Swimming Has ‘No Big Problem’, Says FINA Boss Even As Comet Doping Hurtled In

Cornel Marculescu, director of FINA [Photo by Patrick B, Kraemer]

Editorial “In swimming it [doping] is not a big problem.” So spoke Cornel Marculescu, the man in the top seat at FINA headquarters since 1986, last weekend. He could hardly have chosen a worse moment to call it so wrong on doping, yet again. A week on and the work of this author, this website,…

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Editorial “In swimming it [doping] is not a big problem.” So spoke Cornel Marculescu, the man in the top seat at FINA headquarters since 1986, last weekend. He could hardly have chosen a worse moment to call it so wrong on doping, yet again. A week on and the work of this author, this website,… […]



It would not surprise me if FINA are taking under the counter payments to keep the drug cheats free from exposure.


It would also not surprise me if there were already investigations of FINA underway. The way a few of the larger national federations still backed FINA last summer despite legitimate complaints in some areas made me wonder if they had been pulled aside and quietly told to back off for now in order not to spook those under increased scrutiny.

Craig Lord

There is no evidence of that happening, gheko, as far as I’m aware, we note.


Why is a Romanian running World Swimming? The only competitive swimmers that country had in the past were drugged up.


p1robi; the explanation is very simple. FINA is the governing body of all non-boat related aquatic sports which means diving, water polo & synchro as well as swimming.

Mr Marculescu represented Romania in water polo at the 1964 Olympics and was later an international referee (1972 Olympic final).

Whether your or I may like it, these other sports are part of FINA and there is nothing in the organisation’s rules that says that the hierarchy must all come from swimming. Will or should swimming break away and govern itself is something that may or may not come to pass.

Craig Lord

Swimming should break away, common wombat, the universality of nations and sports under the FINA umbrella is the root of much malaise, mediocrity and misunderstanding, things like underwater video cameras used for decisions and disputes not there in swimming because water polo people don’t want such things in their sport, for example


I agree,

swimming should break away from FINA. There is no volley ball/football in IAAF, so why should swimming be clumped together with water polo?


Craig, that may or may not happen. I understand, and by and large, can go along with the reasons for doing so however the flip-side, that of probable lessening of “political power” has to be acknowledged.

ASF;. whilst you and I frequently agree; that is a very poor example to illustrate your point. Volleyball and football are completely unrelated sports to track and field (IAAF’s turf) whereas water-polo, diving etc are essentially pool based aquatic sports and therefore a realistic linkage to swimming.


Swimming is unusual in that it has no specific governing body. Unlike most other sports, it is grouped together with those mentioned above. It surprises me that it is such a minority sport in terms of TV coverage, and earning potential. It draws big numbers during Olympics but tails off greatly afterwards. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be much bigger than it is. That’s a big failure on FINA’s part and the idea of breaking away would be a very positive move. In the right hands, the only way is up.

Craig Lord

commonwombat, there is no benefit for swimming in a continued link to synchro and diving etc… they are entirely different and separate sports. The only reason for the link to be retained is political and in a way that helps the politicians and their status… it makes no differences to swimmers, swim coaches and programs. I see no flip side for swimming … if FINA had behaved itself, all good and well. FINA’s leadership has proved itself to be unworthy of running global elite swimming. Swimming needs to break away or change FINA in a radical way.

Craig Lord

Quite so, Ger.

Tiger Christian

Correct Ger for sure! The Juggernaut of FINA and the Federations that it makes up is impossible to change in a radical way because of what it is made of……Federations…… and because of the psychology of what it is derived of proving in the last few decades no one has been able to change FINA in a radical way is a fact. Understanding the concept of Federations and Coaching Associations not having a relationship to a new business entity that governs the highest level of swimming demands a new psychology of understanding. However both Coaches and Federations will have the power to influence the character and development of a new swim governance will take a commited focus making the right decisions for the right reasons. The concept of higher level expectations such as a meet or swim competition having a more prestigious element of worth and value than the Olympics itself. Welcome to the World Pro Swim League. Time for FINA and WPSL to have an arm restling match. The biggest question is…. How will Athletes react? Does anyone know the answer to that question??????


Ok, Tiger, I’ll pay you for a wonderful hypothetical. FINA, and most national federations, have been poor stewards of the sports best interests but we fail to realise a core truth.

