Time To Ban The Olympic Cold Shoulder To Truth, Whistleblowing & Red-Flag Waving

Lane lines - photo by Patrick B. Kraemer
 SwimVortex is running a Safe Sport series scrutinising sports governance and the structures that underpin it. From domestic to international, federations and associations are coming under scrutiny like never before. For good reason, too. Safe Sport and athlete protection is in focus.

This week, we are considering the issues in play. Next week, we will post the questions we put to key players as swimming wrestles with its own #metoo and #Time’sUp challenges; we will ask those players to respond and, the week after – providing plenty of time to reply – bring you their replies and note any ‘no comment’ returns and explanations as well as any lack of response.  Our series so far.

Today – as the Safe Sports Act was signed and sealed in the USA – we start to look at the surface of why Truth, Whistleblowing & Red-Flag Waving are too often alien concepts in an Olympic realm where all who accept positions paid or voluntary carry a measure of responsibility, the ultimate end of which has to be carried by those in charge no facing calls to fall on their swords. 

Hungarian headlines are running wild this week: coach Fred Vergnoux has ended his long-term coaching partnership with Spanish pioneer Mireia Belmonte, the Olympic 200m butterfly, and will from now on be coaching … Katinka Hosszu.

It all makes sense, the reports say, Vergnoux the perfect match for Hosszu (said to have parted company with her husband and coach Shane Tusup), given the similarities of multi-skilling and much else between her and rival Belmonte.

The brackets are significant: the rest of it is complete fabrication. And yet it is all out there.

It reminds us of other things out there right now that test our judgement and call on whole communities of people to be aware of the kind of bad things happening around them that are directly linked to their working environment and the governance structures that they are a part of.

In the past week, we’ve seen the leadership of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) comes under serious pressure, complete with calls for CEO Scott Blackmun‘s head; we’ve seen the kind of response to that from that leadership that confirms the problem is very real; we’ve heard the cry of Ariana Kukors and the denial of Sean Hutchison, we know that both lied to an investigative process that can, at best, be described as dubious on a number of levels, including the efficacy of dealing with a potential victim of abuse in a ‘short’ interview in a phone call and the speed with which a verdict was put out to the world after that phone call; we’ve watched Sean White soar to Olympic gold anew and feel the warmth of hero-worship from fans and those around him only to then face the drop and crash of questions over sexual harassment allegations made against him by former drummer for White’s band Bad Things, Lena Zawaideh, in action that ended in a non-disclosure settlement.

The questions were raised at a press conference in which not a single hand raised by a female journalist was taken by those deciding who could ask questions. Deliberate? No, say Team USA officials, while White issued an apology on a TV show for having suggested the harassment claims were “gossip”, when clearly they were not. He followed that with these words:

“I’ve grown as a person over the years. It’s amazing how life works and twists and turns and lessons learned. Every experience in my life I feel like it’s taught me a lesson. I definitely feel like I am a much more changed person than I was when I was younger. I am proud of who I am today.”

What we did not see was a 31-year-old behaving like a grown man and facing and answering the questions being put to him, nor Olympic team officials encouraging him to do so (indeed, they shut it down – not good); what we do not see is a public apology to Lena Zawaideh, not gossip but that non-disclosure deal of the kind that might best be placed on the banned substances list in Olympic sports among the things that stand in the way, we are left to assume. Blazers, teamsters and fans, as well as whole cultures are a part of the wilful blindness that afflicts humans.

The lines coming out of Korea and the Winter Games yesterday brings into focus the words of a former GDR swimmer – an Olympic champion in her day – I once spoke to who said she felt she had been in safer hands with doctors who gave her performance-enhancing drugs because of the care and control and monitoring she was under every day, than she would have been in the hands of certain coaches and programs far and wide in the world. The USA Gymnastics crisis tells us why – that and the words of that GDR swimmer apt to sink the soul.

The complexities inherent in all the above have some things in common that speak to the state of play in Olympic sport in 2018: the governance structures and systems that bind them have failed not only to prevent bad things happening but have often taken no responsibility for such things and, as a consequence, have then added momentum to woe by failing to find appropriate ways of mopping up the mess and even spending money on trying to brush the facts under the carpet and seeking ways to discredit those raising red flags.

There’s something else in the mix, a fact that is at once frustrating in the extreme and a ray of hope: the ranks of organisations such as USOC, FINA, USA Swimming, coaches and athlete communities, sports scientists and many others include a great many good people who do a terrific job day in and day out, who are not hangers on by nature, who do want the truth to be told, who do want to do the right thing and work on that in a variety of ways – but when the bad thing happens then hit the buffer of ultimate choice: shout ‘hey, that can’t be right’, or stay silent.

