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M50 'Fly: Cielo - Flying Start; Thumbs Down

Jul 25, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 2 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai:

Men's 50m butterfly

Cesar Cielo (BRA) shrugged off the controversy surrounding his doping warning to win the dash in 23.10, with Matthew Targett and Geoff Huegill giving Australia the rest of the podium in 23.28 and 23.35. That locked out French brothers-in-law Fred Bousquet and Laurent Manaudou, on 23.38 and 23.49. 

Commonwealth champion Jason Dunford (KEN), 7th in 23.60, emerged from the water and appeared to put two thumbs down in a deliberate appeal to the audience - and received a loud cheer as he did so. Cielo, off to a flying start in his bid to win triple gold, the defence of his 50m and 100m free crowns to come, could not hold back the tears, neither in the water, nor on deck, nor on podium - and he too received a loud cheer amid the whistling. 

The result:

  • 1. Cesar Cielo (BRA) 23.10sec
  • 2. Matthew Targett (AUS) 23.28
  • 3. Geoff Huegill (AUS) 23.35
  • 4. Frederick Bousquet (FRA) 23.38
  • 5. Florent Manaudou (FRA) 23.49
  • 6. Steffen Deibler (GER) 23.55
  • 7. Jason Dunford (KEN) 23.60
  • 8. Andriy Govorov (UKR) 23.64

Race and post-race report:

The emotions of the past several weeks of turmoil spilling over in almost uncontrollable fashion as the national anthem struck up for a nation with double-digit positives to its name over the past few seasons. Cielo, looking more gaunt than he has on previous occasions, was given a warning by Brazilian anti-doping authorities alongside three teammates after all tested positive for the banned diuretic furosemide back in May.

FINA called for a three-month ban but CAS believed that the banned substance was not taken deliberately and upheld the warning. Cielo, coached by Alberto Pinto, was free to swim, though no explanation as to how the diuretic made its way into a caffeine product described as a food supplement. The full CAS deliberation is due in "weeks".

"It's been a tough time for me, something that I didn't expect at all for my career," Cielo said. "But I had to deal with it and it feels like the biggest relief of my life to overcome something like that and be able to compete."

The CAS ruling prompted an outcry from other swimmers, who called it unfair. Some up in the stands, including the athletes' seats whistled and wished to express their unhappiness that the anti-doping regime appears to be failing them. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Cielo case, which also affected Henrique Barbosa, Nicholas dos Santos and Vinicius Waked, criticism will follow Brazil until a proper answer is made public on the simple question: how did furosemide end up in the swimmers' bloodstreams?

There was, it is fair to say, a deal of sympathy for Cielo too after he blasted off his blocks, established a small edge on the line-up, kept his cool and his head down over the last 10m and nailed his finish before the tears flowed. he was cheered on the podium as his face cracked. 

A sympathetic voice was heard too from the silver medallist and Cielo's former training partner under coach Brett Hawke at Auburn. Targett said: "It's difficult for him. I'm not going to speak for my friend, but I lived with the guy and I know exactly what he's going through. At times like this, you find out who your real friends are." 

It might have been wise for Targett to have left it at that in support of his friend but he felt unable, calling Dunford a "sore loser" and adding:  "I'm really happy for him [Cielo]. And if I was ever to get beaten by anybody I would want it to be a friend." he was also reported, by AAP, to have said: "Tools like Dunford, that doesn't make things any better."

Dunford is, in fact, a pleasant and intelligent man who knows his mind on doping and feels upset. He was reflecting the genuine concern of many swimmers that the strict liability that applies to all who take food supplementation without absolute assurance that it cannot land them in hot water is somewhat worthless, even when the same issue of food supplementation crops up.

When Daynara de Paula tested positive for furosemide, Brazil slapped a six-month ban on her, even though she claimed cross-contamination of a food supplement. The swimmer attempted to have the product she believed to be at fault tested. She received no help in that process from her federation and that may well be proper given that the federation must be neutral when cases of doping come before them. However, Brazilian sources tell SwimNews that the four latest cases for the same banned substance resulted in officials helping those who had produced adverse findings in their deliberations to clear ther names and as a result, on the cusp of a world championships and with a big name staring back at them, ended up delivering a warning. 

Whether accurate or not, the perception was clear: Brazil wanted to save its biggest name, resulting in different treatment of different swimmers, even within its own ranks.

Outcome: swimmers enter the fray with one another in a heated arena. The real target for Targett and Co should be WADA and an anti-doping regime that provides loopholes and get-out clauses that serve lawyers and cheats more than clean athletes, many in the sport believe.

The tears dried up, Cielo said: "This gold medal has a different feel from the other ones. This one was the hardest of my life."

A reporter leaned over and asked if he had heard booing in the crowd. Targett cut the reporter off with his "tools" remark, after which Cielo added: "Honestly, I think these questions are more annoying than the booing. I'm here to swim. I'm a swimmer, not an entertainer." 

Maybe so and the sentiment is well understood but when the fight against drugs in sport encounters such cases as those that have tainted Brazil's reputation, the show is inevitably going to spill from the pool onto another kind of stage.

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits): 22.43 Rafael Munoz (ESP) 2009
  • WR (textile):   22.96 Roland Schoeman (RSA) 2005
  • First man under 23.5: Geoff Huegill (AUS) 23.44, Fukuoka, July 27, 2001
  • First man under 23.0: Roland Schoeman (RSA) Montreal, July 25, 2005

World-class stats:

  • World Record wins: Matt Welsh (AUS); Roland Schoeman (RSA)
  • Title retained: Schoeman
  • Biggest margin: Schoeman beat Ian Crocker (USA) by 0.29sec in 2007. It marked Crocker’s third silver medal in the event
  • Closest shave: Cavic beat Matthew Targett by 0.06sec in 2009

From the archive

Winner of the first 50m world title in 23.50, Geoff Huegill (AUS) quit the sport after the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. In 2009, he decided to make a comeback and shed 45kg in weight, prompting Ian Thorpe to say "he's lost a Hannah", a nod to the fact that Hannah Miley, British medley ace whose father Patrick invented the Aquapacer used by Thorpe, weighed in at 50kg at the time. Nicknamed Skippy (like the bush kangaroo of TV fame), Huegill is an ambassador for Sydney's Black Dog Institute, which helped him overcome the depression that contributed to his weight soaring to 140kg.