Much as we may wish to deny it; swimming IS a niche sport and only really enters the wider public consciousness as part of wider sporting events like the Olympics. Who makes up the bulk of the crowd at swim meets ? Mostly family of swimmers.

You speak of a World Pro Swimming League. A wonderful concept but where’s the corporate juggernaut itching to be it’s naming rights sponsor ? Let me tell you, the corporate sporting dollar is incredibly transient and their lawyers are some of the sharpest when it comes to extricating them from contracts.

Network TV is generally only interested in covering major events and whilst cable may pick it up, it is now a rapidly shrinking market in most countries. Live streaming is certainly an option but as yet, its not bringing in any money for the organisers.

Such a league most certainly could come into being; my point is that its far from a sure or sound bet to be an on-going proposition.

As for overall sporting governance; I feel that it may all blow up should Rio prove a disaster which is something one hopes does NOT eventuate but still remains a real scenario.

Could the Olympics themselves survive ? Potentially not or maybe in a much less bloated form. Maybe THIS could be the catalyst for overhaul of international sport as a haul. What the end product may be ……..

Craig Lord

Tiger, common wombat makes some points that speak to my reservations. I don’t have time to discuss your entire content right here but 2 points: a. it would have to carry the full support of the very best athletes around the world and heir coaches and programs; the concept you shared me does not tick the right boxes right now, in my opinion. I am not suggesting the general idea would not work but what I’ve seen so far of your plan would not gain the support it would need. I applaud anyone thinking about this subject – swimming needs a new steer, no question.


I think you make it too gloomy. There is already money in professional swimming. If there was no money we wouldn’t see this struggle for power within FINA and against FINA. If there was no money in competitive swimming then there wouldn’t be any doping problem. If there was no money then there would be no attempts of changing the distribution order making it more ‘honest’. What I can agree with you on is that this business that we call professional swimming has been run very poorly. The profitability could be much higher. There is a golden period in women swimming. So many names of exceptional swimmers. So exceptional that we may not see anything like that in decades ahead. It is so stupid not to make money on that and to not raise popularity of professional swimming. Look what Tiger Woods made to the professional golf. He made it younger, more expensive, more profitable. Why was it possible? Because everything was in place within PGA to capitalize on such unique opportunity. Neither FINA’s international governing nor national federations are capable of doing such things. This bureaucratic organization doesn’t bear any responsibility for having poor profitability. It is out of any business competition and the only concern is the form of distribution of that little that they manage to earn. That is the perfect condition for corruption, covering up, and absolute absence of any motivation to change the business model.


*struggle for power


Yozhik, there is most certainly money in professional swimming but how just how much ? Is it an increasing pie or one that is contracting ?

I’m taking a cautious line on this on the basis of the cold commercial realities of top level sport of today !

The corporate sponsorship dollar is not only decreasing as a whole but also proving to be transient in the main. Any sporting org with a long term deal is praying like hell that it can/will be renewed as finding a replacement/replacements is proving increasingly problematic.

Why do corporates withdraw their $$$ ? Any number of reasons. They may see this sponsorship as no longer suiting their marketing. International/domestic economic factors may have them having to tighten the purse strings. Adverse headlines for the sport or that team may see them question their further involvement/exposure.

Some of the money you are seeing at the moment may be for this Olympic campaign or the like …….. sometimes sporting orgs/teams will grab for anything to make ends meet.

You paint the case of PGA golf. Yes, its had a boom-time but what is the viability of a lot of tournaments these days ? Damned precarious actually.

You may watch the Tour de France and think …. this sport is going great. However, a number of major historic races have had to “go under” or are under threat financially. Even at World Tour level, teams have had to merge or drop to a lesser division to survive. Some new races in other countries HAVE emerged and a few have been successful, the long term future of others is questionable.

What about the staging of major sporting events, be they Olympics, World Championships for whatever sports, major races on the calendars of various sports ?

Whereas once this would be looked on as a premier option to showcase your city/region to the wider world; this is far from the case now. Putting the bloated Olympics aside; the demands of the various federations or organising bodies are such that the list of prospective hosts is ever narrowing. With ever increasing demands on their purse for provision of key services; the discretional $$$ are far less if even available. Corparates may come to the party ……….. often they don’t.

