by Steven V. Selthoffer, European Columnist for Swimming World Magazine
LONDON, England, August 9. TEMPERS continue to boil and consequences continue to build and unfold around the world concerning the brazen admission of cheating to win the Olympic gold medal in world record time of 58.46 by Mr. Cameron van der Burgh, RSA, in the final of the men's 100m breaststroke at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The illegal underwater dolphin kicks and the unapologetic admission of cheating has established an unsettling and disruptive precedent that amounts to a slap in the face, making a mockery of the IOC, FINA, the Youth Olympics and others defying their rules, Codes and disciplinary resolve.
Online e-zine, Slate headlined and called Mr. Van der Burgh's actions, “The Cheatingest Move in Swimming: How a South African Used Illegal Dolphin Kicks To Win Gold.”
Numerous other global media organizations headline, “Van der Burgh Admits To Breaking Rules to Win,” “Van Der Burgh Admits Cheating,” etc.
BuzzFeed Sports, posted a series of 10 photos directly after the race, highlighting the antics. Mr. Van der Burgh can be seen climbing onto the lane rope, milking the crowd for a number of photo-op moments. The photos are entitled: Squeezing the Water, Riding the Horsey, Pointing, Sleeping (on the lane rope), Just Woke Up, Relaxing, Splashing Around, etc.
The admission of premeditated cheating in an event, with the athlete knowing and breaking the FINA rules of SW 7, SW 7.1 and SW 7.5, by utilizing multiple illegal underwater dolphin kicks to establish and gain an unfair advantage over his opponents on the scale and scope that Mr. Van der Burgh has admitted and the video has allegedly demonstrated is unprecedented in the history of the modern Olympics.
An Undeniable and Clear Admission of Cheating
Mr. Van der Burgh initiated his statements and has admitted to cheating. Mr. Van der Burgh went public. Mr. Van der Burgh went global. There is no denial. He has not recanted his statements. There are no interpretation or language clarification issues to hide behind. He has not been misquoted. He apparently has shown no remorse.
Mr. Van der Burgh's statements were unequivocally clear and beyond any reasonable doubt. Mr. Van der Burgh personally admitted to cheating and personally justified doing multiple illegal underwater dolphin kicks to win.
Just today, August, 09, 2012, it is reported on Fox News, “IOC Will Strip Hamilton of Athens Gold After He Admitted Doping Source Says,” (AP). The article begins, “LONDON — An Olympic official familiar with the case says the IOC is set to formally strip American cyclist Tyler Hamilton of his gold from the 2004 Athens Games and reassign the medals after his admission of doping.” Hamilton had previously admitted his infraction on a television show one year earlier.
It is time for the IOC to act now and remove the Olympic gold medal from Mr. Van der Bergh's possession
If an admission is not enough then let's look at what other ramifications there are to Van der Burgh's guilt:
The Olympic Oath states, “In the name of all the competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them… in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams.”
FINA Constitution and Rules
FINA's Code of Conduct states in the Preamble, “The purpose of this Code is to guarantee that the objectives of FINA will be executed in a fair manner without disturbance and to sanction incidents, which damage the image of the FINA activities or bring them into disrepute.
This Code establishes basic regulations for fair play and moral behaviour and general discipline in all the FINA activities and covers offences committed by Members, continental organizations including clubs, teams, officials, athletes, supporters, spectators, or other persons involved in these activities.
The FINA Code continues with Article 2, The Application of the Code “The following incidents or offenses shall be subject to the application of this Code: (c) cheating including but, not limited to doping, etc, … with the purpose of obtaining unfair advantage for an official, an athlete, or a team.
As an athlete, Mr. van den Burgh admitted that “It's not obviously, shall we say, the moral thing to do…” Correct. Taking an unfair advantage is not “the moral thing to do,” or in his case with professional swimming, with millions of Euros in endorsements and sponsorships on the line, it's not the legal thing to do either.
FINA has options. The Code states Article 5 PROCEDURES FOR IMPOSING SANCTIONS that “Upon learning, verbally or in writing of any offense included in this Code FINA Rule C 12.7 shall be applied. Sanctions are as follows: warning, fine, suspension, and/or expulsion.
Who Governs Sport? The IOC? FINA? Or Mr. Van der Burgh?
It appears that what governs Mr. Van der Burgh is not the IOC, FINA or the rules of sport, but, his own personal decisions that justify his cheating by the possibility of anyone else doing it. By doing so, he has harmed other athletes and countries that compete according to the rules and who have been denied their medals and rewards in life. Such conduct cannot be tolerated or permitted.
Van Der Burgh Cam
The problem is not FINA or a lack of underwater cameras. There are hundreds of world-class athletes and swimmers all over the world who have abided by the rules, day after day, race after race, Games after Games.
This issue is a character issue, not a FINA Technical Swimming Committee issue or an underwater camera issue.
We know thousands of athletes and none would ever consider taking advantage of another competitor because no cameras are present. They will compete by the rules, all the time, whether cameras are present there or not.
Mr. Van der Burgh apparently has stated that he endorses the use of underwater cameras to enforce the rules. However, FINA, the IOC, the athletes and coaches have never sought nor requested the endorsement of Mr. Van der Burgh for underwater video.
There are many factors to those issues, including costs and technical problems to solve, but, Mr. Van der Burgh has only highlighted the necessity of underwater video being implemented soon as possible to catch the van der Burgh's of this world.
Perhaps an appropriate tribute would be to name the new, underwater video camera the “Van Der Burgh Cam” after Cameron van der Burgh.
It seems fitting in the present circumstances. Of course, it all depends on the next couple of weeks and his personal decision and voluntary actions outside of the pool. Those will determine the rest of his life.
Court of Arbitration and Sport
The Court of Arbitration and Sport is an option that is should now being considered with the ultimate goal of striping Mr. Van der Burgh of his medal and awarding it to the next athlete who has demonstrated they abide by the rules of sport. That will not be hard to do.
You can count on the fact, that as the guilt begins to eventually set in, and as the outcry and consequences begin to unfold, Mr. Van der Burgh will look to blame someone else, the press or others, to self-justify his admission of cheating, positioning himself as a victim.
It is important to send a message clearly and globally like Mr. Van der Burgh did, but, with the opposite force- cheating will never be tolerated and cheating will not go without consequences.
It is vital that the IOC, FINA and other organizations bring justice to Mr. Van der Burgh, but, more importantly, they need to demonstrate their resolve and highlight the importance of their concern for welfare of athletes, young and old, who abide by the rules, who don't cheat, to bring justice to them and the rewards due them.
Mr. Van der Burgh has no case. Everyone can understand why he did it. But, his reasoning was incomplete and flawed. Its time for a coach to come along side him, to put their arm around him and to explain the situation. Many hope he will do the right thing.
He should save his federation and the other organizations the turmoil and aggravation and do the right thing, voluntarily stop the maelstrom and return in his gold medal and renounce his world record- or face the consequences.