Furniss: Britain Great With Gold, 5 Silvers & 4 In 7 4ths Punished By * Of Dope & Doubt

Adam Peaty brought on the Great in Britain at Rio 2016 - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Bill Furniss, the head coach of Britain celebrating the nation’s finest result in the pool since the age of pioneers more than a century ago, has shot a cannon ball across the bows of FINA and the International Olympic Committee for failing to protect clean athletes. “It’s our best-ever Olympics – that’s pleasing. We raced very well all week. We were resilient all week and that’s what we’ve been working on. We believe we belong at this level now. Six medals is great.” He then gritted his teeth and added: “It sticks in my throat a bit, I’ve got to say: we had seven fourths and four of those ahead of us were individuals who failed a drug test. I didn’t say anything in the build up because it was a distraction but I think we’ve been penalised more than any other nation here.”

Want to read more? Our Basic subscription package, for just over €1 a
month (or €15.00 a year) allows you to access all articles barring
specific content we post from time to time for Premium and Business
members. Select which service best suits you. Thank you for your support
of independent journalism and quality coverage of world-class swimming.

Log In Register

Bill Furniss, the head coach of Britain celebrating the nation’s finest result in the pool since the age of pioneers more than a century ago, has shot a cannon ball across the bows of FINA and the International Olympic Committee for failing to protect clean athletes. “It’s our best-ever Olympics – that’s pleasing. We raced very well all week. We were resilient all week and that’s what we’ve been working on. We believe we belong at this level now. Six medals is great.” He then gritted his teeth and added: “It sticks in my throat a bit, I’ve got to say: we had seven fourths and four of those ahead of us were individuals who failed a drug test. I didn’t say anything in the build up because it was a distraction but I think we’ve been penalised more than any other nation here.”



My Blah Blah of the meet:

Swimmer of the meet:
Katie Ledecky

Female Swimmer of the Meet:
Katie Ledecky

Male Swimmer of the meet:
Michael Phelps

MVP of the meet:
Michael Phelps

Most Successful team;
USA (Not only in terms of golds/medals, but in crushing their entry form and world rankings going into Rio, finaling in almost all events, swam above and beyond expectation).

Most disappointing team:
Australia (I know they won 3 golds and 11 medals, but compared to form and expectation, that is light years behind).
Honorable mention: Germany, France and the Netherlands, the three european countries won a combined total of 2 silvers despite having a dozen of strong medal favorites.

Choker of the meet:
Cate Campbell in 100 free.
The women’s 100 free result is more shocking than any swimming result since like.. ever. Sure there were Le Clos, Soni, MIsty Hyman, Jon Sieben, Duncan Armstrong etc.. but at least in those instances the strong favorite won medals. Cate’s choking was of epic, gargantuan, armageddon proportion.
Honorable mention: Cam McEvoy in 200 free.

Most shocking result:
women’s 100 free. Hands down.
Honorable mention: Pernile Blume in 50 free

Swim of the meet:
Peaty’s 57.13
Honorable mentions: Ledecky’s 400 and 800 WRs and Hosszu’s 400 IM WR.

Most improved nation (from 2012 London):
Singapore and Kazakhstan (unranked to joint #12)
Honorable mention: GRB (#16 to #8), Canada (#15 to #7)

Most declined nation (from 2012 London):
France (from ranked #3 to #16)
Honorable mention: The Netherlands (#4 to unranked)

