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Olympic gold medalist in swimming admits to cheating

LONDON OLYMPICS

Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa says he used extra dolphin kicks, which are illegal, while winning the 100-meter breaststroke. He says everyone is doing it and FINA is unlikely to do anything about it.

August 08, 2012|Staff reports
  • South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh poses with his gold medal after posting a world record time in the men's 100-meter breaststroke on July 29.
South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh poses with his gold medal after… (Matt Slocum / Associated…)

LONDON — Could Cameron van der Burgh's world record in the 100-meter breaststroke be tainted?

The evidence comes from someone close to the situation: Van der Burgh himself.

In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, the South African swimmer and gold medalist admitted to extra dolphin kicks, which are illegal.

His excuse: everyone else is doing it.

"If you're not doing it, you're falling behind," Van der Burgh told the newspaper. "It's not obviously — shall we say — the moral thing to do, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it.

"I think it's pretty funny of the Australians to complain because in the underwater footage if you actually look at Brenton Rickard in the lane next to me, he's doing the exact same thing as me yet they're turning a blind eye.

"It's got to the sort of point where if you're not doing it you're falling behind or you're giving yourself a disadvantage so everyone's pushing the rules. "

Will the sport's international governing body, FINA, actually do something after the fact? Doubt it.

FINA did nothing in 2004 in Athens at the Olympics when American swimmers Aaron Peirsol and Jason Lezak said gold medalist Kosuke Kitajima of Japan used an illegal dolphin kick. Peirsol called it "cheating."

— Lisa Dillman

The morning after

The first hint of how American hurdler Lolo Jones was feeling about Tuesday night's race came in the early morning hours Wednesday, via her Twitter account:

@lolojones Stressed.5am no sleep post race. Almost went @britneyspears on ya & shave my head til I read ur tweets. Thx 4 lifting me up during this time.

The words went out to her nearly 275,000 Twitter followers. Then her words — and tears — went out to millions of TV viewers when she appeared on NBC's "Today" in an interview with Savannah Guthrie about Jones' fourth-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles.

"I was crushed afterward," Jones said. "I know I had the best race of my season, not the best race of my life. I had the best race of my year. ... It doesn't take away from the pain, I was so close to once again having a medal and not getting it."

Later, she was asked about a recent New York Times article and that's when Jones became emotional. "I think it was crazy just because it was two days before I competed and then the fact it was from a U.S. media" outlet, she said. "They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes.

"And instead they just ripped me to shreds. I just thought that it was crazy because I work six days a week, every day for four years for a 12-second race.

"The fact they just tore me apart, it was just heartbreaking. They didn't even do the research. Called me the Anna Kournikova of track. I have the American record. I'm the American record-holder indoors. ..."

— Lisa Dillman

Leading the way

Sarah Attar and Amy Atkinson finished last in their respective 800-meter heats but both women still took great strides forward.

Attar, a Pepperdine University junior who became Saudi Arabia's first female track Olympian, received a huge ovation from the crowd at the Olympic Stadium when she was introduced and an even louder ovation after she crossed the finish line. Her time was 2 minutes 44.95 seconds, placing her 39th among 40 competitors, but her performance requires some context.

Attar, 19, ran while wearing a full, white head-covering, a long-sleeved green jacket and long pants in deference to Saudi cultural restrictions on women. She has dual U.S. and Saudi citizenship because her father is Saudi.

After her race Attar declined interview requests.

Atkinson, who turned 23 last week, is a graduate of Biola University and represents Guam, where she grew up while her father pastored a church. She said her church, at the last minute, came up with funding to send her parents to London to see her compete Wednesday.

— Helene Elliott

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