Sports/Olympics / Off the Field

Swimming-Australian coach defends German world record-breakers
Updated: 2006-08-08 14:04

MELBOURNE, Aug 8 - Germany's swimmers, who broke a clutch of world records at last week's European championships, are drug-free and have set the new standard in women's events, according to Australia's head coach Alan Thompson.

"There is no evidence at all to even mention drugs in the same breath as those performances," Thompson told Tuesday's Herald Sun newspaper.

Germany's women swept all before them in Budapest before head coach Orjan Madsen was forced to angrily deny claims their improvement was down to doping, saying German teams would always be tainted by the regime practised by East Germany in the 1970s.

Britta Steffen led the charge, the 22-year-old eclipsing Australia's Libby Lenton in the record books by clocking 53.30 in the blue riband 100 metres freestyle.

She also helped the German 4x100m freestyle relay team upstage Australia's 2004 Olympic gold medal-winning quartet by setting a new mark of three minutes 35.22.

Steffen, with team mates Petra Dallmann, Daniela Samulski and Annika Liebs, also smashed the world 4x200m freestyle relay mark held by the U.S. but Thompson leapt to the defence of the German athletes. "It was very easy to jump on it following the drug scandals in the Tour de France and with Justin Gatlin in athletics," he said.

"It's a shame when there are questions like that asked about good performances."

Thompson admitted that Australia's place at the pinnacle of women's swimming was under serious threat by the Germans after Lenton, Jodie Henry, Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper dominated the 2005 world championships and this year's Commonwealth Games.

"There is no doubt our girls aren't as dominant as they were 12 months ago and a showdown is looming in Melbourne at the world championships (in March)," he said.