By Phillip Whitten and Hideki Mochizuki
TOKYO, Mar. 1. THE Japan Swimming Federation officially changed its name and enacted sweeping changes in its Olympic selection procedures in meetings that ended this week.
The organization, which governs swimming in Japan, dropped the word "Amateur" from its name, but will continue to abbreviate its name as "JASF."
Stung by criticism from Swimming World and swiminfo, as well as from media within Japan, the JASF approved new standards to select national team members for major international meets, such as the Olympic Games and World Championships. Relying on world rankings, the JASF will automatically select the winners of selection meets in each event if a swimmer equals or betters the eighth-best mark in the final world rankings of the previous year. Since few swimmers are expected to meet this tough standard, the JASF is reserving the right to name swimmers to international teams even when they do not meet the standard.
The new procedure will take effect with the selection of the Japanese national team for the World Championships this July in Fukuoka.
The decision to create objective standards came after last year's international uproar when Suzu Chiba, one of Japan's top medal hopefuls for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and the captain of the 1996 Olympic team, was left off the 2000 team. According to reliable sources, Japanese officials were angry at Chiba because she was training abroad (in Canada) and she had made statements critical of Japanese officials.
Chiba was not selected despite the fact that in 1999, she had been ranked second in the world in the 200 meters freestyle and third in the 100 meters. Competing at the Japanese Olympic Trials last April, Chiba won the 200 meter freestyle and met the IOC's qualifying standards in both the 100 and 200 meter events. This despite the fact that she was so ill at the Trials, she had to be hospitalized.
Chiba appealed the decision of the Japan Swimming Federation to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but the CAS refused to intervene.
Chiba was not the only swimmer meeting the IOC standards who was not selected to compete in Sydney. Breaststroker Yoshiaki Okita also was left off the team. At the same time, swimmers with lower world rankings were selected for the team.
The JASF also approved a change in the rules that allows swimmers to receive payment for commercial endorsements and for appearing in television and other media.