Most unpopular swimmer:
Yuliya Efimova

Tony McKinnon

I think you are over playing GBs performance all I can say is it is about time.
The really great improvement of the meet and one that deserves the highest accolades is the Candanian women! Simply outstanding. As far as GB is concerned they are bit like Australia – one may comment that it is about time, years of promise kind of fulfilled with a “satisfactory” performance, Candian women take a bow a wonderful performance.
Now for the great failure AUSTRALIA!
The first point to make is the shifting of the blame by the coaches, (with the exception of Michael Bohl) is appalling. Lead by the head coach. His cool almost insulting persona after one of the greatest disappointing performances at Olympic meet by an Australian swimming team impossible to understand.
The only coach so on face value that was able to turn their swimmers around after poor performances and inspire them to produce personal best or near personal best times was Michael Bohl. Not that all his swimmers produced the goods, at least he was able to turn Maddie Groves, Emma McKeon and to a lesser extent Mitch Larkin around so we’re able to perform up to their best.
The call from all over Australia to move the trials to within 3-4 weeks of the major championships must be acted upon. Two obvious advantages one swimmers don’t have peak twice only one taper and a modified taper required ( message to Australian coaches talk to your US colleagues on how to achieve this). Secondly it gives the media only about 3 weeks to get carried away with the hype, thus the build up of pressure on the swimmers is significantly less.
The next step is find coaches who are prepared to get behind their swimmers not openly blame them for the disaster of Rio! This should include the head coach, who comes out today in the national press talking about a new grand plan for Australian swimming, we have had enough of grand plans we need a change of culture and direction. Coaches need to be re-educated, follow the strength go to the US and find out where we need to go.
A look back at history gives us a glimpse of perhaps where we need to go. During the post war era the only occasion Australia dominated the Olympic medal count was Melbourne, this was the only occasion in that 60 period that the trials were held only a few weeks out from the Olympics – I think there is a message here. Those who will rebutt this point by saying that Australia had home ground advantage, I suggest you look a Sydney – another relative disappointing performance by Australia, but nothing like Rio.
The other issue is the need to toughen our swimmers up from a competitive perspective, we need to send teams around the world to international meets – world cups, mare nostrum, Santa Clara for example. Our new arrangement with Japan should be utilised more extensively to hold more high level meets in both countries. Japan has some of the issue that afflict Australia at these big meets as well. Behind the US historically there are no more successful swimming nations then Japan and Australia.
The third point here that needs to addressed is turn and start skills of the Australian swimmers, the US NCAA program gives US swimmers a huge advantage here. European nations also get an advantage here also because of their close proximity to each other thus facilitating more competitive opportunities.
Asian countries could develop more competitive opportunities Korea could also join the the Australia/Japan alliance.
Next step put an Australian incharge .

Lawrie Cox

Tony not unreasonable comment but you missed the people who must be held accountable. In 2012 it was unmistakable the target was the Board and CEO. The person following on as President spent a fair amount of time undermining the Board and CEO and of course dropped the ball himself later then we had the sailor imposed on us by the Australian Sports Commission and AOC. Also despite the short term President trying to slot others into CEO and HP roles he was directed away by again ASC/AOC.
As one who was targeted for removal in 2012 and further positions because i am prepared to be vocal and challenge the decisions. Well my view is if the Board had any decency they would quickly fall on their sword and let the rebuild begin with some experienced Swimming knowledge instead of the tail feather prestige that most of them seek.
Interesting times ahead.

Craig Lord

Tony. I don’t think the best result ever in terms of medals is overplaying anything. Many of you are looking at these articles and running instant comparisons with other teams. That’s not what I’m doing right now. We will make our way steadily through the follow ups that we’ll roll out. Digestion and workload demand patience. I commend it to you 🙂 The Canadian women’s team etc – already race an article on that, with one more to come.

Tony McKinnon

Lawrie, some very good points. Suzi O’Neill came in for much criticism for her comments after London, perhaps if the wiser heads had listen to her then we would not be in a worst position now than we were after London.
The main target at any significant meet should be to get every swimmer to produce their best times at that meet. It is not rocket science, it is simply a matter of knowing your swimmers and standing beside them at every turn to help achieve their dream – this is where the Australian swimming team and the nation has been let down.
If 80 % of the Australian team achieved their best time or within 5% of that time Australia’s medal count would have taken care of its self. AOC policy of setting specific medal count numbers goes against fundamental sports psychology. All the text books tell us that coaches and management need to focus on skill execution and mental preparation and swimming PB not the final placing, this has been disaterious for the swim team.
But again I come back the attitude of the Australian coaches, the swimmers already feel bad enough without the coaches getting up publicly saying they need to toughen up – an extraordinary situation given the context. Then we had the bizarre comments from the head coach about the stress on our swimmers and coaches having to peak each year, crazy this is a professional sport with significant funding from the public and private purse – swimmers need to learn to race hard and do their job when the Occassion arises, perhaps comments like this gives us an insight into the “kid glove ” attitude that was implemented by team management at Rio.
A good example of this is the way Cam McEvoy was handled imagine the message he was given by team management when he was pulled from the 200 a few weeks before Rio then during the meet from the 4×200 – the message he could have got from those two decisions is we, the management, don’t think you are up to it despite the fact he proved at the trials he was. He would have been aware of the fact that his absence from the 4×200 cost his team mates and his nation a bronze if not silver medal.
There are so many fundamental basic issues here that it is almost impossible to deal with in this type of context.
Here’s a start listen to people who have been there before you past swimmers, past successful coaches – has any one spoken to Don Talbot?
Swimming does not need overseas imports. As I said at the time of the appointment, overseas coaches to other high profile sports such as Rugby (Union), Cricket and Soccer in the Australian context have failed and only cricket out of the above trio could lay claim to be more an iconic Australian sport as swimming. The idea that people can manage a sport they have no experience in, love for or knowledge of is living in fairy land.
Mean while the excuses keep coming from the coaches – how about some apologies to the nation and resignations – the same outcome that occurs in other sports when teams perform well below their already establish high performance levels.
Interesting times ahead.

