FINA Knocks USA As “Sore Losers”; Time Runs Out for Seiko

By Craig Lord
FUKUOKA, July 28. FINA, the international governing body, has washed its hands of the controversial Seiko timing system that was used for the world championships in Fukuoka by announcing a three-event deal with Swiss Timing.

The deal will cover the world short-course champion-ships in Moscow next year and the world championships (long-course) in Barcelona in 2003 and Montreal in 2005.

Meanwhile, the timing system at the centre of the row is heading for the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The United States yesterday placed Great Britain's women's 4x200m freestyle quartet on a countdown to losing its first world swimming title since 1975 when it announced that it would take its disqualification to CAS.

Despite that, Sam Ramsamy, spokesperson for Fina and a member of the International Olympic Committee, said:
"We've no qualms about the system as such – it has a fine reputation in international events."

Perhaps no longer, after a spate of incorrect times at the Marine Messe pool that had to be adjusted by either the back-up timing or by using video evidence. The issue has never been as controversial, unprecedented as it is to have the main timing system fail as frequently as it has done in Fukuoka.

And after a fractious press conference with FINA at which evasive answers were commonplace, especially when it came to the case of the GB v US relay, Mary Wagner, the US team spokeswoman, said: "If I hear one more thing from these FINA guys I'm going to vomit. We don't feel they got it right. They gave us the title, so how could we protest? Then they took it away under protest, and now they tell us we can't appeal because the Jury of Appeal's decision is final. We are definitely going to CAS now."

The US hopes to base its case on the fact that a German protest was lodged, and subsequently withdrawn Friday, after the timing sysetm had recorded a 0.97sec early break by an Australian in the men's 4x200m
freestyle. The poolside officials simply changed the time on video evidence, as they had done in the case of the US. However, Australian TV footage was used to show Germany in the men's case that all three
Australian takeovers had in fact been fine. Germany withdrew and the matter never went before FINA. The US, nonetheless believes it unfair that video footage was used to prove one case but never looked at during the Jury of Appeal hearing into Britain's successful protest against the US's disqualification for an early break recorded at minus 0.06sec.

If any explanation was forthcoming from FINA, which made its answers on the issue as evasive as possible yesterday, then it was that swimmers were to blame. Cornel Marculescu, Director of FINAa, said that swimmers "had to hit it (electronic timing pad)in the right way" because the system was not geared to register a "soft" touch. It required a pressure of at least 1.5kg to recognize a swimmer's touch.

That the swimmer must adjust to the electronic timing equipment and not the equipment to the swimmer is a bizarre situation that no-one can remember ever happening before, not even in the world of Masters swimming, where octogenarians compete and are likely to haved a very soft touch indeed by the end of races. "I can't remember it ever having been a problem
at that level," said Derek Parr, a journalist at the championships in Fukuoka who is also a world Masters butterfly champion in his age group.

Ramsamy said that FINA "genuinely and honestly believe that no swimmer and no team has been prejudiced by what has happened. In sports, losers do complain." It was a bizarre answer to a question that simply will not go away. One news agency was today displaying pictures that clearly show the video finish of a race telling one result and the subsequent result showing
something quite different. In one case the timing system had recorded a time 1.1 seconds adrift the time that eventually appeared on the result sheet.

FINA said that the timing back-up system employed when the pads at the end of lanes failed to register a result on the scoreboard, or registered an incorrect result, had worked "in all cases" in Fukuoka. Again, it blamed sore losers, saying: "In all sports, there are individuals and teams who do not necessarily agree with the results. Swimming is no exception.