Butterfly winner Cavic suspended for remainder of Euro meet

Updated: March 21, 2008, 10:15 AM ET
Associated Press

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands -- A Serb swimmer was suspended Friday for the remainder of the European swimming championships for wearing a T-shirt proclaiming "Kosovo is Serbia" at a medal presentation ceremony. His team said it plans to appeal.

[+] EnlargeMilorad Cavic
AP Photo/Michael SohnMilorad Cavic of Serbia earned a suspension for the remainder of the European Swimming Championships for this shirt, which translates in English as "Kosovo is Serbia."
A disciplinary panel meeting of the European swimming league, LEN, ruled the T-shirt worn by Milorad Cavic as he collected gold for the 50-meter butterfly on Wednesday "constitutes a clear political action" that violated rules.

"As a consequence, the panel has decided to suspend Mr. Milorad Cavic from further participation in individual events at the ... European swimming championships," LEN said in a statement.

The Serbian swimming federation, which also was fined $10,800, said it will likely appeal, but conceded it is unlikely the process could be completed in time for Cavic to swim again in Eindhoven.

"At this moment, for this competition, it is finished," said Mladen Kapor, Serbia's team manager at the championships.

Kapor called the ban "a very strict decision."

"Expelling the European [50 butterfly] record holder from competition is something quite serious," Kapor said.

Cavic was "devastated" by the ban and would not speak to reporters Friday, Kapor said.

Cavic had been expected to swim in the heats of the 100 freestyle Friday and the 100 butterfly Saturday.

Cavic, who was born in Anaheim, Calif., to Serb parents and trains in Florida, said Thursday he was just trying to send "positive energy" to the country he represents.

"I didn't do it to provoke anger, I didn't do it to provoke violence," Cavic told The Associated Press. "The country is torn apart and ... my goal was just to uplift them."

Serbia's Minister for Sports Snezana Samardzic-Markovic called the decision "scandalous."

"Cavic did not wear a T-shirt with portraits of war crime suspects, he was not calling for violence or breach of international conventions," Samardzic-Markovic said. "I have to remind everyone that Kosovo is not recognized by most of world's countries, or the United Nations, nor by the International Olympic Committee."

The United Nations has not formally recognized Kosovo, and Serb ally Russia -- a veto-wielding member of the Security Council -- has described the independence declaration as illegal. The IOC has said Kosovo cannot compete in the Olympics until it is formally recognized by the U.N.

Serbian President Boris Tadic condemned the suspension, saying that he "did not want to ... bring politics into sports, but was driven by a sense of injustice inflicted on the country he represents."

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica urged the European swimming league to reverse the decision and described the suspension as the "defeat of sport."

"Our entire country is proud of Milorad Cavic's victory," he said.

Serb television and newspapers carried photos and images of Cavic in his red T-shirt Thursday, but the emphasis was more on his victory and record than his T-shirt. The country's president and prime minister congratulated Cavic on his win.

Kosovo, a former Serbian province with an ethnic Albanian majority, declared independence Feb. 17 and has been recognized by countries including the United States, Japan and powerful European Union nations.

However, Belgrade strongly objects to losing a province many Serbs consider the historical cradle of the nation. The Serbian government says the independence declaration was illegal and has recalled ambassadors from nations that have recognized Kosovo as a new nation.

Kosovo had not been under Serbian control since a NATO force moved in on the heels of massive air strikes in 1999 that ended a brutal Serb crackdown on secessionist rebels in the province.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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