Cameron van der Burgh
Courtesy of: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
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By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)

BARCELONA, Spain, July 26. FINA has been making some important decisions of late, including limiting the number of dolphin kicks a swimmer can take during a breaststroke pullout to one. As of today, however, it decided not to use underwater cameras as a method to enforce the latter rule, which seems to be somewhat of a paradox.


A swimmer is told they can only add a single dolphin kick in a breaststroke pullout, but it has been made clear during the past few seasons that this rule is incredibly easy to break and get away with. Cameron van der Burgh made an excellent point last summer after his Olympic victory when he admitted to taking extra kicks, knowing that if he did not, he would be at a disadvantage because others were also cheating. So, this rule breaking becomes a form of gamesmanship, where it may not necessarily be right, but a swimmer is going to do what they need to do to win, right?

Back in 2011, Canada's medley relay was disqualified in the final at World Championships. We had no idea what we had done, and stood in the mixed zone with our media attach? waiting to hear the news before we did our interview with CBC. I had swum the freestyle leg, and wondered if I had jumped; our backstroker began to stress that maybe she had kicked past the 15-meter mark.

Finally, we heard the news: at the turn end, our breaststroker had allegedly taken an extra dolphin kick during her pullout. Our two-time Olympian, NCAA Champion and World Championships finalist breaststroker had taken an extra dolphin kick and we were being disqualified because of that. She felt terrible: the rest of us felt angry. We felt like we were being centered out, an example being made of us because we had not been in medal contention. Disqualifying us would not cause any huge ripples in the swimming community, but it might send a message to other swimmers, right?

Even if my anger was simply clouding my vision and using our relay as an example was never FINA's intention, breaststrokers should not have to play this game of Russian Roulette. A swimmer should not have to make the decision that the risk of getting caught cheating is worth it, because otherwise they cannot possibly win. That sounds like another, much more dangerous problem that we see in sports.

In light of turning down the use of underwater cameras, I can't help but wonder what FINA's reasoning is. Could it possibly be because World Records are good for the sport, and maybe, just maybe, the officials are worried that if they actually enforce this rule we may not see as many world records in breaststroke?

We already took that bullet after the suits were banned (even though some world records still managed to fall in the post-polyurethane era). By simply relying on officials peering over the bulkhead to check if breaststrokers are cheating, the dolphin kicks can be easily missed. Or, at least it is easy to say they were missed.

Whether you are the favorite in the race or simply a place holder in an outside lane, everyone must be held to the same standards, and the line between gamesmanship and cheating seems to have been washed away.

Use the cameras, or allow swimmers to dolphin kick to 15 meters if they so please, because that is the way we are headed. But as long as the way of enforcing the rule is so lax, we are going to continue to see problems of this nature in the breaststroke events. Swimmers will continue to cheat and spectators will continue to gasp when they witness the blatancy of it on their television screens.

Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.

Follow her on twitter @juliah2o