Pool Pains and That Relay

It is unfortunate, but a greater proportion of the headlines for the Rio swim and dive events are increasingly coming from news not directly related to the fine performances of the athletes. If the green pool was a source of confusion in the first week of the Games, then the mishmash in the second week has been doubled, with concern about systemic bias from the pool’s current as well as that bizarre encounter at a gas station involving Ryan Lochte and his friends.


First, according to the WSJ, three scientists believe that there was a current in the Olympic pool that resulted in inferior performance from swimmers in lanes 1-4 and superior performance from swimmers in lanes 5-8. They note the statistical significance of the time differential between the lower and upper lanes, but perhaps the most compelling evidence is the following (emphasis added):

In Rio, the lane bias also showed up in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter races, the other events analyzed by the researchers. Swimmers in lanes 1 through 3 swam as much as .6 seconds slower while heading toward the starting blocks than they swam while moving away from them, according to an analysis of split times by Brammer.

Swimmers in lanes 6 through 8 showed the reverse, logging faster times while moving toward the starting blocks than they did away from them, according to Brammer. The closer swimmers were to lanes 1 and 8, the outer lanes of the pool, the greater the effects on times, he said.

Now, theoretically, the current should be neutralized if swimmers are swimming multiple lengths of the pool but this does cause issues for the 50m races which are only one length long. One independent voice – Trevor Tiffany of Myrtha Pools USA – says that his team floated a jug before the races. Based on the result from the test, his conclusion was that there was no current in the pool.

For its part, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has so far remained silent on the issue. Perhaps because they have other fish to fry….

We woke up Thursday morning with a series of strange news headlines involving highly decorated American swimmer Ryan Lochte and a few of his friends. In an interview with NBC, Lochte said that they had been robbed at gunpoint at a gas station. According to video footage, it turns out that the swimmers had been acting belligerently and vandalized the bathroom by tearing down doors. When they returned to the taxi, they were asked to pay money for damages and were confronted by an armed security guard. According to Reuters:

Veloso, Rio’s police chief, said police investigations had shown that the swimmers had broken a mirror and a soap-holder in the bathroom, adding that they then handed over a total of 100 reais ($31) and $20 in U.S. currency as compensation.

According to Lochte’s account, $400 was stolen from them.

At one point, a security guard pulled a firearm after one swimmer behaved erratically, Veloso said, adding that the guard had not over-reacted: “From the moment the gun was pulled out, they calmed down. Once they were calm, the gun was lowered.”

Locate managed to get back to the US before being detained. His teammates were not so lucky with one paying $11,000 to escape prosecution:

ABC News reported early on Friday that Feigen had agreed to pay $11,000 to a Brazilian charity to avoid prosecution in the case, citing his attorney Breno Melaragno Costa.

The outlet said the dispute would be settled, his passport returned, and Feigen would be allowed to leave the country once payment was made to the Reaction Institute charity.

So it’s good to know that the Brazilians are living up to their reputation in their strict adherence to the rule of law. Now just point me to the statute that says “if you slander, please pay a bribe of $11,000 (to a charity) and we will just move on”…

For those of you have an interest in this charity and a knowledge of Portuguese, you can find further information on Instituto Reação here.

(Image credit: WSJ)

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