Controversial DQ was reversed
ATHENS, Greece -- American swimmer Aaron Peirsol's temporary disqualification in the 200-meter backstroke at the Olympic pool was the result of a blank judges' report, a high-ranking swimming official said Friday.
Initially, no one could explain why Peirsol's victory Thursday was taken away and then given back 30 minutes later. Officials said only that a lane judge's report of an illegal move on Peirsol's final turn was "not in the working language of FINA," the sport's world governing body.
It turns out there was no language at all -- the judge's card was blank, FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said.
Marculescu confirmed that lane judge Denis Cadon of France signaled a violation and that chief officer Felix Mikhailov of Russia and referee Woon Sui Kut of Singapore signed off on the blank report.
"Normally, they would write what violation was made," Marculescu said.
Marculescu said Woon, who was in charge on the pool deck, speaks fluent English; the working languages of FINA are English and French.
Woon could be banned for not following procedure.
"Unfortunately, he signed the report with nothing written on it. It's really strange," Marculescu said. "Probably, the FINA bureau will look at him in the coming days."
Marculescu said no decision had been made about the judges yet, but that there would almost certainly be some rule clarifications made at the FINA Congress in Montreal during next year's world championships.
"We are learning every day and we are improving. Unfortunately, these things happen that shouldn't happen," he said. "The most important thing is the medal was awarded correctly."
Peirsol was also relieved.
"I knew I didn't do anything wrong," he said. "It was a rollercoaster. I am sad for those who thought they were on the podium and were then thrown out of it after my race was made valid."
Peirsol, the world record-holder and current world champion, led most of the race and easily beat the field, touching first in 1 minute, 54.95 seconds. He was more than two seconds ahead of the next swimmer, Austria's Marcus Rogan.
Rogan wound up with silver in 1:57.35, while Romania's Razvan Florea settled for bronze (1:57.56). Britain's James Goddard, who initially had a bronze, dropped back to fourth in 1:57.76.
The United States filed a protest, and FINA overturned the ruling about 30 minutes after the race -- just before the medals ceremony.
Though Austria and Britain filed appeals in an attempt to get back their gold and bronze medals, FINA's Jury of Appeal unanimously rejected the protests.
"It was scary for a while, especially if it's a judgment call," U.S. men's coach Eddie Reese said. "You don't want to ever disqualify a kid on a mistaken call."
The British team had indicated it might appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although CAS general secretary Matthieu Reeb said Friday that his organization had not received any indication of such an appeal. CAS usually does not deal with judgment issues, focusing more on doping and eligibility instead.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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