Lawrie Cox

Craig i understand the desire to concentrate on some of the better outcomes, such as Canada, Singapore, Demark and Khazistan. There will be plenty more to come yet. Tony reminded me that Suzi and Bill Sweetenham were originally approached to conduct the review of London but were immediately pressured by their respective peer groups to stay away from it. Certainly would have been less expensive and more insightful than the cut & paste garbage that was produced and provided the platform for Swimming Australia as it stands now. A little like the Rio open water start platform breaking up and washed away.

Craig Lord

Laurie, I see that – and we’ll get to it.

Tony McKinnon

Craig no criticism of your article or your wrap up nation by nation, fully understand what you are trying to do for your readers. The point I suppose I was making is that GB like Australia have been serial under performers over the last 15 years. Yes it was good to see them achieve success, but that success should have come a decade ago or at least at their Olympics. GB’s path to success over the past 15 years has some parallels to Australia’s. As far as Canada was concerned just adding my admiration to their performance and affirmation to the thousands occurring around the world for a mission well managed and executed. As an Australian I an envious of the manner in which the team Canada has been managed, hope Australia’s management takes notice


I’m not going to go there with regards to the “fourths that should be medals” for a number of reasons. Can Mr Furniss be 100% certain that all of HIS charges are 100% squeaky clean ??

Whilst he can hope and believe so, he cannot know for absolute certain. Also there is the aspect that in some cases, the “transgressor” in front of his swimmer may have served as the “greyhound lure” that pushed his swimmer to a new level of performance. Without them, can we know for certain that they would replicate such a performance ?? We cannot ….. the same can be said for certain Australians bemoaning certain relay selections/non-selections.

Back to the GBR scorecard, it has to be said that they “hit” the majority of their intended targets.

Peaty win M100brs – hit
SMOC silver W200IM – hit
M4X200 medal – hit
M4XMED medal – hit
Carlin medal W800fr – hit
Carlin medal W400fr – prob bonus hit

Guy missing medals in both 200 & 400 were probably the only “misses” on their likely/probable list. Miley was more an outside bet for the W400IM as was Willis in the M200brs & Halsall in w50FR.

Whilst there was criticism of the GBR selection policy/process; they have due reason to feel vindicated by the results.


Am NOT going to wade into the AUS situation here; will save that for a more appropriate thread except to say:

Lawrie, I 100% concur with your first comments

Tony; whilst a foreigner is not a guaranteed sure fire fix; HOW is an Australian who is a 100% product of the current system, with NO outside exposure, going to necessarily be the right fit ?

Craig Lord

CW – the squeaky clean stuff is an argument that keeps the rot in the pool. He has taken a stand and he does so based on his belief that his own program is clean. He was asked that question and the answer is in the article. It is not for coaches, athletes or anyone else to hold back at this point in history and remain silent because someone closer to them might or might not be doing something they ought not to be doing. Sorry – that is no argument and is helpful to those who would want the rotten status quo to remain in place, unhelpful. Your questions do nothing to fight what needs to be fought. They simply say ‘shrug, oh, well, nothing we can do for they may all be filthy and we know not who’. That’s just weak, weak, weak. I applaud Bill Furniss for what he said; many more are saying it and many more should. History tells us that when enough start doing that, things change. The time for tolerating the intolerable is over. I think you’re wrong on that one – many questions to ask on the anti-doping issue – right now, those you pose are not the priority, really not.

Lawrie Cox

I will pose the question that nobody seems to want to ask. When will a National Federation have the fortitude to give notice to change the doping rules under the FINA constitution?
We hear plenty of discussion what about a specific rule that says ‘once charged and proven with a penalty applied you are no longer eligible for the next Olympic Games.’
This can be done by the Federations and give notice for the Congress to be held next year.
So who will it be USA, Australia, GB, Canada, Japan… Time to bite the bullet and make it black and white.


My points of issue are not moral ones particularly but sporting ones Sorry, Craig but I’m up to here with polemics !! The fact is that Mr Furniss can, and is entitled to make his claims but what he is NOT entitled to do is present his contentions as plain unexpurgated fact !

