LONDON (Reuters) - Britain were deserved winners of the men’s cycling team sprint gold medal but the discipline’s regulations should be changed, French technical director Isabelle Gautheron said on Friday.
In Thursday’s qualifying session, Britain’s first man Philip Hindes crashed after a quarter of a lap in the match against Germany, prompting a re-start with the home team going on to win the title in world-record time by beating France in the final.
“The team sprint regulations should be changed. We need more clarity,” Gautheron told Reuters.
“But the best team won, they beat the world record twice, they deserved their victory. They played with the rules. When you crash in the team sprint, it’s considered as a false start.”
Hindes seemed to have trouble with his front wheel and was about to be passed by team mate Jason Kenny.
Under International Cycling Union (UCI) regulations, Britain would have been disqualified had Kenny, the second rider in the three-man set-up, passed Hindes as riders start in a pre-determined order and are not allowed to change it.
German-born Hindes said afterwards that he had crashed deliberately, before denying it in the post-race news conference.
British newspapers quoted him as saying: “I just crashed. I did it on purpose to get a restart...it was all planned really.”
The British team said his comments had been “lost in translation”, adding that the cyclist, who was cleared to switch nationalities and compete for the hosts in March, had started learning English only in October 2010.
The incident is certain to spark more debate about fair play at the Olympics.
Officials acted swiftly to investigate a scandal in the badminton earlier this week, sending home eight players for throwing matches in a bid to secure more favorable draws.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Friday it was happy with events at the cycling.
“At present there are no plans (to investigate),” spokesman Mark Adams said. “People were not deprived of the contest. The UCI are aware of the situation. They do not see any reason to question the result and neither do we.”
The UCI said they were aware of the remarks attributed to Hindes but would not comment.
Gautheron suggested that the UCI should have a way to find out whether a crash was deliberate or not.
“I have no problem with that rule, it’s just that they should find a way to see if a rider crashes on purpose or not,” she said.
“For the sake of the sport, maybe one false start should trigger an elimination. Usain Bolt, after all, was eliminated at the world championships for a false start.”
Kaarle McCulloch, who won a women’s team sprint bronze for Australia on Thursday and witnessed the crash, defended Hindes.
“I assume and hope that every athlete has good sportsmanship and I don’t think that the Great British team would have done something like that on purpose,” she told a news conference.
“I can’t imagine that Philip would have done that on purpose, it was obviously maybe a slip of the wheel, the track is quite slippery with the tyres that we run.
“I think that Jason Kenny was quite close to him as well so there’s just plenty of factors that could have helped to that outcome.”
Gautheron remained gracious in defeat, saying of the British: “They were the strongest team. They beat us by 0.4 seconds, there’s nothing to say about it.”
There was more drama and chaos at the Velodrome on Thursday with Britain and China being relegated in the women’s team sprint for illegal changeovers.
Britain were left empty handed while China had to trade their gold medal for silver in favor of their final opponents Germany.
“It’s a bit amateurish, the regulations are not precise,” Frenchman Daniel Morelon, the China coach, told reporters on Friday. “Even Germany had not seen anything.”
“I did not get a proper explanation (from the commissaires). They said ‘you had been warned in the pre-race meeting with the managers’. But it’s just words, it’s not a rule.”
Asked if the regulations should be changed to make it clearer to the public, Morelon said: “Even the coaches don’t understand.”
Morelon, the last Frenchman to win the individual sprint Olympic gold in 1972, said that Hindes’s trick was fair.
“It’s part of the game, you just don’t say it,” he said.
“A false start should be allowed. Otherwise you can lose everything you have worked for for four years on a slip.”
Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Clare Fallon