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U.S. To Protest Relay DQ -- July 26, 2001

FUKUOKA, Japan. July 26. USA SWIMMING is threatening to take swimming's governing body to court after FINA refused to study evidence that could prove the US relay team was incorrectly stripped of a World Championship gold medal.

USA Swimming's National Team Director Dennis Pursley said today the US is considering taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after Britain was awarded the gold in the women's 4 x 200m freestyle relay when the two fastest teams, Australia and the U.S., were disqualified.

The Americans were disqualified because the second swimmer, Cristina Teuscher, left her block 6-hundredths of a second too early.

"The official video clearly shows we were in compliance with the rules," Pursley said. "We have been told our only recourse now is to appeal to CAS and we are considering it."

Australia was disqualified from the final when Petria Thomas jumped into the pool to celebrate before the last team, Italy, had finished the race, breaking a well-known rule that incurs an automatic disqualification.

The Australians appealed to FINA saying they had been told to jump in by an official poolside photographer and that the infringement had not affected the placings, but their protest was rejected.

"As far as we're concerned we didn't cheat. We know we won the race fair and square, even if we don't have the medal to show for it," Australian swimmer Giaan Rooney said.

The U.S. protested that the touchpad at the end of the lane had been faulty and the team was initially reinstated, which would have made them champions.

FINA was unable to hear the appeals immediately because some senior officials had left the pool early, so the matter was left unresolved overnight.

FINA's jury of appeal eventually heard the case this morning, taking around two hours to throw out the Australian and U.S. protests.

"The Jury of Appeal decided unanimously that the Australian team who participated in this event be disqualified due to the clear violation of the FINA Rule SW 10.11 by their swimmers jumping into the pool before all teams had completed the race," a FINA statement said.

"The Jury of Appeal also decided unanimously to uphold the protest submitted by the Amateur Swimming Federation of Great Britain and Japan Swimming Federation concerning the final result of the relay.

"The Jury of Appeal found that the time system worked perfectly during this race. The announced tolerance on judging for the relay take-off is 0.03. The tolerance recorded on the automatic equipment for the USA team was 0.06. Consequently the Jury of Appeal rule that the USA team is disqualified."

The Americans, however, were still unhappy at the outcome. Pursley said there had been at least 10 separate occasions during the past week when the timing system failed and swimmers' times were adjusted by the video back-up system.

Pursley said the official video clearly showed there was no infringement by the American team and he was outraged that FINA had refused to look at the film because they were satisfied the timing had worked.

"I'm absolutely shocked by the statement by the jury of appeal about the time system working perfectly," Pursley said.

"I have it from reliable sources that at least 10 times the time system was challenged, including two times in lane six that evening, and the back-up evidence was considered and the times accordingly adjusted.

"How can it be justified that the USA team was treated differently than the other teams who have challenged the timing system results?"

While the Australians and Americans were fuming over their disqualifications, the British team was revelling in its unexpected success.

The last British world swimming champion - and until Thursday's decision the only one - was David Wilkie, who won the men's 200 meter breaststroke in 1973 and 1975, and the 100m breaststroke in 1975.

"We are the world champions and this medal means an awful lot to us," British team manager Craig Hunter said.

"Obviously we're disappointed for the Australians and the Americans but it's not our fault they broke the rules.

"We came here to do a job and we've done it. We trained hard for this and we deserve to win because we were the most disciplined team."