The Kuwait Swimming Federation has lodged a complaint with FINA reminding the international federation that its first vice-president, Husain Al-Musallam, the heir apparent to the presidency of the global body, is persona non grata back home and does not have the backing of his country.
In a 13-page letter to FINA, the new KSA leadership cites chapter and verse in FINA rules that clearly grant domestic federations that form the membership of FINA the right to select the officials who will represent their country in international governance.
FINA’s leadership approaches General Congress later this month on the eve of racing in the pool at the World Championships from July 23-30 mired in a crisis of its own making at a time when athletes are gearing up for a fight on a new front.
Al-Musallam was named in U.S. Justice Department papers this year as a co-conspirator in the guilty-plea bribery case in which soccer official Richard Lai, of Guam, received payments worth almost $1 million. FINA has come under pressure to impose a temporary suspension pending investigations. To date, FINA has said it will take action in the event of wrongdoing but has not launched its own inquiry into matters that are covered under FINA rules.
Denying any wrongdoing – and in the absence of any official FINA inquiry into whether its No2 officer has a case to answer when it comes to behaviour strictly forbidden in FINA rules, he continues to serve as the FINA ‘first vice-president’.
Al-Musallam is also at the heart of a complaint from fellow FINA executive Paolo Barelli, the Italian challenging Julio Maglione, 81, for the presidency of FINA. The Kuwaiti, whose removal from office at home has been ignored by Maglione and the FINA leadership, admits in evidence he insisted on giving to an Ethics Panel hearing that he did indeed seek to intefere in the elections for the presidency of the European Swimming League (LEN) last year.
Given the accusation inherent in the Lai case, European officials believe that an inquiry at FINA level is essential in order to clarify that there are no officials in places of power and influence who feel that the exchange of large sums of money for no apparent reason form a reasonable part of international sports governance.
The twist in the backdrop to recent events is that Kuwait is currently suspended by the International Olympic Committee and FINA over allegations of political interference in sports governance.
However, in a letter received by FINA yesterday, the new Kuwait Swimming Federation reminds the global body that it does not approve Al-Musallam’s candidancy for the position of FINA first vice-president. Under FINA rules, no official can stand for top office unless backed by the member nation’s federation.
FINA’s leadership has argued a way around that position by suggesting that Al-Musallam has the backing of his continental organisation, the Asian Swimming Federation. Critics say, with much justification, “well, he would have the backing of the ASF, wouldn’t he – he runs it”. He does indeed, together with one of those accused of being a fellow co-conspirator in the Lai case, Sheikh Kalid B.Al-Sabah (president of the AASF).
Sheikh Kalid B.Al-Sabah, who resigned from all his FIFA roles in the wake of the accusations made against him in the Lai case – accusations he denies – stepped down from the chairmanship of the KSA on August 23 last year. In the weeks that followed, three other leading KSA officials also resigned, forcing the KSA to hold new elections for appointments required to make it a functioning federation.
It was a row at home among the ruling classes over Sheikh Kalid B. Al-Sabah – who holds hefty sway in Olympic circles and became known as a kingmaker in IOC elections, including Thomas Bach‘s elevation to the presidency – that caused Kuwait’s suspension.
None of that should affect the right of Kuwait to be represented by its official swimming federation in FINA, the KSA argues. Nor should FINA allow those unapproved at home to stand for international office under the letter of its own law.
In its letter to FINA, signed by the chairman of the Interim Committee Homoud Obaid Al-Hajiri, the KSA points out that there were no procedural nor constitutional irregularities in the elections that settled the new leadership of the domestic federation. The KSA cites chapter and verse of its constitution to point out that it has a right to elect its own officers and niominate who it choses for FINA positions. It has a right, too, to object to being represented by those it does not approve of, in common with every other federation around the world.
The KSA reminds FINA that it is working “collaboratively with the state Kuwait Public Authority for Sport with a view to addressing the issues which led” to Kuwait being suspended by the IOC – and subsequently because of that by the likes of FINA.
The new KSA states that, while suspended, it wishes to exercise its right as a FINA member to take “a firm stance against discrimination, particularly when the livelihoods of its athletes are at stake”.
While Kuwait swimmers will be forced to race at world titles and other events under the flag of FINA, not that of their country, the likes of Al-Musallam, with the blessing and official consent of his fellow FINA executives, barring Barelli, has been allowed to conduct business as usual and is now standing for the No2 position in FINA without the approval of his country and at a time when he faces serious allegations of wrongdoing.
One source told SwimVortex:
“That this man is from a suspended nation is one thing; that he is not backed by his country’s FINA member federation is another; and then we have a situation in which a leading official of FINA stands accused of highly serious allegations of a kind that, if proven, clearly break FINA rules. It feels like the FINA leadsership is determined to stick to its own agenda regardless of how many problems that each passing crisis builds for the future.”
The FINA presidential and Bureau races take place in votes on July 22 in Budapest.
The KSA has asked for open clarification from FINA on “its position concerning Mr Al Musallam” ahead of the General Congress of the international federation in Hungary.