Craig Lord

CW, the price of peripheral comforts for big events have pushed costs up beyond the scope of many potential swimming hosts. That is a result of the gravy system of self-serving governance that has failed sports such as swimming. I don’t accept that every member of the FINA Bureau needs a personal chauffeured car for 3 weeks throughout a world championships (vast expense for the hosts). That is a largesse far too far – and is just one example of such things.


Craig, as a team official at a number of Olympics; I’ve seen the gravy train in all its macabre splendour !!

But it is only part of the picture. Look at the obscene $$ demands to maintain a place on the F1 calendar ? The $$ demands from race organisers of the Tour de France to various towns or cities looking to host a stage depart or finish … or even to route through your town ?

What has been the result of this in many sports ? The awarding of major events up to the size of the soccer World Cup to nations with the deepest pockets (ie the Gulf states) despite their unsuitability.

Oh yes, sports governance needs to change ….. but it needs to be across the board and some unpalatable decisions be taken ….. and this may mean downsizing in some cases.

Craig Lord

CW, absolutely. The trouble for swimming is that it simply cannot afford/does not have the sizeable sponsors such as Mercedes and corporate giants etc and lifestyle-oriented backers, to fund the luxury lifestyle that FINA’s top officials enjoy without a consequence when it comes to which hosts are prepared to step in and fund the gravy on the plate. Around 5% of FINA’s budget goes on prizes for swimmers… that’s a pittance compared to what other sports grant for such things from their purse (the tennis/ swimming comparison is very clear – vastly different sums (and sports) but the percentages for athletes in swimming pales dramatically by comparison to what pro tennis players can earn deep through the rankings.


You are very convincing, CW. What can I say? I just wanted to note that swimming as sport activity attracts many people. I have no exact statistic but won’t be surprise if it is millions of them. In such situation why not to expect that the best of them can make this sport a profession by making competition a sport show that will have its spectators, fans, sponsors….whatever comes with entertainment. As any sport the swimming has its specifics of preparation and training cycles. That explains why we cannot have excitment of swimming competition very often, but to see Ledecky’s firework just one time per year is a wasting of great commercial opportunity. Professional swimming has to be smarter as business, and does not spend money on something that has low ROI. I’m not professional in this area but it is clear to everybody that if the particular form of competition is not profitable then don’t repeat it again and again like it happens with FINA swimming world cup. If the swimming championships is losing money and is hard to find the host for then find another less costly form to figure out the strongest swimmer of the world. Through the set of duels or whatever that will gather the crowed. Why professional boxing is successful?
Make this competition interesting for wider audience not for family members only. If long distance race with Ledecky is boring to watch then make it with group of ‘rabits’ or with something that will highlight the uniqueness of what is happening in the pool.
If one wants to make great show then make something untraditional that will gather a great crowd, bring smile and a lot of money. Make a set of races that will include for example half fun half serious competition between Campbell sisters and Ledecky at 400 🙂 Plenty of opportunities to promote this sport. The existing form of governing this sport is hundred years old. It is so ancient that doesn’t have any resources for self improvement.
Despite whatever you said CW is true I still believe that professional swimming has a future if it finds forms that are about swimmers but not about administrators and if it unleashed the opportunity for the business to make this profession profitable and blooming.


Many of cycling’s wounds are self-inflicted. I can rattle off a decent list of sponsors (Barloworld, Festina, Mapei….) who will no longer sponsor individual teams because of the sport’s ongoing doping issues, though Festina is still a big race sponsor.

As for swimming, I understand who some people are not big fans of Chuck, but he’s been a good steward for USA Swimming during his time as its head. Granted with Phelps, it’s easier in some ways to get the money coming in, but he’s got a system where fairly modest annual athlete fees and sponsors are able to fully fund national team who hit world ranking marks with a living wage, pay NBC to broadcast a good chunk of the Pro Series slate (even if it is on a bit of an obscure channel at times) and work with local clubs and associations on ‘soft power’ areas like learn to swim and minority outreach programs.

The down side is that USAS is big enough that it can spend most of its time looking inward and only really seems to be interested in the bigger global swimming picture for about two weeks every year, and I think the sport would be better served if they were more interested in global governance. When few were happy with the rubber suits, it was the Americans who lead a near unanimous vote for their further ban; that soft power is still there (there are plenty of other swim federations who have gotten athlete or technical help from the American systems over the years) and a polite request for a small voting consideration in return for decades of favors has the potential to make big changes if the Americans ever feel motivated to do anything.