Does FINA have whistleblowing policies and procedures in place, complete with safeguards for whistleblowers? In the shot, Julio Maglione, top right, is the latest in a line of federation presidents going back to George Hearn in 1908

Many opt for the latter in order to stay doing what they do (all the more understandable when they are working under people and in places and for organisations that have no mechanisms in place for whistleblowing, complete with safeguards for whistleblowers) and do the things they can do. They do so knowing that there are bad things happening; they do because they know that to raise that red flag is likely to mean that they will not only be ostracised by the system but that other good people watch all of that happen and remain silent, too.

Allow that culture to take hold, as it has in key places in the Olympic realm, and you have a poor environment for athletes and others who have nowhere to turn to when the day goes down, through various forms of abuse, sexual and the damage of doping on the podium.

To some extent, all who accept roles and positions, paid or volunteered for are a part of what makes up organisations like USOC, FINA and federations down the chain – and all have some responsibility for outcomes, good and bad. Important to note, though, that most of those above have no say and no influence when it comes anywhere close to granting awards to Vladimir Putin, when it comes to having a man cited by the U.S. Justice Department as a co-conspirator to in a guilty plea corruption case an heir-apparent to FINA, when it comes to national federations going along with all of that to get along and try to press their own agendas and interests beyond the main forum of decision-making.

Cate Campbell – by Marco Alpozzi / LaPresse

Not all things can be excused, however, and when the likes of Matt Dunn sit at at the top table of FINA to represent athletes, they really ought not to stay silent and leave other swimmers to raise the issues that need raising, as Cate Campbell did with passion and accuracy in 2017. There can be no question, the folk who must be asked to fall on their swords are the few calling the shots, the executive (‘volunteer’, they say of themselves … yet, in so many way, a million miles from being so: how many of you pop along to help in the local hospice, sports hall, church and so as a volunteers and expect to get a per diem of $150 to upwards of $500 for your efforts that day?) – and the highly paid staff at the top of the tree in such organisations as USOC.

A good point to note that something like 100 people earn more than $200,000 a year at USOC – and the boss earns half that figure every month. In a realm where the vast majority earn next to nothing as they work for many years to seek the chance to represent their country.

In the mix of grace and favour systems at the heart of the Olympic Movement are lobbies of like-minded people who see what their culture and customs lead to but refuse to take any responsibility. That is a part of the human condition well beyond sport, of course. Another tragic reminder of an inevitable cycle of tragedy greets us in the headlines today as the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, talks to 29 the number of mass shootings in the US in 2018 (we’re just over 40 days into the year).

Calls to “depoliticize” the debate may make sense to those who want a solution all can live with, literally, but we must also acknowledge the difficulty of such things when Donald Trump’s presidential campaign received more than $30m (some reports suggest more than $20m – in any case, a hell of a lot of money) from the National Rifle Association. The President of the USA is far from being the only one on the payroll of the NRA, of course.

The difficulty of a cycle obvious to all but those who find excuses not to see it: 1. Mass shooting, often with multiple deaths; 2. Congress sends thoughts and prayers; 3. Gun Control an obvious must; 4. Gun lobby gets in touch with politicians they fund; 5. All goes quiet on the western front; 6. Repeat.

Yes, there are complexities and cultural history in play but there can be no denying that the message in this brilliant and biting cartoon, to be found in the Chronicle Herald archive in California, hits the target.

Tragic but, as with the best of caricatures, right in the lap of what ought to be truth so uncomfortable as to force change.

Of course, we’re not talking mass murder in Olympic sport but make no mistake that people have lost their lives as a result of whistleblowing or their potential to whistleblow in Olympic sport; make no mistake that whistleblowers in sport have had to go into hiding, leave their countries, find a place in exile, with protective measures put in place around them because they tell a truth that powerful people don’t want you to hear; make no mistake that down along the line of similar mindset are people who feel collateral damage a is something acceptable so that their way is the way are those who control the often self-not-athlete serving structures and decision-making processes that underpin Olympic sport.

We will learn at some stage this year if and how that has played out at USOC as an ‘independent’ (no details, so we cannot yet judge just what is meant by the word so loved by blazers who have spotted the thing demanded of them but have yet to actually embrace the true meaning of independence) inquiry gets underway.

