SANTA CLARA, California, May 5. SWIMMING World followed up with U.S. Masters Swimming as well as an industry professional concerning the false reporting of Nathan Adrian’s 100-yard free American record at Masters Nationals.
USMS initially explained in a statement yesterday that the meet had been following a procedure where they delay the activation of the touch pads for 20-seconds so that swimmers who just finished racing have time to get out of the water without activating the touch pads for the swimmers in the water.
The process of having a race start while the previous swimmers are still in the water (hanging on the finish wall) is called “Flyovers Starts”. This is normal procedure for USMS. It is used to speed up the meet and help get through the thousands of swims each day. This procedure had never previously been a problem, because usually all the swimmers are out of the water before the next set of swimmers touch the pad at the 50 mark.
Nathan Adrian was so fast that his split for the first 50 of his 100 was faster than 20 seconds forcing the touch pads to not register his time.
Swimming World dug a bit further, and USMS Executive Director Rob Butcher explained the process that occurred during the swim. Once Adrian put up a sub-20-second split, faster than the pad arming delay, the system believed that there was a problem and reverted to backup mode, while still recording each touch in the system.
Once in backup mode, Adrian’s final touch went to the backup timers, who registered an average time of 41.08. If the touch pads had actually failed, this American-record tying time would have stood, because that is the point of having multiple backups within the system.
In most other meets, with a situation like this, the dreaded “Results are Unofficial” would have been heard over the public address system and no time would have been publicized either via live results or the scoreboard, until the problem was addressed.
At Masters Nationals, meet management typically lets the unofficial results be published and publicized while an ongoing auditing system occurs in the background double-checking the printer backup for every time a backup time is given priority over the primary time registered by the touch pads.
This weekend, after several hours of auditing the swims of the day, meet officials encountered the backup on Adrian’s time. After researching the printout, it was discovered that the primary touchpads actually registered a 41.13, and USMS decided at that point to correct the record with a public statement reverting Adrian’s swim back to the primary times.
There were some valuable lessons learned for USMS going forward, with the biggest being what an industry professional calls the “Fastest Person in the Building” rule.
Instead of having some arbitrary 20-second rule, what all meet managers can do is take the fastest seeded 50 freestyle time of your entire meet field, and subtract a second to pick out the pad timing delay, which typically defaults in the range of three seconds.
That means that with Anthony Ervin (19.99) and Nathan Adrian (20.00) seeded right around 20 seconds, at 19-second delay at least would have lessened the chance of this happened. However, the Fastest Person in the Building concept also means taking a look at those few individuals that might be able to finish faster than the delay. So, knowing that Ervin and Adrian are capable of being much faster than their seeds, you go ahead and put that time delay at 18 seconds. This means that, in a 100, there’s no way anyone is going to get back faster than the pad delay.
The rule works for all meets. The fastest 50 free in the building should never be able to “out-split” your relay pad delay.
In the end, when USMS promotes records to the world-wide media, especially American swimming records, they must be more cautious to ensure their credibility. There is a reason for the term “Results are Unofficial” and USMS must include that statement in future reports that capitalize and exploit their events.