USA Swimming Has History of Dealing With Olympic Misbehaviors

L-R: Matt Biondi, Doug Gjertsen, Troy Dalbey, Matt Cetlinski Photo Courtesy: (Tony Duffy) Swimming World


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In the past two days there has been a quickly evolving story surrounding what happened to US Olympians Ryan LochteJimmy FeigenGunnar Bentz, and Jack Conger in Rio on Sunday morning. While initial reports told a story of a robbery at gunpoint, latest reports suggests the story may have been fabricated.

This is not the first time USA Swimming has dealt with Olympic misbehaviors. At the Seoul, Korea Games in September 1988, Troy Dalbey and Doug Gjersten were sent home by the US Olympic Committee after suspicion that the two 800 freestyle relay Olympic gold medalists stole a decorative statue from a hotel.

In response to the incident, USA Swimming banned Dalbey and Gjersten for 18 months.

Swimming World reported the incident in November 1988.



Photo Courtesy: Swimming World

At the time, the United Press International published this:

“This is a case of a molehill turning into a mountain,” Said Troy Dalbey at the time.

“We were a couple of kids out celebrating and we played a practical joke, which admittedly was wrong. But if we’d been in America we could have explained the whole situation before it turned into anything. But we weren’t in America.”

Troy Dalbey and Doug Gjersten, were two U.S. swimmers detained and questioned by Korean police on suspicion of stealing a stone decorative statue at a Hyatt hotel and subsequently ordered to be sent home by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

Dalbey had just hours earlier swum the second leg in the 4X100 meter freestyle relay and had picked up his second gold medal of the Olympics. In the 4X200 meter freestyle relay both Dalbey and Gjertsen had been members of the winning U.S. team.

“We were out blowing off steam, having a good time, celebrating,” said Dalbey.

“He (the Hyatt employee) was drunk. I could smell it on his breath,” said Dalbey. “He was beligerent and started swinging at us. He wanted to fight. We didn’t swing back. All of a sudden there were about 10 Korean policemen around us, along with some MPs (Military Police, from the nearby U.S. Army base). They took us to a police station, where the Hyatt employee said he wanted to press charges.

“So they took us to another station to file the charges. By that time the manager of the Hyatt had been alerted and he came to the police station. He said he didn’t want to file any charges and we were free to go. So we left.

“But the Korean press had heard about what was happening, and by now they were writing down all the details. Because of who we were, being in the Olympics and everything, it was soon all over town.

“Granted, what we did was wrong. I don’t know why we did it. It was just like, `Hey, this is cool. Let’s take it to dinner with us.’ We were going to take it back. We never intended to steal it.

“But we didn’t scuffle with police, as was said in the news reports, and we weren’t trying to get away with an expensive work of art. We were just a couple of kids who pulled a prank. I’m sorry it happened.”

The prank at the time was described as an international incident..

“My father called and was of course very concerned, after what he heard on TV,” said Dalbey. “I told him exactly what happened. I don’t want this to look any worse than it was.”

“I think everyone is satisfied with the facts, and that there were no charges filed,” said Dalbey. “I just want the record to be straight. It’s too bad it had to happen, and had to detract from the Olympics.”

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  1. avatar
    Bill V.

    I was wondering if and when someone would drag out this old story again, so why not go international and talk about the whole Dawn Fraser thing, too?

    • avatar
      Wayne McCauley

      Dawn Fraser was the greatest Australian swimmer ever. Back then officials were more important than the swimmers. Google her, she was the Katie Ledecky of that era, only she proved it over and over. Only the Aussie officials prevented her from winning 4 straight 100 meter freestyles.
      “Dawn Lorraine Fraser, AO, MBE (born 4 September 1937) is an Australian freestyle champion swimmer and former politician. She is one of only three swimmers to have won the same Olympic event three times – in her case the women’s 100-metre freestyle”

      • avatar
        Bill V.

        Don’t forget the reason why Aussie officials “prevented” her from winning 4 straight. Fraser was arrested following an incident at the 1964 Olympics, and her involvement in the theft of an Olympic flag from a flagpole outside Emperor Hirohito’s palace from the Kōkyo.

      • avatar

        Aussie officials banned her from swimming for 10 YEARS, effectively ending her career. This was despite no charges being filed and the Emperor not only forgiving her but gifting her the flag. Also, Dawn and her mother had been in a car accident a few months earlier, in which her mother had died, so she was still suffering. The Also, Aussie officials were already angry with her because she defied their wishes and marched in the opening ceremony. She also refused to wear the new swimsuit provided to her by one of the Aussie team sponsors because she was more comfortable in her normal swimsuit.

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