- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SYDNEY (AP) - Sweden’s Therese Alshammar broke her own 50-meter butterfly world record at the Australian swimming titles Tuesday but was later disqualified by Swimming Australia for wearing two swimsuits.

Alshammar set a time of 25.44 seconds in the morning qualifying heats to take 0.02 of a second off the record 25.46 she set at Barcelona, Spain on June 13, 2007.

But officials later discovered that Alshammar was wearing two suits in the race. Swimming Australia said that under swimming governing body FINA’s new rules that were ratified last weekend, and Swimming Australia’s rules instituted last year, Alshammar would be disqualified because it states that swimmers may only wear one suit.

Alshammar had initially planned to appeal the decision, which came after a five-hour meeting. But later Tuesday, Swimming Australia spokesman Ian Hanson said Alshammar had withdrawn her appeal.

Australia head coach Alan Thompson was blunt when asked if he felt Alshammar was cheating.

“Well obviously, I guess in general terms any breach of the rules is cheating,” he said. “The main point to be made is that she wore two swimsuits and it was quite clear on the video and it was noticed by quite a large number of people around the pool this morning.”

Triple Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice said she was surprised that a swimmer would make such a mistake.

“It is a bit surprising that people are still wearing two suits after they (FINA) made the rules,” Rice said.

Last Saturday in Dubai, FINA adopted new rules for the high-tech suits that helped produce more than 100 world records in just over a year.

The guidelines “revise the requirements for swimsuit approval” and it was said they would be in place for the world championships in Rome from July 17. FINA stipulated that swimsuits should not cover the neck and will not extend past the shoulders and ankles.

The 31-year-old Alshammar would not have had another chance to break her mark at the Australian championships. As a foreigner, she is not allowed to compete in semifinals or finals and there is no B final for the race.

Alshammar, the reigning world champion in the non-Olympic event, has been training with Australian swimmers in Sydney for the past two months.

“I am a bit shocked myself, and I am very happy,” Alshammar told reporters before she was disqualified. “I have had a great couple of months in Australia, it is the best place in the world for swimming.”

It continued the Swedish swimmer’s strong performances in the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre pool _ her three Olympic medals all came at Sydney in 2000.

Alshammar had a disappointing Beijing Olympics, heading to last year’s Games as a strong medal prospect in the 50 freestyle. But she missed the final at the Water Cube after she discovered a tear in her swimsuit just before the start of her semifinal, and failed to qualify for the final eight.

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