Peter Bick
Courtesy of: Peter Bick
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Commentary By Steven V. Selthoffer, Chief European Columnist

AUSTIN, Texas. March 28. The coaches and officials are reviewing the video, but, after Day 1 championships with 13 total DQs, 6 alone in relay prelims, the officials and coaches are questioning the results, which upon closer inspection and thorough analysis of the relay exchanges in the video, may lead to a justified protest.


Let's hope not. However, with four teams locked in the battle for first place after Day 1, such a scenario is unlikely, but, not improbable as the meet progresses, if any more timing/relay exchange system DQs emerge, which may cause the final night's team results to come into question.

Deja Vu All Over Again
It's happened before. In the FINA Fukuoka 2001 World Championships, in a Swimming World article July 25th, 2001, "FINA's Fukuoka Fiasco Leaves Relay Result Unresolved," by Craig Lord, July 25th, 2001, tempers flared when the scoreboard showed that in an 800m relay exchange, Cristina Teuscher, USA, jumped .06 hundredths of a second too early on a Natalie Coughlin relay exchange coming in. Pandemonium broke loose on the deck as the Aussies were then DQ'd, and then the British Swimming Federation, who finished third, ended up taking the case to court in CAS in Lausanne.

There were other Seiko timing system failures at that meet calling into question the technology behind the relay exchanges and the timing touch pad system.

It is Rocket Science
One Austrian downhill skier recently said when talking about sport federations and sport politics in Europe, "The Americans are Number 1... in naivety."

At this level, with the 2014 NCAA Swimming Championships going on and with so much at stake... the American universities cannot afford to leave it up to the good ol' boy adage of "we're all playing by the same rules," or "that's how it goes in sports." With 50 Free splits in at 17 seconds, and going possibly under 1:40 in the 200 free...

It is rocket science. It's time to examine the technology behind the timing and relay exchange systems.

With years of training on the line, hundreds of millions of U.S. Dollars in the budgets of the NCAA schools, they cannot subject their efforts to ignorance, and cannot afford any more "blind allegiance" to FINA and the technology behind the systems without independent testing.

Many coaches and athletes don't even know how the systems work. And the ignorance has cost too many athletes too much pain already.

It should be noted-- There has never been ANY independent testing or comparison testing of ANY swimming timing systems- Ever.

Another cause for concern was the LEN European Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, June 6, 2012, the Swimming World article, Timing System Suspicions Confirmed in Preliminary Analysis, More Data Needed, you will notice the amount of the ties in the exact same places each day repeating themselves over the course of seven days. It is highly unusual, and it's never come close to happening again at any Olympics, World Championship, European Championship, or National Championship that we have monitored since 2012. Experts stated that most likely there was a hidden "system error."

World Records Are Relative
Is a world record absolute? Or relative? Well, world records are not absolute. They are relative to the timing and touch pad system used. There are major differences in the technology of the timing systems used. They are not all alike. These systems are not 100% robust or their "data integrity." Nor is the pressure sensitivity 100% the exact same, system to system, touch pad to touch pad, block to block.

Touch Pads
The timing and touch pad systems suffer from material and system "fatigue." Independent testing would show that, and that there are pressure differences in the touch pads themselves. That means touching in the center of a touch pad might yield a different time than touching on the side of the same touch pad. Then, there are also differences between the touch pads from the same company. AND, there are differences between the touch pads- from different companies.

Do you understand things now? Fun huh?

Relay Exchange Technology?
The technology behind these systems varies from company to company, from system to system. Have they ever been measured? "No." Have they ever been independently tested and calibrated? "No."

And the athletes pay the price. Or in this case maybe another team and maybe a championship.

It is time to independently test the systems used. No one needs anymore Fukuoka's or opening Day DQs in the teens. Maybe they are all legitimate. I hope so. But, maybe not.

It's time the NCAA or any major university do what FINA has not had the political will to do in thirty years- test the systems independently to certify the technology and establish testing benchmarks and operational parameters for best-in-class systems, so that the athletes are not harmed by any patents in question, second rate suppliers, marketing hype, or substandard engineering.

With the NCAA Swimming Championships going on, you can be assured every swimmer and diver are giving their best for their universities.

They deserve the NCAA's best efforts to create an independent testing program to examine and test these timing systems so the best athletes and teams can be assured of the results, beyond any doubt or potential protest or repercussions.

The NCAA's are a great meet. They deserve great technology.