Safe Sport: Questions For Athletes Who Represent Athletes At The House Of FINA

FINA world - the only option swimmers are allowed - Patrick B. Kraemer

The SwimVortex Safe Sport Series reaches its second week, during which questions will be sent out to relevant parties with a view to understanding where official bodies, coach representatives, athlete representatives, advocates for victims of abuse and those governing the sport of swimming at all levels, nations through to Olympic think their roles and responsibilities rest.

Beyond the death of at least one athlete, the passing of Fran Crippen offering tragic insight to the failings of Olympic sports governance and the structures that support it,   sexual abuse and then doping top the list of the entirely unacceptable events that not only could and should have been unearthed and dealt with but were known about and yet failed to trigger in those long in leadership positions in swimming the first line of priority and purpose in their roles: athlete safety and welfare.

Our series so far:

As pledged, SwimVortex will send pertinent questions to relevant parties this week. We will publish the questions and then, from next week onwards, the answers we receive (or note those we do not hear back from). Our questions are based on what we understand and the questions readers have told us they would like answers to.

This week, we sent questions to the World Swimming Coaches Association and the American Swimming Coaches Association.  Their replies were as swift as they were fascinating. Yesterday, we sent questions to USAS, USA Swimming and their Safe Sport Unit.

Today, we turn to the athletes who represent athletes at FINA.

Jacco Verhaeren, right, with team coaches – Swimming Australia

Safe Sport, of course, is a worldwide issue and abuse goes well beyond that of a sexual nature. Doping, coercion, being encouraged to be wilfully blind, to look the other way, under threat of removal from your right to represent, if representing is what you actually get to do. The controlling hand of HQ and the FINA leadership is well documented – and led to the resignations of three anti-doping experts from their roles and Jacco Verhaeren from his coach-committee role at FINA. Commissions and committees are only effective if they are allowed to act independently and provide honest checks and balances on serious issues. They should not be window dressing: to use them as such is a clear abuse of power and damages FINA.

So, To The FINA Athletes’ Committee:

I have just seven questions for you. Each, and all together, they will lead us to understanding of how effective and how much teeth, with all due respect, you are/have as a group when it comes to representing athlete welfare, including health, safety and

  1. Vladimir Salnikov. Have you asked your Bureau Liaison why he chose not to report two positive EPO tests returned by young Russians in 2009, the WADA Code broken not only by the swimmers and whoever administered the EPO but by the failure to report to WADA … and if not, why not, given that the welfare of athletes is clearly in focus?
  2. GDR: the story of State Plan 14:25 is well known and I assume that you all know it (if not, I recommend you start reading); the German doping trials and court cases of 1998-2000 are also well documented. Dr Lothar Kipke, one of the leaders of abuse and a member of the FINA medical commission at the time he was abusing teenage girls (his Stasi, secret police, minder even reported on him because his style of ramming syringes of steroids in the backsides of girls as young as 13 was said to be brutal) still has the honour FINA gave him. Athlete welfare is clearly in focus – have you called on then FINA Bureau to remove the award and make a public statement to that effect, one that would send a clear message from the top table and set a new tone for clean sport and athlete welfare?
  3. Ye Shiwen and London 2012 and the competitive environment: it is well documented that cameras at the Olympic Games caught the moments, five minutes before each of the medley finals in the pool, when Ye entered a toilet near the call room with two members of staff, one of them a man. She was 16. That clearly should not happen, under any circumstances. What measures have you taken to consider the competitive environment and controls that would prevent such things occurring?
  4. Wold records and facilities rules: FINA’s leadership has stated that Facilities Rules – covering the dimensions of pools, including safety issues such as the depth of the diving end and so forth – do not apply when a World Record is broken. The World Record Application form requires the referee to sign to the fact that “All FINA Rules” have been met. Athlete safety and welfare clearly in focus, what is your opinion of the view that  FINA Minimum Pool Rules that make sure athletes (of all levels, including teaching) do not break teeth and crack skulls on the pool floor can be ignored when a world record is set?
  5. Did you discuss, as a group, the doping crisis of 2016 and ‘Star Wars’ in Rio, when athletes expressed very vocally their contempt for those carrying a doping record – and if so, how effective was then Bureau liaison Matt Dunn at taking your message to the top table of FINA and bringing back acceptable answers?
  6. Do you welcome the European Competition (trading, the right to work) Commissions ruling that asks all sports federations to remove rules forbidding athletes from competing beyond the auspices of one global federation? (The ruling, handed down to the global skating federation, will be applied to all sports and effectively makes it illegal for FINA to punish any European swimmer who wishes to race at events that do not carry FINA approval – thus ending the days of global monopoly of swimming)

The last, compound, question links all five above and many others:

  • Do you feel you have the authority, without reference to the FINA leadership or HQ, to reply directly to these questions as a group with its own thoughts and mind?

I end with a request: without the need to reveal the name of any one of you, I ask each of you to send me a short e-mail at to indicate if you have been approached and/or instructed not to reply to any of the questions above by any member of the FINA leadership, staff or ‘volunteer’. We pledge to keep your identity confidential but will report any such attempt to silence you or any threat to remove any of you from your positions.



The SwimVortex Safe Sport Series: Safe Sport is, of course, is a worldwide issue and abuse goes well beyond that of a sexual nature. Doping, coercion, being encouraged to be wilfully blind, to look the other way, under threat of removal of the right to represent, if representing is what you actually get to do within FINA. On that note, seven questions to the FINA Athletes’ Committee


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