The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) sat in lengthy three-hour session to determine the ‘status’ of a case brought by Paolo Barelli, a member of the FINA executive and president of the European Swimming League (LEN) against FINA after the leadership of the international federation refused to refer his complaints against fellow members of the exective to the federation’s Ethics Panel.
Contrary to reports elsewhere, the CAS hearing on Wednesday was not held not to decide the merit of the case and adjudicate on the deeper issues at the heart of the matter. Rather, it was to determine “the standing of the process because FINA had argued that the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of the court and was a matter for FINA”, a source tells SwimVortex.
Barelli had sought to have his complaints – against Dale Neuburger (USA), over alleged conflicts of interest, and Husain Al-Musallam (KUW) over his attenpts to influence the outcome of the election for the presidency of LEN in 2016, admitted by Al Musallam at a FINA hearing last year – referred to the FINA Ethics Panel for adjudication.
His request was refused but when Al-Musallam insisted on having his arguments heard by the Ethics Panel, the subsequent discussion included revelations that both the Ethics Panel and a division of Carrard, the law firm representing FINA at CAS (and elsewhere), had both warned the FINA leadership of a conflict in its rules when it came to who and in what circumstaces an complaint may end up before the Ethics Panel.
That issue is at the heart of Barelli’s case against FINA, CAS the body to which the Italian turned when he was refused right of hearing within the international federation.
Sam Ramsamy, the South African member of the FINA Bureau, is understood to have asked for a snap decision that would bring the matter to an end as soon as possible. His rush may have much to do with the fact that FINA is a month away from General Congress, a presidential election that puts Barelli up against the wounded incumbent, octogenarian Julio Maglione, and the World Championships in Budapest.
Barelli is understood to have told the court that the process “should take as long as it’s needed, in order to reach a fair and thorough outcome”.
At this stage of the process, Neuburger and Al-Musallam were not required to appear, the focus on the standing of the argument not the cause of the com;saints Barelli wished to have heard by the Ethics Panel. Al-Musallam has even weightier matters on his mind: he was cited as “co-conspirator” in the guilty-plea case of soccer official Richard Lai who says that he received almost $1m in bribes from Kuwati sports officials at Olympic Council of Asia and the Kuwait football association.
CAS lawyers are now deliberating to determine where Barelli’s arguments should lead to.