That inquiry, if it has teeth, may consider whether the following is a part of the problem:

  • USOC high performance personnel working in swimming continuing to work with and send funding to and promote the products of people and programs long after abuse claims related to those people and programs came to light – and at least some of that with the knowledge of some at USA Swimming
  • USOC high performance personnel working closely with coaches and athletes in sports such as gymnastics and Taekwondo long-term but without having spotted any of the many cases of abuse (not all sexual; some of it involving athletes forced to train on with broken bones, torn muscles and other ailments that might have been best handled through a second, independent, opinion) unfolding under their noses

Spotlight on swimming – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Given what we already know about what’s been going on, the likelihood is that we’re going to hear more excruciating details before someone high up the chain of influence and law-making says ‘enough – no-one is engaging with any of this unless these new structures and conditions of governance in the control of an independent Olympic Oversight Organisation are met and accepted by the top table of the IOC as a prerequisite to Olympic membership’.

The autonomy of sport and the universality structures that enable abuse of many kinds to unfold around the globe (any who doubt it need only turn to the works of Andrew Jennings and others and run an internet search on ‘Olympic scandals’ to know that that is indeed the case. Providing luxury lifestyles and per diems handed out after all costs have already been covered and amounting to annual sums far in excess of average family wages in the vast majority of Olympic member nations is not the best way of ensuring high ethical standards prevail.

And underpinning all of this is the work and commitment of good people. When we refer to ‘FINA’, we often mean this: a relatively small number of individuals with nothing else to do in life but play sports politics and enjoy the rich rewards of so doing backed up by a much greater body of people who know bad things are happening as a direct consequence of the poor and unethical (at times criminal, as the record shows) management of those controlling the game but feel unable to do anything about it and believe (often mistakenly) that if they keep working hard and chipping away at the block in their own corner things will come good.

History has shown us that they will not. It has shown us that if the question is not to the liking of those who have an obligation to provide answers, the policy of FINA is simply to ignore the question (that extends to ignoring, completely ignoring – as in no reply whatsoever – coaches and athletes who raise questions and ask for the federation to consider review and reform in key areas).

Here is an example of exchanges that prove FINA does not stick to its own rules and attempts to skew them in its favour when it feels convenient to do so – and below that, a list of serious questions as examples of many more put to FINA by this website and The Times and Sunday Times newspapers but completely ignored.

In 2014, I asked FINA about the terrific 15:22.69 1500m freestyle effort swum by Lauren Boyle at the New Zealand nationals. The time was inside the World short-course record and a process of ratification began with New Zealand Swimming sending in a signed World Record Application form.

Lauren Boyle of New Zealand – by Patrick B. Kraemer

New Zealand media raised the question of the Wellington Pool and how the competition course was set up ion that day. It was all the more controversial because young swimmers had cracked heads and broken teeth at the facility as a result of them diving into water too shallow for that to be safe. Some cases ending up in official complaint and legal processes. So, athlete safety definitely an issue (and subsequently, new laws in New Zealand would make I so backed by responsibilities that extend to sports federations).

Back to 2014. National Championships? Surely the dive end had been deep enough. Well, as it turned out, no, it wasn’t. Here’s the relevant FINA rule:

  • FR1.3: FINA Minimum Standard Pools. All other events held under FINA Rules should be conducted in pools that comply with all of the minimum standards contained in this Part.
  • FR 2.3: Depth – A minimum depth of 1.35m, extending from 1.0 metre to at least 6 metres from the end wall is required for pools with starting blocks. A minimum depth of 1.00 is required elsewhere.”

The Wellington pool in question

Minimum. Not only was the water depth too shallow in Wellington but the problem extended beyond 6m from the wall. So I asked FINA whether the record could stand given that, through no fault of the swimmer, safety rules had clearly been broken (there was no FINA compromise back in 1990 when Glen Housman set the world 1500m long-course record but the time could not stand because the electronic timing system failed and the hand-held time of three officials was not accepted – none of which involved the safety of swimmers).

The reply: “In this case, we have received all the guarantees from our Member in New Zealand that the pool has the necessary conditions for Swimming competitions. Moreover, please note that there is no specific requirement concerning the depth of the pool when considering the application for a World Record.”

I asked for clarification and was told that the Technical Swimming Committee, the body led by USA Swimming’s Carol Zalewski, had confirmed that facility rules didn’t apply when judging whether. performance would be ratified for a world record or not.

That reply ignore the fact that I – and others, such as coach David Wright in New Zealand, had pointed out, correctly, that the FINA World Record Application Form required the referee to sign only if “All FINA Rules” had been complied with. Surely, safety and facility rules that specify dimensions are very much in play when world record are set.

