So first, the Pan Am Games tried to cut swimmers who had earned automatic qualifying times. If that wasn’t bad enough, they have now DQ’ed the event champion in the men’s 200 fly, Brazil’s Leonardo de Deus.
No, he didn’t flutter kick. He didn’t false start. It was because of the Yakult logo on his cap. Yakult has become a huge financial sponsor of the sport of swimming. Their main product is a drink that falls somewhere between milk and yogurt.
The logo appeared to be of a fairly ordinary size. The cap was one that many Brazilians had worn many times before (the drink is huge there because of the large Japanese population). But immediately after the race, a meet official could be seen asking de Deus for his cap as he went to hug his family, which seemed an odd occurance. It turns out that the Pan American Games have different rules than typical FINA events:
4. No form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes in the Pan American Games, except for the manufacturer of the article, provided that such identification shall not be marked conspicuously for advertising purposes. This rule shall be governed by the following criteria:
4.1 The identification of the manufacturer shall not appear more than once per item of clothing and equipment.
4.2 Any manufacturer’s identification that is greater than 10% of the surface area of the equipment that is exposed during competition shall be deemed prohibited. However, there shall be no manufacturer’s identification greater than 60 cm2.
4.3 Headgear such as hats, helmets, sunglasses, gloves and others: any manufacturer’s identification over 6 cm2 shall be deemed prohibited.
4.4 Clothing like T-shirts, shorts, sweat pants and others: any manufacturer’s identification which is greater than 20 cm2 shall be deemed prohibited.
4.5 Shoes: the name and logo of the manufacturer may appear, provided its size does not surpass 6 cm2.
4.6 In very particular cases, the PASO Executive Committee may authorize exceptions in the application of the above described rules.
4.7 Any violation of the provisions of the present Section shall result in disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person or persons concerned. The PASO Executive Committee may undertake actions against the NOC or International Federation and/or Pan American Sports Confederation that are responsible of such violation. The decisions taken by the PASO Executive Committee regarding this matter shall be final.
This means that any advertising of anyone other than the manufacturer of the item (and even then, it must be small), is grounds for an immediate disqualification.
So you want to say that “rules are rules.” That’s fine, I’ve said it many times before, the rules are pretty plain and clear. But how about the failing of the organizing committee to properly inspect suits and caps before the race, as they do before every FINA-sanctioned race, and alerting him to the illegal cap.
As American Ricky Berens Tweeted at us in the heat of the event: “100% should have (checked). They check caps and suits at every meet I have been to since Olympics. Should not be his fault.” Several other elite swimmers echoed his sentiments that despite what the rules say about cap advertisements, that proper pre-race protocol was not checked.
Ultimately, after much protesting from the Brazilian coaches (they literally blockaded the medal ceremony), and eventually the meet officials agreed and awarded de Deus the gold medal, leaving American Dan Madwed in silver and Brazilian Kaio Almeida for bronze.
Ultimately, the correct decision was made, and the man who swam the best race got the highest award. The Pan Am Games organizers have gotten really good at atoning for huge errors in judgment, now if only they could work on not making them in the first place.
*So outraged was the swimming community, that even half-an-hour after the medals were awarded, “Leonardo de Deus” was still trending world-wide.