Jason Devaney, NBC Olympics
LONDON – Men’s 100m breaststroke winner Cameron van der Burgh has admitted to cheating during his victory at the Olympics, which came in world-record time.
In breaststroke, competitors are allowed to take one dolphin kick at the start and one after each turn before starting their breaststroke kick. But with no underwater video judging, swimmers are sometimes able to sneak in an extra dolphin kick – a whip-like motion generated from the hips.
Video replays appear to show van der Burgh taking three of them.
Van der Burgh, who is from South Africa, spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald and admitted to breaking the rules. He also said other swimmers employ the same tactic.
“If you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind,” Van der Burgh told the paper. “It’s not obviously – shall we say – the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it.”
This is not the first time the dolphin kick issue has surfaced in breaststroke races. Silver medalist Brenton Rickard appeared to use dolphin kicks at the start last week, and at the 2011 World Championships, 50m breaststroke winner Felipe Silva used a dolphin kick at the finish.
In the Sydney Morning Herald story, Van der Burgh said there was underwater video technology used at a meet in Sweden in 2010.
“‘It was really awesome, because nobody attempted it,” van der Burgh said. “Everybody came up clean and we all had peace of mind that nobody was going to try.”
Although there’s no way for FINA to review the race at this point and make adjustments to the finishing order, there is some precedent from the IOC to do so. Eight badminton players were kicked out of the Olympics last week after they were accused of deliberately not trying during matches to give themselves a lower seed in the later rounds – effectively securing an easier trip to the finals.
Just like the badminton case, the van der Burgh incident is a fair play issue. Since the race happened over a week ago, however, it’s looking less and less likely that the IOC will take any action.
What’s more realistic is that FINA could revisit their policy of not using video review. With only judges along the pool deck to look for illegal kicks and strokes, that’s probably not enough. Especially when the Olympic champion admits to breaking the rules.
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