Yes, these races DID contain swimmers with doping histories that finished ahead of his swimmers. Contending that the races would’ve necessarily played out precisely the same is where I take issue. Each specific race has its own unique set of circumstances that cannot be replicated. Would Guy or Horton swam the same way/reacted exactly the same without SY’s stimulae, ditto Tutton with Ekimova.

As to the morals; lets just see how the whole @&$%fight plays out after both Olympics & Paralympics are concluded. Much as I detest seeing unrepentant offenders still present, I find the rush by certain sporting officials to claim medals under such circumstances nearly as unedifying.

I think the time for stirring polemics is over. Words are cheap, its going to need hard headed political “graft” not only to clear out the various Augean Stables but also to ressurect international sports. This cannot just be restricted to the sporting federations & IOC/IPC but also the functions of WADA (or its successor) and CAS.

Craig Lord

Yes he can CW. If anyone will have a good idea of how clean British swimmers are – he will. And Britain deserves trust – for Britain does not have 25 aquatic positives to its name in the past 7 years etc etc. Come on CW, you can do better than that. It is not about the race – it is about the contention that those swimmers should not have been there in the first place. The rest is purely speculative. Unedifying is seeing the show go on as if nothing is wrong; Michael Phelps gets up for his last medals and who gives the prizes? Kirsty Coventry (great, anti-doping ambassador) and …. Vladimir Salnikov, a man who knows that two EPO tests remain unreported but refuses to acknowledge, refuses to engage. That’s unedifying. That is what you should put more energy into criticising – not Bill Furniss… really not. That’s part of the rot and problem. And guess what – it WILL NOT CHANGE IF SIGNIFICANT PEOPLE DO NOT SPEAK OUT! The time for people to speak up and out is now. No question. Silence will not get the job done, neither on doping nor governance. You make points that I cannot agree with as someone who sits and watches events unfold at close proximity, including the events of the past week, the atmosphere and the damage it does and the mockery it all makes of swimming and the fine things the sport has to offer.

Craig Lord

Laurie – good. And yes, Feds should press FINA to do so… BUT that rule cannot be just FINA – it MUST, under current WADA Code coincide with that Code to be legally strong and stand up to CAS challenge. The FINA anti-doping rules MUST coincide with the WADA Code – and with Olympic rules. The picture will be clearer in September and in the couple of months after that as the IOC returns to Osaka with Osaka Mark II. Yes, Feds should get their proposals ready for 2017 congress – based on what happens in the next couple of months. And more importantly, they should move to reform FINA radically or face the consequence – for consequence there is going to be ….

Lawrie Cox

Craig understand that the rules must be WADA code. However the time has really come to remove the gibberish that appears in DC 10, 11, 12 and be very specific. You get caught your out. Not that you could ever expect the current FINA leaders to be groundbreaking but the Federations can show their determination by leading the way and making a specific set of rules which challenges the status quo and makes it harder to escape the ultimate penalty.
Just imagine for a moment that all this debate about doping is not resolved by the time of the Congress it would be a real show of looking after the sport to make a statement that says as a sport your out of competition.
Even CAS would look silly to try and overturn that if the rule was specifically written.
Lets make the start and get clean back into the competition.

Craig Lord

I agree, Laurie. I just know what happened last time at this point: the pressure moved FINA to go for four years …. and within 18 months or so, the WADA Code was born and it was back to 2 years and FINA had to comply. For this to stick and stand the test of legal challenge, it must come from more than FINA level.


He will have a reasonable idea but the only people who will KNOW for certain as to any competitors “clean status” or not are the swimmer themselves then probably their medical officer then perhaps their coach & loved ones.

I am making zero claims that doping in GBR sport is institutionalised but are there rogue competitors or rogue squads …… same with any other country.

My reference to unedifying spectacles refers less so to Mr Furniss but an incident this year in AUS relating to the re-awarding of a London gold to an AUS race walker after the Russian winner was outed. I have no problem with the guy receiving said medal but the avarice displayed by the AOC & the entire ceremony & circus repelled me and I felt sorry for the athlete involved who was simply dragged along for the ride.

And no; I am NOT speaking from a position of ignorance or moral turpitude but rather from the experience of being a consultant on one such investigation in AUS. Furthermore, I’ve been a member of the judiciaries of two major AUS sports; one a professional football code and the other an Olympic sport as well as a legal officer for 3 Olympic teams. Please, with respects, do not instruct me on how to suck eggs !

