FINA World Championships, Swimming: Don’t Miss the Point; Felipe Silva Issue is About Video Replay, Not American Bias

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Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senior writer

SHANGHAI, China, July 27. SADNESS. That's what I'm sensing right now, in the early-morning hours here in Shanghai. Last night, based on video evidence that is difficult to dispute, Swimming World's Jeff Commings – an elite breaststroker himself – called out 50-meter breast champion Felipe Silva for performing an illegal dolphin kick at the finish of his championship race.

The point of Commings' commentary was to suggest that video replay is needed in the sport, as a way to ensure that fairness rules. He noted past examples of infractions that took place on the international stage and in which video replay could have played a key role in rendering a disqualification. One was Kosuke Kitajima at the 2004 Olympics in the 100 breaststroke. The other was Otylia Jedrzejczak in the 200 butterfly at the 2005 World Championships in Montreal.

What has taken off from Commings' article? Basically, an anti-American sentiment that has taken the focus away from the article and the issue at hand, and raised a target that has nothing to do with the equation. Yes, the statement just made will almost certainly lead to further instances of individuals – especially pro-Brazilian – citing the United States for a "crybaby attitude."

Those who take the "you guys are crybabies route," however, are missing the whole point of this situation. Really, you're in denial over what is at hand. The bottom line, and this is what Mr. Commings emphasized, is that FINA has a chance to eliminate these controversial back-and-forth battles by implementing a video-replay system. By watching the footage of a race, officials can measure – without the difficulty of seeing through waves – whether an athlete cheated or not.

The sad part of where this topic has gone is that many Brazilian fans are upset over what they feel was unfair criticism toward Cesar Cielo concerning his positive doping test back at the Maria Lenk Trophy. Because of this positive test, FINA took the Cielo case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, seeking a ban. It was the right move, as athletes must be responsible for what they ingest. Jessica Hardy paid the price. Why not Cielo?

Again, I don't believe Cielo knowingly took a banned substance to help him with his performance or to mask another substance he was taking. Still, I called for a suspension because a positive test is a positive test. Obviously, many Cielo fans were not thrilled. And now many Brazilian supporters are going with the old stanby – that the United States is crying. Nope. Look at the finishers behind Silva, an Italian and a South African.

The focus of this topic is on the opportunity FINA has to utilize technology in a positive manner, and in order to eliminate question marks. If a swimmer seems to perform a dolphin kick on the finish, go to the video. If he's innocent, the footage will show it. If he violates the rules, as Silva clearly did, the right to disqualify is accessible.

Swimming World has reached out to FINA for a comment on the Silva situation and is awaiting reply.

As much as people want to make this an American topic, try to focus on the real crux of the issue. Maybe the crying needs to stop elsewhere.

Follow John Lohn on Twitter: @JohnLohn

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