No, said FINA. So much for athlete safety and sticking to the absolute letter of rules written by people who did indeed have athlete safety and fairness in mind when they write what they write in plain English.

Sun Yang on poolside with the man China’s media says is Ba Zhen, banned May 17, working with China’s top aquatic asset September 22

I asked that question – but this time received no reply. A similar sequence of events unfolds when Dr Ba Zhen** appeared on the pool deck at the Asian Games in Korea with Sun Yang* just four months after the swimmer tested positive for a banned substance. The vigilance of this website would lead to Ba landing a second WADA suspension because he broke the rules anew by working with swimmers during the period of his first suspension.

FINA had received the same information from this author months before WADA acted but took a very different approach.

Before contacting WADA, I wrote to FINA to say: I take the opportunity to ask, once more (and this question seeking a response that would be for publication): what is happening in the case of Dr Ba Zhen, the doctor banned for a year from May 17 but caught on camera and film accredited and working with Sun Yang at the Asian Games in September. Under the WADA Code, that would trigger a second offence, with a requirement for the doctor to serve a second year of suspension from may 17, 2016. Is the WADA Code to be enforced by FINA?

FINA’s reply: “After our check, Dr. Ba Zhen has not been accredited to this competition through the Chinese Team present in the Asian Games.”

And that was the extent of investigation and responsibility of the signatory to the WADA Code. An unsatisfactory answer from people who know very well that one cannot just turn up to a major international Games as a doctor, athlete, journalists or person in any other function without an accreditation that MUST be signed and approved by someone in an official capacity: federation, editor and so on. Beyond that, we are talking about a doctor from China simply deciding as a private person to leave the country and appear with Sun Yang at the Asian Games without the approval of anyone in authority. How likely? Extremely unlikely.

With that, we reach a selection of questions to FINA that have gone unanswered. They relate directly to Safe Sport and the underlying and at times vicious and premeditated resistance to the telling of truth, without which Olympic Sport will never be the athlete-focussed safe place it ought to be (keep in mind as you read this that FINA offered a PR outfit $150,000 in 2015 for a four-month plan of action that included an intent to ‘discredit’ ‘critics’, including SwimVortex; and sponsors have let this site now that FINA leaders have sought to persuade them not to support our work, which is, in part, why we have a subscription service so that you, the reader, can make a contribution to us remaining here):


The late Fran Crippen

The 10km races at the Asian Open Water Championships were held in waters off the Malaysian coast at 31.9 degrees Celsius. The FINA limit since two inquiries recommended that temperature limits and other race conditions be imposed after American ace Fran Crippen died in a badly flawed FINA world cup event off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in 2010 had been 31C.

FINA official Ronnie Wong, who served as chairman of the international federation’s Technical Open Water Swimming Committee when it established rule OWS 5.5 (specifying temperature limits), of giving a thumbs up to the race off Malaysia that was sum in 31.9C, around the same temperatures

Team Japan complained but no-one else did and Wong and other FINA officials dismissed the correct protest of Japan and let the race go on.

My note to FINA – which was ignored:

Could you answer, on behalf of the many swimmers, coaches and other readers who are asking and are among swimming’s leading stakeholders,  the following questions:

  1. did the Asian OW Championships unfold in waters of 31.9C as widely reported?
  2. if so, why was that allowed to happen and who allowed it to happen given the upper limit imposed in FINA rules when it comes to water temperatures for open water competitions held under FINA rules by your member organisations?
  3. if what is reported is correct, will FINA be taking disciplinary action against any officials and the Asian Swimming Federation, of which the first vice-president of FINA is a top ranking official?
  4. assuming the reports are true, will FINA be offering a sincere apology to Fran Crippen’s family, teammates, the Japan national Open Water Team and the wider Open water swimming community?

Many thanks for your attention. No reply.

How can that be? How can that be left to stand? Tomorrow, before sending the above questions and many others to relevant organisations and people on the issue of Safe Sport and governance, we will look at a key Olympic example of structural concern: how the House of FINA, built from the same Olympic blueprint as those used in many other sports (and therefore relevant to the wider Olympic discussion), is, as it stands, a part of the problem not the solution.

