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‘This is Politics, You Don’t Get Into it’: How India Swimmer SP Likith Exposed Corruption in Uzbekistan Olympic Qualifier

SP Likith (Pic Credit: SP Likith/Facebook)

SP Likith (Pic Credit: SP Likith/Facebook)

SP Likith was stunned by the turn of events during an Olympic qualifier in Uzbekistan earlier this year which led to swimming's world governing body declaring the scores from the meet as invalid.

FINA, the world swimming’s governing body, recently announced that the results from the Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championship in April, an event which also served as Olympic qualifier, are no longer valid. The decision was taken after India swimmer SP Likith, who took part in the event, alleged the local swimmers were being favoured with the officials tampering with the timings.

“It has been invalidated by FINA. There were issues related to the timing. FINA has a strict rule as it is an Olympic qualifying event also.  If there are any doubts or discrepancies related to the timing system, FINA would not consider it as an official timing result. That is the reason why it has been invalidated," Swimming Federation of India secretary general Monal Chokshi told The New Indian Express recently.

The 21-year-old Likith had lodged his protest after noticing the bizarre sequence of events that saw him being asked by an official to declare himself “mentally ill and deaf".

On the opening day, Likith alleges, the scoreboard wasn’t displaying and there was a massive difference between the actual timings and on the scoresheet. However, he ignored it thinking it may have been a glitch which will be rectified.

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And it didn’t happen.

“The first day at the heats, the scoreboard wasn’t displaying, and the heat results on the scoresheet were different, up to 5-7 seconds, from the actual timings which everyone was recording manually. But I thought it must be a glitch and they would change it. That didn’t happen,” Likith told The Indian Express.

And when he lodged his protest, the official told him that it’s something that’s been happening for long and that they have orders to ensure 10 Uzbeki swimmers must qualify for Tokyo Olympics.

“When I complained, they casually told me that this has been happening since 2000-2004. And they have orders to ensure they send 10 Uzbeki swimmers to Tokyo,” Likith claims.

Upon realising that the 100m butterfly result of India star Sajan Prakash has been tampered with, Likith decided stand up to the alleged corruption.

At the 200m breaststroke event, Likith simply stood on the diving block, touched the pad and then stopped his own time asking the officials if this was a new world record.

“That’s when the officials told me, this is politics, you don’t get into it. They offered me money to shut up. They said ‘we have to give an explanation why you didn’t swim and just stood there on the block’. So they came up with this idea to get me to give in writing that I was mentally ill and deaf,” Likith said.

Likith said had he kept quiet in Uzbekistan and spoken about the malpractice now, nobody would have believed him. “If I’d kept quiet in Uzbekistan and spoken of it now, everyone would’ve thought I’m bluffing. There’s still no official statement. They declared it invalid and will move on. But the next time swimmers see this happen, they’ll know they have a voice,” he said.

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first published:June 26, 2021, 12:12 IST