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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK
Judging flaws plague Team GB
By Andrew Fraser
BBC Sport in Athens

Aaron Peirsol (centre) flanked by Markus Rogan (left) and bronze winner Razvan Florea

First it was Britain's equestrian stars.

Now it is the turn of the swimmers to suffer at the hands of the Olympic judges.

Just 24 hours after a controversial ruling denied Leslie Law three-day event gold, a mix-up by Olympic officials had James Goddard wrongly thinking he had won bronze.

Goddard finished fourth in the men's 200m backstroke but found himself promoted to third when winner Aaron Peirsol was disqualified for an illegal turn.

The decision sparked delight from Goddard's team-mates in the stands, and a chorus of boos from the American contingent just a few yards to their left.

But just 20 minutes later it was announced that a US appeal had succeeded because the lane judge had failed to explain clearly what Peirsol's alleged infringement had been.

So, as with the eventing, the medal ceremony went ahead with the shadow of a counter appeal hanging over it.

Throw in the missed drugs test saga involving Greek sprinter Kostas Kenteris, and there is a serious danger that these Games could be remembered as much for courtroom drama as sporting triumphs.

The Peirsol case took on more serious overtones when Austria's silver medallist Markus Rogan - who was Olympic champion for all of 20 minutes - suggested the American had been victimised.

Peirsol caused a stir earlier in the week by claiming his US team-mate Brendan Hansen had been denied 100m breaststroke gold because Japan's Kosuke Kitajima had used an illegal dolphin kick.

James Goddard missed out on bronze
It has been a tough eight years for the British swim team - like all the other guys in the race, he [Goddard] deserved a medal
Silver medallist Markus Rogan on the unlucky Brit

"I believe politics are everywhere and I believe this might have been something to do with Aaron being very outspoken about his friend Brendan," said Rogan.

"I don't want to pass any judgement on any referee having any political motive, but I'm glad friendship prevailed over politics."

Rogan insisted he had believed Peirsol when the American told him he had done nothing wrong during the race.

And, while he offered Goddard his sympathy, he did not give the British appeal his support.

"I think the results are quite fair," said Rogan, a close friend of Peirsol.

"It has been a tough eight years for the British swim team. Like all the other guys in the race, he [Goddard] deserved a medal.

"He's a great swimmer and was fast in the prelims and semi-finals. His best time would have beaten me in the final, but that's the Olympics.

"Sometimes you are lucky, and sometimes you are not."

Peirsol and US head coach Eddie Reese refused to subscribe to Rogan's argument.

But Reese said: "It is hard to do something wrong in backstroke. To call Aaron for that you would have had to disqualify all the other seven guys in the race.

"We did keep looking for 'just kidding' to come up on the scoreboard, but it never showed up."

Great Britain have actually benefited from one revised result in these Games - when Helen Reeves was promoted to bronze from fourth in the K1 kayak slalom after her French rival landed an extra penalty.

But besides the fact it was Team GB who missed out on medals in the eventing and swimming sagas, both controversies have also had another thing in common.

Double gold medallist Bettina Hoy's case in the eventing was strengthened because an official had wrongly reset the round timer, even though she had erred by crossing the start line twice.

And swimming's ruling body Fina said Peirsol's appeal had been upheld on the basis that a judge had failed to use clear enough language to explain himself.

So, with all parties in both instances appearing to have something to build their cases on, it seems inevitable there will be yet more wrangles to come before we know exactly who won what, where, when and why.

Links to more Olympics 2004 stories



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