Tiger Christian

Great chalenges equal great opertunities. We all have acurate facts that are producing auspicious elements of creation. Imagine in war that winning one battle does not always win the war. Imagine a relay against the bureaucracy of FINA. Time is of value and the essence of the right timing will produce its own character in light of what is now happening. Imagine a chess match in which FINA does seem to have its pieces in a more powerful position than its competitor. The competitor is more defined and visible now than ever before and Bobby Fisher is not an easy one to call check mate against in any matters of game piece stratagy.

The point is clear that winning the war agianst FINA will take more than one victory of an idea of new psychological concept of sport governance and what it can only stimulate. It will need acurate precision of the right timing and speed of action in matters of battle. Do we atack the FINA castle now or build our own castle??

Decoy stratagy or double reverse angled psychology??? The right moves for the right reasons need to be made at the right time.

Money and funding does not trump brain power. Pro Swimming and its status against other Pro Sports is another concept to rectify. Why is Pro Swimming better and more exciting to view than the other sports?? The answer to that question is your marketing stratagy and funding for our League when it is an element of action. FINA has it’s drawbridge going up, however they are all not in the castle. Is that comprehendable?


Tiger, there are an awful lot of buzz-words and pseudo psychology in your piece. Sadly, I deal with cold realities.

Just how commercially viable IS a Pro Swimming Series ?? First questions to address are the Where(s) and the When(s). The Duels in the Pool always look so wonderful on paper yet perennially disappoint due to one party generally being at a disadvantage.

Putting on such a meet brings with it significant overheads. Venue hire to start with; accommodation for competitors and deck officials; travel costs for competitors.

DO you have a suitable generous naming rights sponsor…….. and can you deliver a suitable television deal for that sponsor to get suitable exposure ?

None of us know what the future will be post Rio. Whilst no one would want a disastrous outcome; the fall-out for international sport may be immense. WILL FINA survive the fallout ?Will there be international swimming as we currently know it or will it devolve into a pure Pro-League ?

But even if this last scenario comes to pass; the core fundamentals that I mentioned above will remain and unless these are covered (and can be maintained); it’s survival will remain questionable.

You ask which way will swimmers decide. My response is that of a former AUS PM who once said “Always put your money on self interest, you’ll know the horse is trying !”. They will plump for the option that will offer them the highest prize. As long as FINA holds the sole entry pass to the Olympics then they aren’t going to jump ship. If the playing field changes (no more Olympics) …………………..

Tiger Christian

CW…. You make some good points and have good questions, however pseudo psychology would not be accurate. Having freedom and an intuition yes, but I do not have all the anwers.

Is there an answer and a pathway? Yes

Does an accurate stratagy for victory exists? Yes

Does FINA have to control Swimming at an International, Olympic, or Pro Level? No

Are these questions facts? Yes

Tiger Christian

Another point to make clear CW.

In the game of chess you can make one move at a time and predict moves ahead for yourself or your opponent. What you can not always do is predict your final moves or your opponents moves at the begining. Formation stratagy is important in the beging because they are your first moves that will give you vision, lay of the land, and an intuition of what to do in the final stages that will or will not produce victory.

My point to you is that you have good questions that need to be answered, however the answeres to them are not your begining formation moves for the concepts we discuss. Your questions and the answeres to them in formable fashion are what will produce victory in the final stages.

Back to a true pyschology of the real World Pro Swim League. What are more important questions of a begining formation are there and the reasons for them? ?? These answers will produce a base stratagy formation to answere your final questions answeres more accuratly.


Maybe the following information (if it is accurate) can help. In discussion of Joseph Schooling’s races in Rio was mentioned that in 2012 Singapore had a gold medal bonus of the equivalent of 800,000 us dollars. It worth to try 🙂



IIRC, Schooling already received hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars from his SEA Games exploit in 2014.
Schooling has the best of all worlds.
He receives completely free full tuition for his college degree, he can have NCAA experience with access to world class elite coaching and facilities and he receives hundreds if not millions already from Singaporean government and enterprises.

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