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Controversial DQ was reversed

8/20/2004

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.