Safe Sport: Questions For FINA Executives & U.S. Head Of Swim Technical Committee

One rule for them, another for the others: cases sit side by side on the FINA website - same substance, very different penalty: Thai guy gets 4 years; Russian polo player, 1 year.

The SwimVortex Safe Sport Series is posing questions 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.

Safe Sport is a global issue and is directly linked to the network on international governance of sport. Swimming offers one of the strongest models when it comes to clear examples of how poor and self-serving governance has a direct impact on the safety and welfare of athletes.

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. After questions to USAS, USA Swimming and their Safe Sport Unit,  we put seven questions to the athletes who represent athletes at the House of FINA that test their professionalism and independence, both of which are essential to their roles.

Today, we pose the following questions to the FINA’s executive and the head of the Technical Swimming Committee, based on just three issues that speak clearly to Safe Sport and athlete health, safety and welfare.

Questions to the FINA executive on issues of Safe Sport; same questions to the Technical Swimming Committee led by Carol Zaleski of USA Swimming.

1. Do you have a Safe Sport Policy or Code – and if so, where is that published as a guide to all of your 200-plus members, many of whom have no such thing?

2. In 2009, FINA Bureau member Vladimir Salnikov, as president of the Russian Swimming Federation, was made aware of two positive EPO tests returned by two young Russian swimmers. Those swimmers identified the doctor who supplied the EPO. FINA was made aware of that in early 2016. There were specific circumstances surrounding the cases that Salnikov and others are acutely aware of. They are issues that not only ought to have been, not only ought to be, referred to WADA but demand to be heard before the Ethics Panel.

  • To the FINA leadership: What inquiry did you hold? Who led the inquiry? And where is the report on that inquiry?

3. Facilities

In 2014, a FINA statement, backed by the Technical Swimming Committee, declared that Facilities Rules dod not apply when World Records are established. That statement was issued even though the official World Record Application form asks the referee to confirm that “All FINA Rules” have been compiled with.

Facilities rules are, as the FINA handbook states clearly, “intended to provide the best possible environment for competitive use and training”.

The rules set out what the dimensions of a FINA Olympic Standard Pool needs to be; they set out what General standards need to be; they set out what the FINA Minimum Standard Pool needs to be, to measure.

Those Minimum standards include length and dimensional tolerance measures. They were formulated by experts who had to consider both standardisation of facilities for fairness – and the health, safety and welfare of swimmers. They include the details of what a lane rope must look like and how big it must be and must not be; they include the details of what a starting block must be, what a backstroke ledge must be, what the temperature of the water must be.

Basically, they control the competitive environment.

In 2014 when a world record was set in New Zealand, the pool did not comply with those minimum standards required and yet both the national federation and FINA overlooked the rule book and rules governing depth of facilities that were specifically designed with safety in mind.

  • How is it possible to overlook such rules, both the Facilities rules and the obligation written as the black line on the World Record Application form?
  • How is it possible for an entire section, and a very significant one at that, of the FINA rule book to be rendered obsolete and irrelevant when a World Record – which demands that All FINA Rules” are met – is established?



The SwimVortex Safe Sport Series: After questions to coaches, American organisations and athletes representing athletes, we pose questions to the FINA leadership on just three issues that speak clearly to athlete health, welfare and safety


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