India swimmer S.P. Likith has alleged that organisers at the recently held Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championships (April 13-17) tampered with race timings to suit local athletes.
The competition was a Tokyo 2020 qualification event, where Srihari Nataraj came within 0.22 seconds of making the A-cut in 100m backstroke and Indian swimmers finished with a rich haul of medals. Likith, who was looking the make the B-cut for Tokyo, secured silver medals in 50m and 100m breaststroke events.
In a YouTube video uploaded on Wednesday, Likith claimed that timings in the 100m freestyle heats on the opening day and the 100m butterfly heats on the final day were fudged and urged FINA, world swimming’s governing body, to look into the matter.
On the final day of the competition, Likith had refused to dive into the pool in the 200m breaststroke event and just stood on the starting block for over two minutes. He said it was a mark of protest.
“I touched the pad and stopped my own time and asked the officials if it was the new world record to show them that what they were doing was wrong,” Likith said. He even claimed that the local officials offered him a bribe so that he doesn’t go public with his grievances.
But the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) said that the issues with the heats timings were corrected before the final in the respective events after Indian coaches and swimmers present at the site flagged them. Monal Chokshi, SFI secretary also didn’t approve of Likith’s conduct on the final day of the event in Tashkent.
“He didn’t approach us,” said Chokshi, about Likith airing his views in public. “On the first day, heats times were a problem and the display was not working. So, our coaches brought it to the organisers’ attention. Last day too, heats timings were wrong. But the final start lists and the results were fine. That is what our coaches told us.”
“He [Likith] cannot protest the way he did. Heats timings were wrong and for even our swimmers they posted faster times! Everything was corrected,” Chokshi added.
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