 For those interested to see the extent of FINA’s policy of refusing to answer questions from journalists or others considered ‘the enemy’ for highlighting serious issues, here’s a run of other entries in a book of unanswered questions, 2014 to 2017:

Cornel Marculescu, director of FINA, and the official 2014 calendar for 2014, showing Yuliya Efimova in July, after she tested positive for a banned substance in October 2013


  • Could you confirm that the Bureau has considered the unanimous
    request of the Press Commission in January 2014 that a form of
    reconciliation for the victims on both sides of the German Democratic
    Republic (GDR) – and if so what was the Bureau’s decision?
  • In light of the above could I also ask what FINA intends to do about
    the PIN awards granted to and still held by former GDR officials who,
    like Lothar Kipke, were subsequently handed criminal convicitons and
    have clearly brought the sport of swimming into disrepute?
  • Could you tell me which members of the FINA Bureau/executive actually
    discussed and then voted on the award to Vladimir Putin – and, given the
    controversial nature of the decision, did that process follow
    consultation with the wider membership of national federations?
  • Following up on questions above after they remain unanswered:
  • should FINA have embroiled itself in politics [by awarding Putin at a time of questions over Crimea, an inquiry into a jet load of people shot out of the sky and leading to the deaths of all of them; and continuing questions about Russian doping]?
  • did the President of FINA, Julio Maglione, and others agree to honour
    Putin without full and formal consolation with the Bureau as a whole?
  • did any Bureau member insist on the matter being discussed at
    Bureau level the moment they got wind of it, regardless of any decision
    and move that may have already been made?
  • Late 2014 – to the entire FINA leadership management and the heads of all relevant committees and commissions by email:
  • Dear FINA President, members of the FINA Bureau and the heads of the
    relevant boards and commissions related to doping control,
  • I write to alert you to a series of ARD/WDR documentaries on Germany’s
    prime stations that allege systematic doping in Russia. The allegations
    stretch to swimming…
  • (Some description)
  • Given the alleged link to swimming, my questions to you all are as
  • What measures are you taking to investigate the allegations and the
    serious nature of an official document held by ARD lawyers that links
    Vladimir Putin directly to what is alleged to be a state decree that
    calls for anti-doping test samples to be opened at the Russian border if
    they involve Russian athletes?
  • Do you find this ethically acceptable on your watch for a sport with
    clear anti-doping rules and one signed up to a WADA Code that forbids
    any interference with the chain of command on anti-doping samples?
  • Do you [the leadership] feel comfortable with granting the federation’s top honour to anyone who is now alleged to have signed a decree in 2010 that
    called for checks to be made on anti-doping samples at the Russian border
    so than none (sample and athlete) may leave if a test might prove
  • Have you asked the executive director who serves FINA to inquire at
    ARD/WDR so that you might be better informed and able to take a view and
    make a decision? Or are you happy to ignore this?
  • I am not putting my questions to the FINA media department nor FINA HQ
    because questions put to them in the past two weeks have gone
    unanswered. That is unprofessional, irregular and disrespectful.
  • Sincerely, Craig Lord
  • 2015
  • – The swimmer Natalia Lovtsova is listed as being suspended until May
  • http://www.fina.org/H2O/docs/ad_cases_dopingcasesreport2012new.pdf
  • Apparently, Russian authorities reduced this suspension to two years
    instead of 2.5 years, as the FINA case file has it.
  • Was that ruling ever accepted by FINA and if so, can you point me to the
    contemporaneous note of that ruling?
  • – in light of the WADA IC report and the recommendation that Dr Portugalov
    of Russia be banned for life – and given the strong evidence in the
    report, confirming the allegations made in the ARD documentaries at the
    heart of the WADA inquiry, namely that Russian swimmers and coaches were
    among those queuing up to receive banned substances from Dr Portugalov,
  • I have the following questions:
  • What steps is FINA taking to ask WADA, its inquiry team and the ARD
    investigative team to understand more about swimming’s connection to the
    crisis unfolding?
  • Given that Dr Portugalov is a member of the LEN and Russian
    federation medical commissions that are members of FINA, what action are
    you taking to ensure penalties are imposed on the official in question?
  • Given that the Russian swim federation is a member of FINA, what
    steps, if any, is FINA taking to ask that members of FINA to engage in a
    dialogue about who was involved, who might be penalised under the WADA
    Code (this links to question 1 and the ongoing investigations of WADA’s
    IC) and what can be done to ensure a change of culture?
  • Is anyone at the heart of FINA leadership aware of a green card
    system for certain athletes that is designed to make sure they never
