Furniss: Dopers cost GB medals
Britons cheated out of ‘at least three bronzes’ ‘We have been penalised more than any nation’
Bill Furniss, the head coach of British Swimming, insists his pride in delivering a record Olympic medal tally for the modern era is checked by the knowledge that Britain were cheated out of further medals by swimmers who had failed drugs tests.
Britain’s haul of one gold and five silver medals is their best tally in the pool at an Olympics going back 106 years. Yet Furniss still could not hide his frustration that at least three of the seven British swimmers who finished fourth were denied a place on the podium by dopers.
That includes Fran Halsall losing out on a bronze medal in the 50 metres freestyle by 0.02 sec to Belarus’s Aliaksandra Herasimenia, who tested positive for the steroid norandrosterone in 2003; James Guy in the 200m freestyle to Sun Yang ( Trimetazidine, 2014); and Chloe Tutton in the 200m breaststroke to Yuliya Efimova (DHEA, 2013).
“Six medals is great, but it sticks in my throat a bit that we have had seven fourths and in at least three of those finals an individual failed a drug test,” Furniss said. “I didn’t say anything about it in the build-up because it was a distraction, but I think we have been penalised more than any other nation here.
“Look at the races and look at the statistics. You know it’s out there, it’s in the public domain. I’m not going to mention names. But as a nation, we fell foul of it. It’s hard to take.”
His views are widely shared in a sport governed by an organisation in Fina that saw fit to give Russian president Vladimir Putin a “Fina order”, its highest recognition, and whose executive director Cornel Marculescu hugged Sun after his victory in the 200m freestyle. That simmering frustration has boiled over in Rio, with Olympic champions Mack Horton and Lilly King leading the way in openly calling Sun and Efimova drugs cheats.
For Furniss, the solution to the scourge of doping is to revert to the one strike and you are out policy. “To me, I think if you fail a drugs test, you should not be at the Olympic Games,” Furniss said. “I can’t say it any more clear than that. It’s hard to take. It’s shambolic.
“My message to the people who govern our sport is that we want a clean sport. My message is that I have got certain individuals who I have got to explain that they have done everything right and they are not being looked after. Everything seems to be focused around how fair we can be to people who have not passed drugs tests. It sticks in my throat.”
Nevertheless, Furniss is rightly satisfied with the overall British performance in Rio, where Adam Peaty won gold in the 100m breaststroke and silvers were contributed by Jazz Carlin in the 400m and 800m, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor in the 200m individual medley and by the men’s 800m freestyle and 400m medley relays.
The contrast with London 2012, where the host nation delivered a silver and two bronze medals, is not just in the medal return but also in setting faster times. At the Rio Aquatics Stadium, British swimmers set 31 season bests, 10 personal bests, 10 British records and two world records, the last mentioned belonging to Peaty, the undoubted superstar of the squad.
“It is a good launch pad for us,” Furniss said. “The thing that pleased me is not just the six medals, it is the seven fourths. It shows that we have got depth, and obviously that’s a platform.
“The pool is growing. My job and Chris Spice’s job, the performance director, is to say ‘ This is nice’ and then quickly forget it so we can get back to doing what we are doing.”
Furniss indicated that he would like to lead the team through to Tokyo in 2020, and British Swimming would be fools not to grant him that opportunity.
His methods have not always been popular, notably at the Olympic trials, where he set the qualifying standards uncomfortably high. He has also made a point of adopting a deliberately “British way” of doing things.
“We learn from all nations, but it is a different way of doing it,” Furniss said. “It is tough love. We reward them when they do well, we comfort them when they don’t, but we set extremely high standards and we expect them to adhere to them.”
Medley medal: Britain’s 4x100m individual medley team of Chris Walker-Hebborn (left), Adam Peaty, James Guy (front) and Duncan Scott celebrate their silver