Getting Rapists Off On A Technicality

The previous Swimwatch post discussed the influence of officials. I mentioned that in the course of thirty years coaching I have submitted five protests; four were successful and one was rejected. Well that wasn’t true. I forgot one of the protests. There have been six protests and two failures. I thought it would be fun to described the six protests; not for any educational purpose, but rather for their entertainment value.

Protest One: North Island Secondary Schools Championships, Palmerston North

This was a fairly straight forward protest and was quickly settled. Jane Copland was disqualified in the heats of the 200 IM for some error in her backstroke turn. She was not told about it and neither was I. The first either of us knew about the disqualification was when the results were posted on the pool wall.

I asked for the disqualification slip and was told that the turn’s judge had run out of DQ slips and had simply verbally informed the referee about Jane’s indiscretion. I protested on the grounds of a lack of written confirmation and the time that had elapsed between the end of the race and finding out about the disqualification. FINA Rule SW2.6.9 says:

“Inspectors of Turns shall report to the Referee any violation on signed cards detailing the event, lane number, and the infraction.”  

The protest committee and the referee handled the protest well. The referee said, “We screwed up. Jane will be reinstated.” Jane went on to win the final.

Protest Two: Waikato Inter-Club Meet, Hamilton

Jane Copland was disqualified for some infringement in her breaststroke turn. I protested the disqualification on the basis of FINA Rule SW 2.6.1. This says:

“One Inspector of Turns shall be assigned to each lane at each end of the pool.”

In Hamilton there had only been one inspector covering all eight lanes. This was a violation of the meet rules. The swimmer should be reinstated. Arthur Lydiard was with me at the meet. The referee was clearly most uncomfortable arguing that the single turns judge was perfectly able to police eight lanes. The number of inspectors rule simply did not apply.

We lost the protest but shortly after that meet organizers throughout New Zealand began to include a sentence in their meet posters about making every effort to recruit the required number of officials. I have often wondered whether our Hamilton protest initiated that change.

Protest Three: Open National Championships, Auckland

I described these events in the previous Swimwatch post.

“For example, I had to protest a senior official who took referees down to the underwater viewing windows during an open national championship heat at the West Wave pool and instructed them to disqualify one of my swimmers, in the finals, for a fault she thought she saw. That was just flat out cheating. The swimmer won the final.”

The protest was based on FINA Rule SW 2.7.1 which says,

“Judges of stroke shall be located on each side of the pool.”

It does not give them permission to go under the pool in the heats to inspect swimmers, in order to find something they can’t see from the pool deck. And it certainly does not give them permission to disqualify a swimmer, twelve hours later, in the final.

The protest committee agreed. The senior referee looked as though she’d been caught with her fingers in the cookie jar; as well she might. Her name is Jo Davidson.    

Protest Four: NZ Short Course Championships, Wellington

After spending seven years coaching in the United States, I was staggered to come back to New Zealand and discover that swim meets were still being started from the shallow end of the Kilbirnie Pool. In Florida you would be banned for life for letting swimmers dive into one meter deep water.

At the first national short course championships after my return I submitted a protest on the basis of FINA Rule FR2.3. This says:

“A minimum depth of 1.35 metres, extending from 1.0 metre to at least 6.0 metres from the end wall is required for pools with starting blocks.”

The protest committee rejected the protest on the basis of FINA Rule FR1.3 which says:

“All other events should be conducted in pools that comply with all of the minimum standards contained within these Facilities Rules.”

The rule, Swimming New Zealand said, says “should” comply, not “must”, therefore the pool was fine. They seemed to ignore, or just did not care, that the pool was dangerous, no matter what the rule said. And then two events occurred that swung things in the direction of change. First, a young swimmer from Raumati Club lost some teeth diving into the shallow end of the Kilbirnie Pool and, second, Lauren Boyle broke a World Record and Swimming New Zealand decided to lie on the record application form. They signed the form saying that the pool complied with all FINA minimum standards when clearly it did not.

The publicity surrounding those two events finally forced change. Today races at the Kilbirnie Pool start from the deep on of the pool. But I still haven’t got my $50 protest fee back. Perhaps it’s in the mail.

Protest Five: Auckland Championships, Auckland

Shortly after the breaststroke rules changed to allow a butterfly kick after the start and turn Jane Ip was disqualified for an illegal turn. Most swimmers doing the new underwater turn do the full pull and then the butterfly kick. For some reason Jane Ip preferred to do the kick first and then the pull. She was the national short course open 50 breaststroke champion at the time so, while her pull out looked odd, I was happy to leave things the way Jane found most comfortable.

At the Auckland Championships some turns judge decided that “looking odd” meant illegal and disqualified Jane. On the basis of Rule SW7.1 I protested the disqualification. This rule says:

“At any time prior to the first Breaststroke kick after the start and after each turn a single butterfly kick is permitted.”

The key words, of course, are “at any time”. The protest was handled very well. Jill Vernon was the referee. She even asked Jane to show her the different timing in the West Wave diving pool. Jane’s disqualification was overturned.

Protest Six: Central American Championships, Mexico City

I was the national coach of the US Virgin Island’s team at the Central American Championships. One of our male swimmers was disqualified during the heats of the 100 breaststroke. To this day I am unsure what he was accused of doing wrong. The disqualification slip was a mess. First it was written in Spanish which made understanding difficult. Second the slip referred to FINA Rule SW6.4. This rule governs backstroke turns. I was unsure of its relevance in a breaststroke race. And third the date on the form was the 24th January, the previous year.

I protested on the basis that the disqualification was difficult to understand; it referred to the wrong stroke and happened last year. The referee called a protest committee hearing. He was an excitable chap and insisted on yelling his way through the protest committee hearing. When it became obvious that my swimmer was going to be reinstated, he came around to my side of the table, stood over me and screamed, “I hate your sort. You’re the sort of person that, if you were a lawyer, you would get rapists off on a technicality.”

Wow, I thought, 100m breaststroke, hardly compares with statutory rape. My swimmer was reinstated. He got third, that evening, in the final.

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