Bronze Medalist Hansen Defends van der Burgh: “It Was a Big Joke”

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 12

September 04th, 2012 National, News

American breaststroking star Brendan Hansen has finally spoken publicly about the controversy after Cameron van der Burgh won the gold medal in the 100 breaststroke at the Olympics and broke the World Record with what proved to be, afterward, multiple illegal dolphin kicks on his underwater pullout.

In statements made to the Austin American Statesman over the weekend, Hansen said of van der Burgh’s public admission of breaking the rules that “”I’m proud of him for (at least) being honest.”

“He did it to call out FINA to say, ‘I’m getting away with this, and you guys aren’t going to do anything about it,’ ” the quote continued. “Amongst the breaststrokers, it was a big joke. Everybody was just like, how much can I get away with? The rules need to be changed, and FINA needs to realize they need to step it up and bring in video surveillance.”

Hansen’s point is hitting the nail on the head. Despite calls from around the swimming community for van der Burgh’s gold medal to be taken away, that still would not fix the problem: breaststroke would still be a harbor for gaining an advantage by violating the rules, the swimmers would simply no longer speak to the media for fear of losing gold medals.

“They’ve turned their heads the other way,” Hansen said, “and that’s why Cameron was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to call you guys out.’ ”

There was no mechanism by which FINA could have used post-race footage or admissions to take away a medal; any attempt to do so would have been challenged to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and simply overturned. Despite comparisons to doping the situations are not the same: stroke infractions never have been, nor are they currently, classed in the same way in the rule books as performance enhancing drugs. Having the IOC take away gold medals posthumously for doping violations is not a precedent for doing so after stroke violations. One is specifically allowed for in the rule books, the other is not even alluded to.

For FINA to take away a medal for a violation seen on video after a race, under the current rules, would in itself be a violation of the rules, and thus no more excusable than the initial action.

If anybody is going to start taking away medals for stroke infractions after races, then it needs to be done fairly and equitably. Every swimmer needs to face the same scrutiny. If athletes begin to have medals and awards taken away after-the-fact for admitting to breaking rules (imagine if an NBA player admitted to stepping out of bounds after a game, when no call was made), then it would amount to as much as censorship.

Swimming always has been, and always will be, a very black-and-white sport. Swimmer A was faster than swimmer B or he wasn’t. Something is either a rules violation or it isn’t. That’s the way we like it. Whenever it’s not that way (see butterfly), we change the rules to make it so. But nearly every other sport in the world, aside from perhaps track & field, has shades of gray, and that’s where breaststroke currently sits. We can either let it stay there, or we can come up with a way to ensure enforcement of the rules.

But whatever that enforcement is need be done across-the-board, with the input of the athletes (perhaps a novel concept for the powers that be), and with understanding of the rules by all.

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Judd Jones
11 years ago

Underwater video surveillance would be ridiculously expensive, and therefore impossible at all but the highest levels of swimming. Are you going to enforce the rules at only the highest levels? What kind of sport is that? Underwater video surveillance is not the answer.

The answer is, don’t make rules you can’t enforce! If judges can’t enforce the one-dolphin-kick rule, then the rule should be changed to allow an unlimited number of dolphin kicks. Require swimmers to surface by 15 meters. That would align breaststroke with the other strokes.

Reply to  Judd Jones
11 years ago

I agree with you, Judd Jones.

Reply to  Judd Jones
11 years ago

That argument makes no sense… Do high schools use video review for plays? Do umps watch video for high school baseball to see if it was a homerun? No. The only meets that need video surveillance are nationals for each country and international competition. Because in the end those are the only meets that make a real impact… Around the world nobody is going to care about an age group or high school state champion. Only the top swimmers need it enforced.

Reply to  Breastswim
11 years ago

Maybe they can make it a requirement for World Records. In order for a World Record to be established, they must use underwater video surveillance.

Reply to  Breastswim
11 years ago

15 meter dolphin kick on breast would be a bit absurd. It would likely do away with underwater pullouts completely, and almost a full third of the race would no longer be breaststroke. Of course I never really agreed with the 15m rule in back and fly, but it’s really not that difficult to see dolphin kicks on the pullout if you’re looking for it, even without underwater cameras. But you have to be looking for it, and you have to be willing to DQ people, which I think officials are hesitant to do, especially in major competitions. But yeah…I’d use underwater cams whenever possible.

Also, they should add a 50M underwater race.

Judd Jones
Reply to  Breastswim
11 years ago

There is nothing sacred and immutable about the one-kick rule that mandates a high-tech solution when a simple change in the rules would do. The rules have changed over the years, they can change again.

I would also dicker with the claim, “Around the world nobody is going to care about an age group or high school state champion.” People care a lot! We do not want to have a sport where high school champions are encouraged to cheat, and the rules are only enforced at the Olympics.

Also we do not want to have a sport where a World Record is denied simply because some pool wasn’t expensively instrumented. What happens if Camera #3 fails at the Finnish National… Read more »

11 years ago

I want to go over two points.
My background with breaststroke is extensive and I’ve had the privilege of being around top breaststrokers all my life.
1. Cameron van der Burgh’s streamline is almost unparallel. It could be argued that where he did the butterfly kicks right at the movement of entry into the water, off the drive, would be a hindering force not an advantage to do butterfly kicks. At that moment a swimmer is travelling faster than at any other moment during their race. No matter how strong a butterfly kicker a swimmer is, it is extremely hard to add to that speed with the kick; the up and down motion of the lower legs would… Read more »

Reply to  JN
11 years ago

Doesn’t matter if “most people can’t replicate it” …it’s still illegal. And maybe I’m not most people (I had the same privilege), but I’ve managed to replicate it without too much trouble.

11 years ago

If you can be stripped of your medal retroactively because of doping, cheating with illegal kicks should be no different.

11 years ago

So the last three Olympic 100 breast Champions have now cheated and been seen on underwater cameras doing it. FINA has done nothing. Oh, sorry, they changed the rules rather than disqualify Kitajima twice. Perhaps van der Burgh calling them out and “daring” them will get them to adopt underwater cameras. But I’m not holding my breath.

11 years ago

Great post Braden.

All swimmer and swimfans around the world would probably thumbs up for using of video footage, and it can be done in most important meetings withouth a huge cost rise probably (National Meets and International, can´t see a reason for using them on college, state meetings)

But will FINA listen to what all people are asking for of keep on acting as deaf ears and their usual corruption? They don´t have a story of admitting things were wrong at a time..

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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