FINA Inquiry Into Allegations Of Uzbek Olympic Qualifier Manipulation Points To ‘Fake Results’ At Other Meets

2021-05-11 Reading Time: 3 minutes
Likith Prema and (inset) the blank scoreboard at the Uzbek Open - courtesy YouTube

FINA is in possession of evidence for its inquiry into allegations of manipulation of results at the Olympic-qualification Uzbek Open last month that suggests the issue extends to other meets held within the period in which swimmers can make target times for Tokyo.

FINA remains tight-lipped and has failed to reply to media inquiries about whether it is looking into the allegations. SOS can today reveal that the international federation is doing just that: parties to the controversy at the Uzbek Open in Tashkent that were brought to light by Likith Prema, an Indian swimmer at the meet, have been told to provide evidence to a FINA Ethics Panel inquiry.

The Uzbek Swimming Federation issued a statement to say there was no issue and no case to answer. That is now going to be put to the test.

The purpose of the international federation inquiry is to ascertain the veracity of the allegations, which include manipulation of events, some said to have been ‘ordered’ from senior political figures instructing swimming officials to ensure 10 swimmers made a FINA A cut qualification time for the Tokyo Olympic Games, and coercion and threats made against witnesses.

The suspect Uzbek results from the Open have not been included in the FINA World rankings but results from other events now under scrutiny are included in the FINA rankings.

SOS understands that FINA has been supplied with a significant amount to evidence for its inquiry, including extended allegations that the alleged manipulation of results is not confined to the Uzbek Open this year.

One of the other events in focus is the FINA approved Uzbekistan Open Cup held in November 2020, at which results are alleged by swimmers to have been “falsified”.

It is understood that Uzbek and Indian swimmers are among those who will be called on to give evidence, which will put then in an awkward position as athletes who, naturally, want to race at the Olympic Games, but also provide them with a clear chance to tell the truth about race videos, blank scoreboards and result sheets that appear to neither match the times actually swum nor the finishing order of swimmers in some races.

It is not the first time that Uzebkistan has been at the centre of allegations of manipulation of results. Back in 2008 athletes reported to FINA that fake Olympic cuts had been submitted as entries for the Beijing Olympic Games but nothing came of their complaints and the swimmers with the alleged fake times raced at the Games, according to senior sources.

Part of the evidence behind the allegations – the 100m ‘fly in which two national records were said to have been broken but set against the race video, neither the times nor the finishing positions appear to stack up

One source told SOS:

“There is big support from Uzbekistan swimmers and coaches [to have the truth told] but at the same time most of them are scared to say something publicly because you never know how” that might impact them, given the weight of power among those who are said to have have been behind the alleged manipulation.”

Officials close to the Indian and Uzbek swim federations have confirmed a FINA review is underway.

The Open Cup last November presents a bigger problem than the Open of last month in that the allegations affects swimmers from several countries and a rush of national records.

The Open Cup featured 14 swimmers from the Czech Republic and seven from Kyrgyzstan. For the Czech Republic, there were national records for Barbora Seemanova in the 200 free (1:56.96) and 400 free (4:08.89) and Kristyna Horska in the 200 breaststroke (2:25.24). The time appear to have been removed from the FINA rankings but are included in European rankings.

For the Czech visitors, Horska and Seemanova combined with Simona Kubova and Lucie Svecena for a 4:03.02 in the 4×100 medley relay that puts the country in the last-chance saloon for an Olympic ‘at-large’ berth in Tokyo. Another swim no longer in the FINA ranks if Kyrgyzstan‚Äôs Denis Petrashov, on 59.87 in the 100m breaststroke.

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