putting it in the back of his wardrobe. It was strange. Up until then our relationship had been very bad. I don't suppose we'd exchanged more than three words civilly. But after that he had more respect for me, and I did for him.
I was devastated by the whole episode. I was still under a cloud when the 200 came round. I'd lost my edge, physically and mentally, and finished fourth.
And then there was the time I took my shorts off at the start of a race in Israel, and wasn't wearing any trunks. But that's another story . . .Reuse content