After SP Likith, a 21-year-old swimmer from Bengaluru, exposed an Olympics qualification scam in Uzbekistan, rankings of Uzbek swimmers have disappeared from the official listing. Timings of some Czech swimmers who were to participate in the Tokyo Olympics have been cancelled too, swimmingworldmagazine.com reports.
When Likith found out that the international Olympic qualification meet in Uzbekistan in April was ‘politically’ guided, he raised his voice. The 100m breaststroke champion said that he had been offered a bribe to remain silent and to write a letter declaring himself ‘mentally ill and deaf’. But he refused.
“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 said as per an Indian Express report.
“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,” the World School Games bronze medalist of 2012 added.
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This week, the tournament was declared ‘invalid’ by FINA, swimming’s world governing body, and all the scores disappeared from official records.
It was top Indian swimmer Sajan Prakash’s 100m butterfly result that was tampered with, Likith reveals.
“I didn’t face the problem myself. But I saw it happen to others. Many people don’t have the courage when it happens to them. I am mentally strong. I knew I could fight for them,” he said as per Indian Express.
After the 21-year-old confronted the organisers to say he had broken a world record in two seconds, he was told about the politics involved.
“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,” he added.
Interventions by the Sports Minister and involvement of local goons didn’t stop Likith, who had once blown the whistle at 2019 All India University meet in Punjab.