Grinsber and Plaas

Wollongong ballroom stars have been banned from the national championships for the next eight years after getting caught up in a bizarre stoush with the sport’s world governing body.

Amateur champions Steven Grinbergs and Rachelle Plaas are among at least 14 couples banned from World DanceSport Federation events for falling foul of its code of conduct.

The WDSF prohibits couples from dancing in events not on its official calendar.

Grinbergs and Plaas were slapped with three separate bans after they danced in a series of “unregistered” competitions including the London Ball, Singapore Open, United Kingdom Open and The Star Ball in England. The most recent ban, issued by WDSF general secretary Shawn Tay on April 5, means they are suspended from all WDSF-sanctioned events – including the Australian DanceSport Championship – until 2020.

Grinbergs said he and Plaas danced in the unregistered overseas competitions because they were among the oldest and most respected contests in the world.

“The adjudicators are all ex-world champions and finalists,” he said.

“My heart lies with the tradition and where ballroom came from and where it should be.”

No-one at WDSF’s head office, in Spain, answered the Mercury’s call yesterday, nor were emailed questions answered. A code of conduct on the federation’s website prohibits athletes from taking part in DanceSport competitions not listed on the official competition calendar, unless it is with written consent.

It cites anti-doping concerns and disruption of the WDSF calendar as reasons, but goes on to say “grounds need not be given in the event of refusal”.

Don McRobert, president of Australia’s governing body DanceSport Australia, concedes on its website that it “does not have the power to prevent the suspension of couples from an event registered with an international organisation”.

“Should couples wish to enter such events, they must abide by the rules of the international organisation,” Mr McRobert wrote.

About 48 couples boycotted the Australian Championships last year, when Grinbergs and Plaas and five other partnerships were banned over the same issue.

by Angela Thompson

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