The SwimVortex Safe Sport Series
As part of our series, SwimVortex sent questions to various parties, including coaches, official bodies, advocates and athlete who represent athletes. The latter include athletes within the House of FINA. They are a long way from the realm and scandals of USA Gym, the responsibilities of USOC and even what USA Swimming’s leadership must answer to when it comes to abuse that unfolded on their watch.
The purpose of asking the FINA athletes committee for its view on serious issues that directly affect the welfare and safety of the athletes they supposedly represent was two-fold:
- to gain deeper understanding of how much those athlete representatives feel on issues that, without a shadow off a doubt, directly affect the health, welfare and safety of athletes
- to gain deeper understanding of how much those athlete representatives feel empowered and able to respond to serious issues unfolding in aquatic sports
The answers – grateful as we are to receive them at a time when FINA is top of the league of organisations that simply ignore media, coaches, athletes, stakeholders, when the questions are not to their liking – fall well shy of demonstrating that athlete representation is in the hands of independent people prepared to put up a vigorous fight in the interests of those they represent, regardless of whether that causes FINA’s leadership to sulk and stamp their collective feet or not. The answers also tell us that the athletes feel protected in their roles provided they don’t stray from the play pen any has out them in. The controlling hand is all too visible. Not good.
There are two rays of hope and light:
- the note from athletes places far more weight in explaining its in-house position and what I would call a cage than it does to providing reasonable answers to the questions posed. Change starts with awareness.
- facilities rules do indeed count and must count if athlete safety and welfare are to count, the athlete representatives indicate, despite an official view from FINA that world records can be set in pools of any depth, regardless of any danger to swimmers, regardless of rules that set out, on the advice of experts in safety what the minimum depth of any pool that complies with FINA Minimum Pool Standards – must be.
In general, the answers show a lack of awareness on some issues and highlight that athlete representation in its current form falls very far shy of where it needs to be. Clearly, it cannot be left to athletes who feel they are not so much representing athletes as a priority in all cases, regardless of how challenging those may be, as they are representing the House of FINA and feel that that means “collaboration” not confrontation, even when confrontation is likely to be the only way that athletes will be best served.
- For deeper understanding of those issues, read the presentation of advocate Nancy Hogshead-Makar in San Jose yesterday.
Penny Heyns and Britta Kamrau, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Athletes’ Committee, confirming that they have yet to put the questions sent by SwimVortex to the wider committee they lead, note that, while they appreciate that Safe Sport is the important issue at hand, they are, nonetheless, part of the House of FINA and feel that their role is not to challenge but to coollaborate:
“The AC is able to engage in communication without prior FINA consent, however, for the sake of clarity, we are part of FINA and not an independent body representing the athletes as a counterpart to FINA. We can only be effective in strongly promoting athletes interests (as we see them) including but not limited to welfare, safety and health if we work in collaboration with the respective committees and FINA Bureau.”
The obvious questions, rhetorical in the current environment and structure of swimming governance, are: “What happens when you fundamentally disagree with a FINA leadership that either ignores you or, if while paying attention, says ‘our decision is final’ on an issue that has a direct and in your view negative influence on and consequence for athlete safety?”; “How then do you represent athletes; to whom do you turn?”
Key solutions, some of them raised in poignant and powerful fashion by Nancy Hogshead-Makar in San Jose yesterday as she highlighted that the issue is one pertinent to all Olympic sports, are both very clear and bound to be unpalatable to FINA and all such bodies:
- FINA should have no hand nor say in which athletes represent athletes
- Athlete representation should be professional and independent
- FINA and such bodies must change their rules in keeping with the tide: they must deal with athlete representatives from outside their house, with people they have no control over
- The same principles should apply to coaches
- FINA should agree to having seats, with votes, at the top table for those representing athletes and coaches own an independent basis to avoid precisely what the athletes point to: they are in-house and therefore unable to represent athletes when the heat is on and the leadership rejects the demands of athletes, leaving those in-house representatives between the devil and the deep blue sea.
To avoid those issues is to leave athletes sitting at a table with the likes people there for decades and who knew about the recommendations of a USA Swimming ‘Abuses Committee’ since 1991 but did nothing to make the Safe Sport program forced into being in 2010 a part of preventative measures designed to ensure a safe and healthy environment for athletes.
The SwimVortex Safe Sport Series – so far:
- significant developments in GB Masters
- the words of Olympic podium placer Michael Jamieson and considered their relevance to woeful culture at the heart of FINA and the poor response of national federations who show no inclination to use their potential power to change the game in the interests of athlete protection from various forms of abuse.
- the Larry Nassar abuse case, a story about much more than a doctor who traded the hippocratic oath for hypocrisy and criminality; a story that calls into question the usefulness of the Olympic Movement, the United States Olympic Committee and the role of USA Swimming when it comes to the protection of athletes.
- Climate Change: empowering coaches to ensure sport is a safe, healthy and enriching place for all, at whatever level: we recall 2014 lectures delivered by Prof. Joan Duda, of Empowering Coaching, at the World Aquatics Development Conference in Lund on a day of high relevance to current events; and by Dr. Fiona McLachlan, academic adviser to Shane Gould in the 1972 triple Olympic champion’s PHD studies, for the guardians of swimming youth to consider “How to be Good”.
- the relevance of Fran Crippen and his passing to events at the Winter Olympics.
- the death of Qing Wenyi
- World Coaches call for global swim community to press FINA on clean sport
- If Prohibition Must Sober The Olympics, Then Ban The Blazers Craving Nobel Prizes
- Time To Ban The Olympic Cold Shoulder To Truth, Whistleblowing & Red-Flag Waving
- I Ran Past The First Watchman … Does your silence indicate permission to pass?
- Why USA Swimming’s Leadership Must Face Full Inquiry Into Abuse Down The Years – The Orange Country register’s telling investigation
- Susan Woessner Resigns As USA Swimming Safe Sport Boss Admitting Hutchison Link
- Don Heidary, ASCA Board President, Writes Of ‘Real Culture of American Swimming’
- Athletes On USA Swimming Board: ‘Why Was Complacency Allowed To Take Hold?’
- ‘Knock. It. Down. & Burn The Remains’ – Time to Torch The Olympic Scam Of Us & Them
- ASCA Director Leonard Says Ehekircher Allegations “Categorically Untrue”
- USA Swimming Handed Safe Sport Manifesto By Special ‘Abuses’ Committee 27 Years Ago
- USA Swimming Reaches For “Reputation Strategist” At Height Of Safe Sport Crisis
- Nancy Hogshead-Makar: How USOC’s Power Games Hobbled Athletes’ Ombudsman
Questions sent out this week to pertinent parties:
- Questions For Coaches On Their Jobs, Athlete Welfare & The Role Of Blazers
- Questions For USA Swimming, USAS & Their Busy Safe Sport Unit
- Questions For Athletes Who Represent Athletes At The House Of FINA
- World Coaches: We Need Global Safe Sport Regime But USA Fear Of FINA Stands In Way
- Safe Sport: ASCA Boss Puts Parents On Line & Tells Coaches ‘be correct, beyond reproach’
- Mark Schubert: ‘I Told USA Swimming Boss Of Abuse Claims ‘numerous times’ – In Vain