    officially test positive for doping or that cases never come to light?
  • – For the sake of accuracy, could you please let me know whether FINA has
    resolved this issue of the Brazilian men’s medley time still showing as
  • World record – short-course
    4x50m medley
  • Russia 1:32.78
  • Stanislav Donets Sergei Geibel Aleksandr Popkov Evgeny Sedov
  • pending Brazil 1:30.51 Doha (QAT) December 4, 2014
  • Guilherme Guido, Felipe França Silva, Nicholas Santos, Cesar Cielo
  • – could you please confirm the correctness or otherwise of the following
    item issued by the Yonyap news agency:
  • Park Tae-hwan swims at the Olympic Swimming Pool in Songpa
    District,Seoul, Monday. This is the first time that Park has resumed his
    training in a 50-meter pool after he was slapped with an 18-month ban
    for testing positive for testosterone in March. Park has been unable to
    train in an Olympic-size swimming pool as he is banned from government
    and Korea Swimming Federation-run facilities. But the International
    Swimming Federation allowed him to train with his former coach Roh
    Min-sang as a general member of Roh’s swimming club.
  • The report suggests that FINA has granted Park permission to break the
    WADA Code in terms of his obligations and those of affiliated members
    during his period of suspension. Is that correct?
  • – I read that the Korean federation has taken a view on coach Roh, one that I feel is in complete conflict with the WADA Code. I understand that WADA takes the same view.
  • Here is what I read:
  • “After a complex interpretation on FINA’s punishment, Park, who was
    seeking an Olympic-size pool, learned that he can train on his own as a
    general member _ not as an athlete _ of his former coach Roh Min-sang’s
    club at the Olympic Swimming Pool, and he resumed his training on June
    1. Park paid a 300,000 won membership fee to join the club and spent
    about 90 minutes in the water.
  • “FINA prohibits Park from “participating in any capacity in a
    competition or activity (other than authorized anti-doping education or
    rehabilitation programs) authorized or organized by FINA, any FINA
    member organization, or a club or other member organization of a FINA
    member organization, or in competitions authorized or organized by any
    professional league or any international or national level competition
    organization.” Since the KSF does not authorize any kinds of swimming
    clubs, Park’s activity does not conflict with FINA’s regulation, the KSF
  • “The same goes for coach Roh. Roh is running the club as a private
    person, thus Park’s first reunion with Roh since the 2010 Asian Games
    does not cause any problem, according to the KSF.
  • “Roh coached the national swimming team at the 2006 Doha Asian Games,
    the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympics where Park
    clinched a gold in the 400-meter race. Roh coached Park from an early
    age and took the national team job in 2006 for nurturing Park into one
    of the greatest swimmers in Korea. After Park was embroiled in his
    doping scandal, Roh has said publicly that, “Park should be given a
    second chance for his service to Korean swimming.”
  • MY QUESTION: is a coach who has served as national coach at World
    Championships and Olympic Games and is a regular presence at FINA events
    with the Korean team to be viewed as a man to whom the WADA Code does
    not apply?
  • – I write in relation to the follow statement from David Howman, head of
    WADA, in response to FINA’s statement on the Kylie Palmer case:
  • “WADA has acknowledged FINA’s press release of 18 June regarding the
    provisional suspension of Australian swimmer Kylie Palmer, who received
    an in-competition doping control test on 31 July 2013.
  • “It is important to clarify some details that were omitted from FINA’s
    announcement. WADA first requested information from FINA on the case on
    5 October 2013, with a reminder sent on 4th December 2013 – both were
    ignored. More than a year then passed before we were informed on 23
    December 2014 that the case had been closed. We asked for an explanation
    of this decision, and in February 2015 we finally received the reasons
    for the decision. Following a full review, we decided to file an appeal
    to the Court of Arbitration for Sport with a request that the case be
    brought forward as an anti-doping rule violation.
  • “We are pleased that the case is finally moving forward. It is important
    that results management processes are dealt with efficiently and
    effectively by all signatories, so that athletes can retain full
    confidence in the anti-doping system. In the meantime, we will refrain
    from further comment in order to protect the integrity of the case.”
  • The statement raises several questions for whom it may concern at FINA.
    Here they are:
  • – Did the test sample that caused Palmer to test positive for a banned
    substance exceed the limits that requires a case to be confirmed under
    the WADA Code and FINA Rules?
  • – If the answer to 1 is yes, on which rules did FINA, experts and
    leadership, rely on to override the rules on limits on the basis of
    other tests and checks taken around the same time as the problem sample?
  • – Assuming Mr. Howman is telling it like it is, why did FINA’s
