Connect with Us:  

Something Rotten In The State Of Sprinting?

Jun 30, 2012  - Craig Lord

As the dash crew get to work at US trials in Omaha this morning, an Olympic medallist is suggesting that something is rotten in the state of sprinting out there in the wider world.

Duje Draganja was a silver medallist at the 2004 Olympic Games over 50m freestyle. His treasury down the years also includes world l/c silver, two world s/c titles, five European Championship medals and seven medals from world s/c, including a crown from 2009.

Something for Croatia to be proud of, you might imagine. In recent times he had a few knocks of the kind that come with long years in a sport. Bouts of salmonella and campylo bacteria poisoning didn't help but Draganja has worked his way back to better health and decent sprinting form with a 22.51 this year in Eindhoven.  

With that in the bag and no-one close to it in Croatia, Draganja returned to the US to prepare for the Olympic Games. Then, at a meet in Kranj in Slovenia a time of 22.50 was posted. The question is, who did the posting: the swimmer or the politician?

A trial against time can be sanctioned by a FINA member. Slovenia, not Croatia, is the FINA member that would have to have sanctioned - and therefore known in advance - that Mario Todorovic, of Croatia, was going to stop at 50m at the Olympic qualifier meet in a race posted as "100m Freestyle". FINA rules on racing hold that a swimmer must "cover the whole distance to qualify". No 50m race was posted as an event in Kranj on June 2, 2012. 

Todorovic did got to 100m: 1:01.97. SwimNews has a screen grab of the result sheet, with no other swimmer apparent. The date on the result sheet: June 3, one day after the registration made to FINA.

Draganja has written to FINA to ask them to help get to the bottom of the matter. No 22.50 time appears as a solo swim in a 50m freestyle time at the meet. It was, say officials, a split time on the way to a 100m and it is now a time that appears on a FINA ranking list as 22.50, Mario Todorovic, 02/06/2012.

Draganja sought clarification and got none. He has since written to athletes commission representative Britta Kamrau to seek help. He is, the swimmer claims, the victim of politicians who were unhappy that he challenged them publicly to explain how their system of funding works in Croatia a couple of years back.

He notes that at a "swim meet in Kranj, Slovenia, on which one of the swimmers from my national team supposedly swam 22,50. I say supposedly because he swam that on the split of his 100 freestyle event even though he did not announce to officials that he is aiming to swim that on the split. Not to mention that in FINA SW 11.6. rules it is stated that only split times in relays are published as official results, there is no mention of any other circumstances for split times. 

"To make things worse my coach immediately emailed Slovenian time officials who admitted that his split time should NOT be recognizable by FINA rules. My coach emailed them because I needed to know do I need to swim in another meet if my time is not good enough to make Olympic cut. Although the officials admitted that, Croatian federation this week ( 14 days later) sent an email to FINA requesting them to recognize this result as valid."

FINA did just that, posting the time even though the circumstances do indeed appear to challenge the rules of the international federation. The season best of Todorovic in a recognised 50m race is 22.63, an improvement from a 2011 season best of 22.76. The 22.50 is a time that the Croatian federation appears to have going out of its way to have registered even though it was happy for Todorovic's best 100m time this season to be registered with FINA as a 51 plus even though he swam a 50.25 in March this year.

"I do not want to even suggest that they tampered with timing system, although there were certain situations in our region that even FINA recognized as tampering," Draganja notes. "However what I do want to ask is how is it possible to recognize result that was swam on the split that was not even announced to officials in advance? I also want to state that it is not fair that result from that meet gets added to World swimming rankings 2 weeks after the meet was concluded and all other meet results were already recognized."

Any suggestion of tampering with results and Olympic selection times by Croatia with the official stamp of FINA would be damaging indeed to both parties.

Draganja concludes that he feels "betrayed" by the Croatian federation and FINA. He appeals to FINA for an injustice to be righted on the grounds that politics should not be greater than the rule book.