Durban - The official who disqualified amputee swimmer Natalie du Toit from the women's 5km open water race at the national championships in Durban at the weekend, has clarified his decision to penalise the Paralympic star.
Du Toit was stripped of her title for "unsporting behaviour" after she was deemed by referee Peter Pienaar to have blocked the path of fellow competitor Michelle Weber in a tight finish at Inanda Dam.
The 28-year-old effectively swam her rival out of space in the final sprint for the touch pad, though she insisted it was perfectly within the laws of open water swimming to do what she did.
Pienaar, however, felt otherwise and explained that the swimmer had contravened the rules.
"I deemed it as unsporting conduct in terms of Fina rule 6.3.2," said the Swimming SA (SSA) referee.
"To me it was a sporting incident and what I construed as unsporting conduct.
"I made the call on what I saw, so it's now over." Rule 6.3.2 states, "if in the opinion of a Referee, an action of a swimmer or an escort safety craft, or a swimmer's approved representative is deemed to be 'unsporting' the referee shall disqualify the swimmer concerned immediately".
Du Toit reportedly appealed the decision, but the appeal had been turned down.
"As far as I was concerned, I saw an infraction and I called it immediately," Pienaar said.
"I radioed in straight away to the officials not on the water to call the infraction.
"I also stated that there was probably going to be a protest, but I called it anyway."
Weber was on Du Toit's right as the two raced towards the finish and the multiple Paralympic gold medallist, who competed in the women's 10km event at the 2008 beijing Olympics, said her opponent could have taken evasive action once she knew the touch pad was so close.
"For me it's clearly personal," said an upset Du Toit.
"I mean, the Olympics were won in that way.
"There were no ropes or anything, so she could have at any time gone onto my left-hand side.
"It's open water and there was a whole dam there. She chose not to."
Du Toit was particularly disappointed at the reasoning behind the decision.
"Getting a DQ for being unsportsmanlike was not called for," she said.
"I understand if I punched her, I understand if I kicked her, I understand if I did something like that, but it's open water and what I did was (normal in) open water."
Du Toit said she would attempt to book her place at the London Olympics, in the 10km open water race, at a qualifying event in Portugal in June.