Britain contests Fina's 'farcical' ruling

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The Independent Online

Bill Sweetenham, British swimming's technical director, last night denounced the "incompetent paperwork" of the officials in charge of the men's 200m backstroke final after James Goddard lost out on a medal. A formal appeal is in progress.

Bill Sweetenham, British swimming's technical director, last night denounced the "incompetent paperwork" of the officials in charge of the men's 200m backstroke final after James Goddard lost out on a medal. A formal appeal is in progress.

Goddard, a 21-year-old from Manchester, finished fourth in the race behind America's Aaron Peirsol, who was subsequently disqualified for an alleged illegal turn. Goddard was officially declared the winner of the bronze medal only for the Americans to appeal Peirsol's disqualification.

On a farcical evening, the American appeal was upheld on a technicality. Reasons for disqualification have to be submitted by the race referee in writing, in clear English. But the referee in question, Woon Sui Kut of Singapore, submitted a piece of paper to Fina, swimming's world governing body, that Fina said provided inadequate details that were "not in the working language of Fina".

In effect, Woon's decision to disqualify Peirsol was ruled inadmissible because his writing could not be understood. The original places were re-instated, with Peirsol, the world record holder, taking gold ahead of Austria's Markus Rogan and Romania's Razvan Florea.

Great Britain and Austria both lodged formal appeals to Fina last night and a hearing is expected today. The medals for the race were presented last night but could be recalled.

Sweetenham said that Peirsol's infringement was "obvious". It is alleged that he turned on his stomach too early during his 150m turn. It was even announced to the crowd in the minutes after the race that Peirsol had made an illegal turn at 150m. "To have an infringement overturned because of incompetent paperwork is nonsensical," Sweetenham said.

Peirsol's time of 1m 54.95sec was an Olympic record, shaving 0.19sec off the mark he set in Wednesday's semi-finals. He said last night that he had won the race fairly and that the kind of turn he is alleged to have made would actually have slowed him down.

Goddard, who was in second place behind Peirsol until well past the 150m mark, clocked 1min 57.76sec, only falling back in the final metres. Aside from the post-swim drama, Goddard was not especially happy with his swim. "I am a bit disappointed," he said. "I think I went out too hard and I should be walking away with a medal."

In his semi-final, Goddard clocked 1min 57.25sec to set a new British and Commonwealth record. The same time last night would have guaranteed at least silver. "But it was my first final and I was very nervous going into it. I felt ill I was so nervous."

Goddard arrived at the Games ranked third in the world behind Peirsol and Michael Phelps, who opted out of the event. Phelps got his fourth gold (and sixth medal) by winning the 200m individual medley in an Olympic record last night.

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