Mikhaylo Zubkov's Lifetime Coaching Ban Cut

MELBOURNE, Australia -- A Ukrainian swimming coach, whose Melbourne brawl with his daughter became world news after it was videotaped, will be free to coach again for the Beijing Olympics.

Mikhaylo Zubkov with daughter, Kateryna.

Mikhaylo Zubkov will be back poolside with his daughter, Kateryna, from this Thursday after an international court ruled his lifetime coaching ban was too harsh.

"It's a huge relief," Zubkov, 39, told the Herald Sun yesterday. "I feel my name has been cleared."

Speaking from Ukraine yesterday, Kateryna, 19, said she was delighted with the news and excited her father could resume training and supporting her at competitions.

"I am very happy," said Kateryna who recently returned from the US, where she swims and studies. "I can now concentrate on the Olympics."

The pair clashed at the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships in Melbourne last March over Kateryna's choice of boyfriends.

Zubkov was accused of bringing swimming into disrepute after video of the coach and swimmer violently quarrelling at Rod Laver Arena was beamed across the world.

An exclusive series of Herald Sun articles revealed the story behind the heated exchange, their regrets about the incident and their hopes of being reunited.

The severe life ban imposed by a FINA disciplinary panel was appealed by a Melbourne legal team led by Paul Hayes and Paul Horvath, who travelled to Switzerland and represented Zubkov.

In a backflip at the weekend the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the ban and replaced it with an eight-month suspension, which expires on December 27.

The Swiss court accepted submissions from Zubkov's Melbourne legal team that he had not hit or otherwise assaulted his daughter.

It found that although Zubkov's conduct was "aggressive, violent and unbecoming an accredited team official", he did not bring the sport of swimming into disrepute.

The court ruled that his lifetime expulsion from coaching or any future FINA activities by the FINA disciplinary panel was too severe and disproportionate to their findings.

"We are of the view that the appropriate sanction is that of suspension rather than expulsion," said the hearing panel before president Dr Kaj Hober.

"Given the special nature and unusual circumstances of (Zubkov's) conduct, we find that a suspension for a period of eight months from 27 April to 27 December constitutes an appropriate and proportionate sanction."

Zubkov and his daughter were the subject of close media attention on their return to Ukraine, which placed great stress on their family and caused the coach's business to suffer.

Kateryna also had to find another coach.

Zubkov said although he did not think he deserved the penalty, he believed justice had been served. "I am very relieved that it's finished now," he said. "This has been a constant cloud hanging over my head."

Zubkov also profusely thanked his Melbourne legal team and the help and support of Australia's Ukrainian community members, in particular Mike Tkaczuk.

"They believed in me and in getting a fair hearing for me. Without their help I would not have been able to return to coaching," he said.

Sports law specialist Mr Horvath said the court's landmark ruling sent a strong message to sporting disciplinary bodies.

"Imposing tough penalties because the world media is watching . . . is not delivering justice or fairness," he said.

Source: Herald Sun

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