    leadership ignore WADA for more than a year?
  • – When WADA communicates with FINA, who handles the questions from the
    world anti-doping agency? I assume that the director Cornel Marculescu
    handles those questions and is responsible for replying to WADA on the
    basis of what FINA’s anti-doping experts have to say – but please let me
    know if that is not the case and the responsibility for replying to WADA
    rests with someone else (in which case, who would that be)?
  • – In light of WADA’s statement on meldonium, could you please have those
    responsible for FINA anti-doping answer the following questions:
  • Was the out-of-competition anti-doping test taken on the swimmer
    Yulia Efimova in January returned negative?
  • Is the swimmer in question still under provisional suspension?
  • Is a hearing date planned and if so, when would that be?
  • The swimmer is entered in the Russian Championships that begin on
    Saturday. Can you confirm that under the terms of her provisional
    suspension she cannot compete?
  • – I start this mail with a request for you NOT to ignore it as you have
    taken to doing in recent times.
  • This is an official request from The Times newspaper in London …
  • My questions:
  • We understand that Yuliya Efimova has tested positive for the banned
    substance meldonium no fewer than five times. Russian media reports cite
    her agent as stating so. Could you confirm that you are aware of this
    and whether a case has been opened?
  • We understand that Yuliya Efomova has been served a temporary
    suspension. Can you confirm that?
  • – A question related to Yuliya Efimova. Vladimir Salnikov, FINA Bureau and
    head of Russian swim fed, has allowed a list to be published on his
    federation’s website yesterday that includes Efimova as a named swimmer
    for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It is the official federation team
    announcement, from a list approved by the federation on June 7. Could you answer the following questions:
  • Does he know something we don’t ()the case pending as far as I’m
    aware) or has he jumped the gun?
  • If the latter is the case, will FINA HQ speak to him about it and
    ask him to reconsider?
  • – I alert you to the following event that I was invited to ‘promote’ on
    SwimV. I will not be doing so, the event obvious in its discrimination,
    as specifically forbidden under C4 of the FINA rule book:
  • http://www.proformanceaquatic.com/files/kuwaitopen/bookleteng.pdf
  • Summary of the event: “Proformance Aquatics, a Kuwait swimming
    organisation, his (sic) to stage the Kuwait Open Swimming Championships from
    October 13th-15th, 2016 – and the top rule is: men only.
  • The meet will award prize money for the top performers in each of 5 age
    groups, as well as a $10,000 prize for the meet’s Outstanding swimmer.
    In total $18,500 will be awarded but women are not invited.
  • The latter breaks the rules of FINA on gender discrimination.
  • It is an issue that you may wish to consider more deeply given that
    Kuwait is a host to some FINA events.
  • Could you please tell me what FINA intends to do about it (?)
  • – Please accept this note from The Times as an official request for
    response into the newspaper’s inquiries into events in Russian swimming
    that have led to calls for WADA to make further inquiries.
  • Could you please ask for official FINA response to the following
  • The Times has been made aware of two EPO positive doping tests
    returned by Russian swimmers dating back to 2009-2010. Those cases
    appear never to have made the FINA case file.
  • Was FINA ever informed by the Russian Swimming federation of two EPO positive tests produced by Russian swimmers in 2009-10?
  • Last week, Vitaly Mutko, the Sports Minister of Russia, confirmed in
    a public statement that Yana Martynova had tested positive last July
    (2015) and that beyond a “three-month process” had beens served a
    suspension. Mr Mutko described the Martynova case as ‘old’. The case,
    however, has not yet made it to the FINA case file under published
    current suspensions. Can you confirm:
  • a. a positive test was returned – and the substance and date of that?
    b. the positive test was as a result of FINA out of competition testing?
    c. that the swimmer has been informed of her suspension?
    d. the nature of that suspension?
    e. that the case is destined for the public domain as a ‘current
  • Beyond that, could you consider this: Among critics who are now calling on WADA to extend its probe to Russian swimming and beyond, including the relationships between federations, are those who suggest that leniency is shown for certain nations when it comes to the nature of penalties served.
  • There are discrepancies including the difference of 1 year and 4 year
    suspensions for athletes for the same substance, for example, while the
    16-month suspension of Yulia Efimova allowed her to return from her
    suspension just in time to qualify for trials and then the Russian Kazan
    world championships in 2015.
  • Why is there such a vast discrepancy of penalty in cases where the same
    banned substances shows up?
  • Do you accept that the penalties that have been imposed on previous
    cases point to leniency being shown by some nations towards those who