Craig, I feel it will take much longer that the opening of the new US Congress in 2017 to get legislation underway. In all honesty, you will need a new uniform global framework agreed and therefore a universal template for such legislation to be passed/ratified globally.

I feel the entire process is going to take maybe 2 years to complete. Whilst constructive work can most certainly be set underway on many fronts; I feel you will need to have the full results of all investigations of corruption & malfeasance tabled (not just McLaren) rather than having to reverse course too far along.

In essence, I agree with the basis of your moral case. Where we differ is that we approach this from different angles; yours is the world of words whereas mine is rather from that of “practical politics” and how WILL we get there.

Craig Lord

CW. I’ve lived with this for more than a quarter of a century as a journalist and as a member of a swimming family long before that. Not once in that time has steady politics and the quiet path got ANYTHING done… significant people, like Bob Bowman and so forth, need (and he has) to speak out (and I am very glad that they have… be it doping, be it suits, be it whatever it is that needs to change; it has only happened when significant people have taken a stand. Politics and the quiet steady hand has NEVER got the job done. I agreed that the issues run to the need for fundamental lasting change in the governance of sport, from which better things can follow on a number of fronts, anti-doping included. CW, I have no interest in your qualifications if I cannot know who you are and with which authority you speak – to touch the sides, you would have to use your real name. The teaching of eggs and how to suck ’em is not what I was doing for I cannot possibly offer such help to anonymous people. You have strong views and you take strong stands and you name people and criticise them (good people) but you do so anonymously. I do what I do in my name. There is a difference. Very much so. The how will we get there is important; the voices of significant people are an essential part of that process.
As for your doping references, they call good people into question when those who are obviously not good get off lightly by default in the approach you take. Such people take succour in such things, make no mistake about it.

Tony McKinnon

CW I find your remarks about Jarrod Tallon quiet off-putting and disrespective. The man was entitled to enjoy some kind of recognition given the emotional high other athletes gain from going through the medal ceremony straight after their event. I witnessed the ceremony at which he received his medal, I saw no sign of him or others showing any sign of being “dragged along for the ride”. Jarrod has been a very vocal opponent of drug cheats, from where I observed the process he was a very willing and appreciative participant in the whole process.
I agree with Craig and Lawrie unless those without guilt speak out, those with guilt will continue to make mugs of all clean people concerned in our wonderful sport.
I feel, however, that under the current FINA management and executive we will continue to get more of the same, denial of the bleeding obvious and a “head in sand attitude”. One can only speculate about their motives, perhaps decisive action would endanger their privileged positions – I think the term is – fat cats.
Only when swimming can free its self from these people and the other aquatic sports, I believe can progress be made. The move to establish a stand alone swimming body run by coaches and ex-swimmers, not ex-water polo players can we hope to make progress.
The developments at Rio with swimmers standing up and speaking out has been inspiring, what a powerful statement Lilly King has made by speaking out. Things will only change by all of us speaking out and the estabishing a new stand alone global swimming body similar to IAAF in track and field. Swimming has totally different needs to the other aquatic disciplines, as this drug issue illustrates.
Bill Furniss has every right to make the point that some of his swimmers missed the podium due to those who have been excluded for past drug offences. One strike and you are out of the next Olympics at least will give some justice to clean swimmers.
It may help you to watch the show on ABC TV tonight on GDR doping machine and observe the unedifying spectral of Renate Stecher denying she ever took drugs, there by preventing Ralene Boyle ( and others ) getting their just deserves.
On the point of the appointing of an Australian head coach from within the system, there those with extensive knowledge and experience capable of doing job from within. The clear history of Australian sport is that outsiders do not work I used Cricket, Rugby and Soccer as example you can add track and field to that- just reflect on the debacle Glasgow was for Australia T& F.
Michael Bohl is one who may have the ability, Brett Hawke even though he has taken out US citizenship is another and if we could entice him away from Aurburn, there are others capable of doing the job.
The disaster of Rio illustrates this point perfectly. You only have to look at Rugby, Cricket and Soccer to observe the immediate success achieved in those sports once the non Australian coach departed the scene.
The progress in T&F so far at Rio is also following that trend.
Australian sport has a unique culture, which is difficult to define and for non nationals to understand.
There are plenty of capable young coaches not tarnished by the London and now Rio experience.

Leave a comment

Post a comment with your SwimVortex Account. Don't have a SwimVortex Account, Sign Up?

(*) Fields are required!