Britain’s Jess Learmonth and Georgia Taylor-Brown’s were disqualified from the World Triathlon Olympic qualification event in Tokyo after crossing the finish line hand-in-hand.
A photo finish initially gave Learmonth, 31, victory but the pair were later deemed to have broken a race rule.
An appeal was rejected and compatriot Vicky Holland was upgraded to third.
Bermuda’s Flora Duffy was awarded the win ahead of Italy’s Alice Betto.
Britain’s Non Stanford, the 2013 world champion, finished seventh.
In searing temperatures, Learmonth led the field after the swim but was reeled in by 13 others on the bike, including Taylor-Brown, 25, and eventual winner Duffy, who was competing in her first race after a year out to injury.
The British duo then forced a healthy lead on the run and finished together, breaking International Triathlon Union (ITU) competition rule 2.11.f, which states “athletes who finish in a contrived tie situation, where no effort to separate their finish times has been made, will be disqualified”.
The running section of the race was cut from 10km to 5km because of the extreme heat at the Olympic test event.
Tokyo 2020 organisers have been testing misting sprays and air-conditioned tents to combat soaring temperatures, after a 2018 heatwave in the city killed more than a dozen people.
Games spokesman Masa Takaya told Reuters that a “comprehensive review is necessary” following the triathlon event.
Had the race been over an Olympic distance, then third place would have earned Holland, as a Rio 2016 medallist, an automatic spot for Tokyo next year under British Triathlon’s selection policy.
Athletes will now be chosen at a selection meeting later this year.
Holland, 33, said: “I really feel for Jess and Georgia because they raced exceptionally well today and I feel like they absolutely smashed it and deserved the first and second finish.
“I don’t know how British Triathlon will choose things now. I wouldn’t want to be a selector.”
Why Learmonth and Taylor-Brown were disqualified and Brownlees were not
Back in 2016, an exhausted Jonny Brownlee was helped over the finish line by his brother Alistair at the Triathlon World Series in Mexico.
Neither sibling was penalised because Alistair pushed his brother ahead of him on the line. It meant that Jonny clearly completed the race in second place, in front of Alistair in third.
This was a legal move at the time, although the ITU subsequently changed its rules to prohibit such assistance.
Rule 2.2.c now states that: “An athlete cannot physically assist the forward progress of another athlete on any part of the course. This will result in both athletes being disqualified.”