Counsilman Center: Stats Demonstrate Large Bias Favoring Specific Lanes at Worlds

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana, August 10. IN what can only be described as a chilling analysis of the numbers, it looks like initial statistical analysis done by the Councilman Center supports that there was a large bias favoring particular lanes at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

In the middle of last week, Swimming World began fielding questions regarding the legitimacy of the outcomes of the FINA World Championships, including a direct request for help a Swedish swimmer. After some initial investigation, we turned to the statistical wizards at the Counsilman Center led by Dr. Joel Stager.

Stager is the Associate Chair of the IU Department of Kinesiology and serves as the Director of the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming in Bloomington, Ind. Stager, seeing that some of the initial impetus for research came directly from swimmers like our Swedish swimmer looking for help, took on the project pro bono and his group at the Counsilman Center immediately began to work the numbers on behalf of Swimming World.

While Stager and the Counsilman Center will release a much more complete report and analysis early next week, he is comfortable with releasing some of the initial numbers that demonstrate there was a large bias for half of the pool. These numbers lends themselves to the potential of a filtration system being unbalanced.

“Typically, lanes 1-4 should (as an aggregate) outperform lanes 5 -8 because of ‘circle seeding’,” Stager stated in his initial report to Swimming World. “Lane 4 should be faster than lane 5. Lane 3 should be faster than lane 6 and so on. Thus, over the long haul, there should be more medals in lanes 1-4 than lanes 5 -8. But, in the finals of all of the 50s, if you look at the number of medals won by lanes 1-4 and 5-8 in the 4 individual 50 events, lanes 1-4 won only 7 medals and 5-8 won 17 medals. That’s a really big difference, especially because based on seed times as stated, you’d actually always expect more medals in lanes 1-4.

“When you go back and do the same thing for the World Championships for 2009, lanes 1-4 won 15 medals and lanes 5-8 won 9. This is as it should be. When you do that for 2011, lanes 1-4 won 13 medals and lanes 5-8 won 11. Both of these events were run permanent pools, not temporary pools.”

Stager and the Counsilman Center also looked at a variety of other numbers as they began to plot the statistical significance of the claims.

“We’ve looked at all the combinations,” Stager continued. “If a swimmer swam in lane 2 and then later in lane 7 for example, how did they perform in their second swim relative to their first swim? Or, if they swam in lane 8 and then swam in lane 2 on the other side of the pool, what happened? It turns out that the results identify a large bias favoring one side of the pool over the other. You clearly wanted to be in lane 8. This is particularly true for the 50 swims where swimmers only swam one way.”

It wasn’t just the 50s that were impacted. The 1500 frees also demonstrated some statistical oddities. In particular, Faroes Island’s Pal Joensen felt the impact directly when looking at his splits. He swam in lane 2 in finals, and 8 in prelims, and definitely had a different performance pattern that swung depending on which way he was swimming.

Here’s Stager’s initial analysis of Joensen’s swims:

27.36; 28.27
29.89; 29.88
29.42; 30.14
30.4; 29.69
29.71; 30.36
30.39; 29.77
29.97; 30.17
30.05; 29.52
29.78; 30.23
30.25; 29.79
29.76; 30.06
30.24; 29.58
29.98; 30.23
30.53; 29.71
29.95; 30.24
30.61; 29.97
30.55; 30.45
30.63; 29.93
30.27; 30.48
30.55; 30.2
30.49; 30.14
30.61; 29.9
30.5; 30.39
30.75; 30.08
30.44; 30.16
30.7; 30.22
30.31; 29.99
30.45; 29.95
29.93; 29.79
28.63; 28.47

Above: 1500 meter split swims: One example…. One swimmer…. Swimming the 1500 m freestyle. Splits that are [bolded] are swimming with the “current” rather than against the current [unbolded]. This swimmer swam the finals … in a lane where the current was ‘away’ from the starting end (from the blocks towards the far end of the pool). The race [on the right] was the same swimmer’s results in a prelim heat swimming with the current (moving from the far end towards the starting wall). The splits are nearly opposite at each distance but in both cases there is a clear “slow/fast/slow/fast” cycling in the 50-meter splits depending upon the lane the swimmer was in (lane 2 (finals) vs lane 8 (prelims)).

Swimming World will keep the swimming community posted when the Counsilman Center has its full analysis ready for the world. This is definitely a stunning development.

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