Montpellier - Olympic 200m freestyle champion Yannick Agnel will not defend his
crown at this year's games in Rio de Janeiro after failing to qualify at
the French championships on Wednesday in controversial circumstances.
Agnel (1:46.99) finished third behind Jeremy Stravius (1:46.18) and Jordan Pothain (1:46.81) in the
200m in Montpellier, with his time outside the automatic qualifying
mark (1:46.06) needed to book a place at the Olympic Games.
The 23-year-old thought he had touched the wall second after Stravius, but the timings showed Pothain in second place.
The results were suspended pending an appeal by Agnel's coach to look
into a supposed timing problem that could have occurred because he
touched the timing pad on the wall too low.
But eventually the 2013 world champion's fate was confirmed almost
two hours after the end of the race, with the appeal judges prevented
from studying video evidence due to the rules in place.
Had he finished in the top two, Agnel would have retained a chance of
being drafted for the Olympics, but his third place means he has no
"For me I was second, it was quite clear," said Agnel. "Everyone I
have met said I had evidently touched second, by quite a distance, and
that there was no doubt. I believe their word."
Agnel's coach later told AFP the swimmer would appeal to the French
Olympic Committee while French Swimming Federation (FFN) president
Francis Luyce accepted responsibility for the fact video evidence was
"The rules stipulate that we cannot take into consideration the images, that we have not seen," he said.
The race continues an ongoing controversy in French swimming after
the FFN released Olympic qualifying standards much higher than the
official times requested by international governing body FINA.
All of the top four in the race on Wednesday met the standards set by
FINA, but all fell below the FFN time, meaning that Stravius and
Pothain's Rio hopes remain in the balance.
Former backstroke specialist Stravius' time was the fourth best in
the world this season, while even Agnel's third-placed effort puts him
in the top 10.
Agnel could yet still go to Rio, however, as part of the French relay teams.