    test positive, with FINA’s acquiescence (penalties are accepted
    unchallenged), while other nations and their athletes turn to the full
    measure of provision in the WADA Code?
  • – Natalia Lovtsova (Lovtcova). In 2012, she received a 2.5 years
    suspension as a repeat offender – and that suspension was due to end on
    May 31, 2015. The swimmer raced in mid-April, 2015 and again at Russian
    national championships in April 2015.
  • did FINA take a decision to reduce her suspension – if so, when was
    that done and is there accompanying paperwork to show it?
  • did the Russian Swimming Federation inform FINA that it had reduced
    Lovtsova’s suspension period – and if so when was that done and is there
    accompanying paperwork to show it?
  • On what grounds was Lovtsova’s suspension as a repeat offender
  • Was WADA informed of the reduced suspension? If so, when?
  • – Given the weight of doping woe in swimming in the past 25 years since
    the end of the GDR ere, given the high count of positives for nations
    such as China, Russia and Olympic hosts Brazil in aquatic sports, does
    FINA’s leadership understand why many leading figures in the sport
    believe Cornel Marculescu, director of FINA, gets it wholly wrong when
    he states that “it [doping in swimming] is not a big problem”?
  • – Given the statements of Mr. Marculescu such as “You cannot condemn
    the stars for a minor doping offence ….” does FINA accept that promoting
    swimming and its ‘stars’ at the same time as having to impose penalties
    on those who fall foul of anti-doping rules to is a conflict of interest?
  • – Leading figures in swimming are calling for:
  • a. for WADA’s taskforce to extend its inquiry into the way FINA handles
    doping cases
  • b. for WADA to remove doping from the jurisdiction of FINA
  • The questions:
  • – Would FINA welcome WADA’s Taskforce in to investigate the handling of
    anti-doping cases and culture at the heart of FINA?
  • – Has FINA made any moves to cancel the FINA Pin granted to the
    convicted criminal Dr . Lothar Kipke?
  • – In the past decade, has the FINA director or any member of the
    ruling FINA Bureau had any influence on the following:
  • a. the choice of who is called on for an anti-doping test?
    b. what substances will be tested for in and out of competition?
    c. or is that process entirely independent of federation influence?
  • Prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games:
  • Now that the IOC has passed the final judgment on who can and cannot
    swim in Rio, precisely what process is now going to unfold in terms of
    making those decisions – what criteria will FINA use?
  • Article 3 of the IOC’s declaration bars the ROC from selecting any
    swimmer who EVER received a doping sanction. This affects four swimmers
    on the Olympic team in name so far and as listed by FINA in its entry
    lists for Rio 2016.
  • Will you follow that rule – and if so, will you extend it to all nations
    for the sake of fairness and level playing field?
  • When does FINA intend to finish the process and finalise the entry
    list for Rio 2016?
  • Late 2016:
  • Could you please confirm that the following swimmers have tested
    positive for a banned substance and that they, along with the coach
    named below, have received suspensions in China:
  • Li Xuanxu – 6 months
    Huang Chaocheng – 6 months
    Yang Zhixian – one year
    Fen Zhen (coach) – one year
  • Given that the substance is the same masking agent as that which cause
    Chen Xinyi to be disqualified from the Olympic Games in Rio last month,
    could you tell me whether FINA intends to investigate Chinese swimming
    now that the count of doping positives in that country has exceeded 80?
  • 2017
  • – How might we expect FINA to respond to the news that its first
    vice-president is the subject of a U.S. Justice department indictment in
    relation to the FIFA corruption scandal and related allegations?
  • – How is it possible for Husain Al Musallam to be operating as an
    official at FINA at a time when Kuwait is suspended (both by IOC and
  • – On what rule is FINA relying to allow that, given that the rules
    that allow continued participation under international representation
    (IOC, FINA flags etc) are there specifically with athletes in mind – not
  • – What is the status of Ben Ekumbo and Coaracy Nunes, both members of
    the FINA Bureau, both removed from their offices at the helm of national
    federations and both facing corruption charges in their countries
    related to Olympic contracts and equipment?
  • – When the FINA executive refused Paolo Barelli the right to take his
    complaints against Al Musallam and Dale Neuburger to the Ethics Panel,
    why did it chose to lean on one rule to do that while ignoring another
    rule that grants Barelli the right to do as he wished to do?

Not a single one of those questions – among many others – was answered.





Today, we start to look at the surface of why Truth, Whistleblowing & Red-Flag Waving are too often alien concepts in an Olympic realm where all who accept positions paid or voluntary carry a measure of responsibility, the ultimate end of which has to be carried by those in charge no facing calls to fall on their swords. 


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