FINA Rules That 3 American Relays Must Be Disqualified from World Jrs

FINA has formally updated its results for the men’s 400 medley relay at the 2017 World Junior Swimming Championships and requested the return of medals from the winning American relay.

In an updated decision released May 14th (4 months after the original decision), FINA said that in the original sanction, medals, awards, prizes, or prize-money was forfeited from the date of the test onward. FINA, however, requested the doping panel to specifically rule on the status of relay medals, which is what their new decision reflects.

That relay included American swimmer Matthew Willenbring, who tested positive for a banned substance at the meet, on the freestyle anchor leg. His 48.68 split was the second-fastest of the finals field. Willenbreng was found to have accidentally ingested medicine of a family friend that was left at his house in a pill bottle labeled as an over-the-counter pain reliever (read more here). By that accord, FINA reduced his suspension to 4 months from the maximum 4 years.

The latest decision reads as follows regarding the decision: “The Doping Panel was well aware that on August 28, 2017, the Athlete was a member of a winning Medley Relay but was content in its reasoned decision to limit the sanction imposed on the Athlete to the annulment and forfeiture of “individual results” (largely to protect the identity of the Athlete who was a minor at the time and whose identity the Doping Panel wanted to protect from public reporting). It remained an open question what decision, if any, FINA might elect to make regarding the status of the other members of the Medley Relay that won the event (with the Athlete) on August 28, 2017.”

The Doping Panel found that, “despite (its) sympathy to the Athlete’s teammates from the various Relays he participated on there is no alternative but to disqualify the results for all three Relays.”

While FINA originally removed only the relay results, as captured here by the Sports Integrity Initiative, they didn’t remove the bronze medal of the 100 free. Looking today, however, that result has been disqualified as well. That would follow the same pattern of logic that FINA used specifically in disqualifying the relay results: that the individual 100 free, swum even before the positive test, were to be negated because they came at the same ‘competition,’ which FINA spent time in their latest decision discussing.

Willenbring tested positive for the substance Hydrochlorathiazide, which is banned as a Class S5 Diuretic and masking agent. The substance’s medical uses include reducing high blood pressure and fluid retention, and treating a number of diseases and conditions including kidney stones. The drug is sold under a number of brand names and is available by prescription in the United States.

The original FINA decision indicated that relay results would not be impact, only individual results.

The Americans’ 400 free relay, which finished 4th, was also disqualified, and Willenbreng’s individual results in the 100 free (bronze medal) and mixed 400 free relay (silver medal) were also disqualified – even though those races came before his positive test.

On net, the disqualifications cost the U.S. 1 gold and 1 silver medal. Willenbring’s future teammate at the University of Texas Daniel Krueger moved up to 3rd in the 100 free, so on a team-level that scratch didn’t impact the overall medal standings.

The hosts from the United States still maintained a healthy lead in the medals table. The changes jumped Russia by 1 spot from 6th to 5th place, ahead of Spain, while Australia vaulted from 15th to 12th thanks to the new-found silver medal.

Updated Medals Table

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 United States 11 12 7 30
2 Canada 7 5 3 15
3 Japan 6 4 6 16
4 Hungary 5 8 3 16
5 Russia 3 3 8 14
6 Spain 3 1 2 6
7 Italy 2 2 1 5
8 Argentina 2 1 0 3
9 Great Britain 2 0 2 4
10 Ireland 1 1 1 3
11 Germany 1 0 0 1
12 Australia 0 1 4 5
13 Poland 0 1 1 2
13 France 0 1 1 2
14 Sweden 0 1 0 1
15 Serbia 0 0 1 1
15 Romania 0 0 1 1
15 Bulgaria 0 0 1 1

Impacted Events

Event Original Finish Updated Finish
Men’s 400 free relay Hungary – Gold
Poland – Silver
Australia – Bronze
USA – 4th
Hungary – Gold
Poland – Silver
Australia – Bronze
Russia – 4th
Men’s 400 medley relay USA – Gold
Russia – Silver
Italy – Bronze
Russia – Gold
Italy – Silver
Australia – Bronze
Men’s 100 freestyle Ivan Gireev, RUS – Gold
Nandor Nemeth, HUN – Silver
Matthew Willenbring, USA – Bronze
Ivan Gireev, RUS – Gold
Nandor Nemeth, HUN – Silver
Daniel Krueger, USA – Bronze
Mixed 400 free relay Canada – Gold
USA – Silver
Australia – Bronze
Canada – Gold
Australia – Silver
Russia – Bronze

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Wow. Harder on the USA for this than they are for the GDR of the 1970’s and 80’s.

Professional Swimmer

Good, shows improvement on the anti-doping laws.


it only took 30 years


Do you really think that Willenbring ingested the banned substance on purpose? Think of what he may be going through right now. I’m pretty sure he knows that he let his team, teammates and coaches down, we don’t need you to point it out for us.


In my opinion, his story seems very off. BUT, Who am I to judge I guess. No one will ever know for sure whether it was on purpose or not, I just feel bad for the rest of his Relay teammates. When your at that level you have to be extremely careful on what you consume. I’m disgusted by this but I’ll admit I shouldn’t have commented that the way I did.

Naked Chicken Chalupa

I think it was on purpose. An banned drug with fast pharmacokinetics, from a friend, in a mislabeled bottle…doesn’t add up


Really dude.. you think he doesn’t know that? Accidents happen..


HSwimmer I expect you to comment this for Park of Korea or Sun Yang of China…. Or better yet…. Efimova or Tarasevich…


I’m not saying what he did wasn’t wrong. I know people have feelings lol, I’m sure that’s how all of them feel… but different situations…

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder 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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