Top 20 Stories Of 2017: No1 – #MeToo & How Wilful Blindness Pours Poison In The Pool

Time for swimming leadership willing to put athlete welfare on the starting block - and mean it - by Patrick B. Kraemer

SwimVortex concludes its countdown to 2018 by looking back at 2017 through 20 of the most followed swimming stories of the year. We hope you enjoyed our choices and constitutes a book of highlights from the year gone by.

The choice of a top 3 ranking based not on direct performance in the pool is not made out of disrespect for the athletes and coaches delivering the excellence this list is stacked with at the tip of an iceberg of effort and excellence in the sport far and wide. Indeed, the choice is made with the athletes in mind, not just those in the fast lane now but those who graced it in the past and those who will do so in the future.

Here’s the Top 20 in full:

  1. #MeToo and Wilful Blindness
  2. Cate Campbell: ‘Arrogant’ FINA Blinded By The Money
  3. WSA, PSA & Any Way To Change FINA Or Sink It For Good
  4. Sarah Sjostrom Slipstreams To Lane Of Free & ‘Fly Pioneers
  5. Gator Caeleb Dressel Takes A Big Bite Of Swim History
  6. Adam Peaty, Pugilistic Pioneer Of The 25.95 Lap Of Fire
  7. Katie Ledecky Shadowed Only By Her Own High Bar
  8. Lilly King Joins Swim Royalty With WR Gems; Ray Looze Honoured
  9. Aurelie Muller’s Rio Redemption & The Fresh Fight In France
  10. The Pellegrini Punch Of Federica, Queen of the 200 Free
  11. Why Russia Needs To Ditch Its Bad Cops For Good Cops
  12. The Rise Of Chase Kalisz, From Medley Kid To King
  13. Kylie Masse On The Crest Of A Wave Called “Canada Is Back”
  14. Why Paolo Barelli’s Challenge To FINA Folly Was A Winner
  15. Mental Health: Taking Care With The Load Being Carried By Others
  16. Mireia Belmonte Puts Swimming On Spanish Sports Map
  17. The Return Of Ranomi Kromowidjojo, The Dutch Danger
  18. The Golden Whisper Of Wisdom From Jon & Jack
  19. Bullies, Blazers & A Master(s)class From The Prof
  20. Hurtling Katinka Hosszu And The Risks Of Iron Deficiency

Come a brighter day, No4 will be No1 but for now our top three – reserved for this last day of the year – transcend the moment and season and speak to the rotten state of play in the pool. In at No 3 – WSA, PSA & Any Way To Change FINA Or Sink It For Good.

‘… not just those in the fast lane now but those who graced it in the past and those who will do so in the future’ – by Patrick B. Kraemer

The top 3 are free to view beyond the paywall in place – at a rate of a slither over a dollar a month – to help us to maintain independent journalism and coverage of the sport of swimming, including watchfulness of those who govern the sport you – the athletes, coaches and those who support then on a regular basis – not them … own. Please help us if you can.

More important than that: speak out. Cate Campbell did – and for that she is in at No 2 – Cate Campbell: ‘Arrogant’ FINA Leaders Lost Sight Of Athletes In Pursuit Of Money.

And so, to our Top story of 2017:

No 1 – #MeToo & How Wilful Blindness Pours Poison In The Pool

Many an annual glimpse over the shoulder at a polarised 2017 in media reviews far and wide across the globe has included #MeToo of late. That hashtag will spill and spill, ripple and roll in the year ahead and beyond. It has extensions, like #MeTooInSwimming. The times they are a’ changin’, as Dylan suggested. And not before time.

Worth a listen and a read:

Impact – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

So, what are we talking about in the context of swimming? The headline makes the point the only place to start is with the Carlile Cup and out lifetime achievement award that went to Nancy Hogshead-Makar and the girls, women and athletes she has represented, including folk who had the courage to come forward and speak about and report matters than no father, no mother, no daughter, no son, no aunt nor uncle, no grandparent, no-one of sound heart and mind would ever wish one of their closest loved ones, nor anyone else, to have to speak out on after having suffered abuse.

As out archive of deep material below (no apologies for the length and weight of it, nor for any repetition in the archived articles, for all these matters overlap … apologies for any typos there may be but please don’t focus on them …) suggests, abuse takes many forms.

Sex – Federica Pellegrini among those talking about it this season – and doping – both criminal in nature – and being under the control of abusive people who do not have your best interests at heart are high, up top, on the list. In swimming, the bulk of those who have suffered the most have one thing in common: they are female, girl, women. While it is important to note that boys and men have been and continue to be subjected to violence, abuse, bullying and victimisation in a number of ways, this particular thread of swimming history and experience pertains mostly to women – and that affects us all.

The issues spill and ripple: gender inequality in sports governance stretches to the pool, too, as highlighted in our No19 entry in this top 20, Bullies, Blazers & A Master(s)class From The Prof, and the backdrop to that, one that sees those in positions of power behaving in ways decades beyond the sell-by date of such things.

And all of this in the year that delivered Case 1:17-cr-00224-PKC & how The FIFA Scandal Could Yet Shape The Future Of FINA (read the archive feature below).

SwimVortex will not, at this stage, seek to trawl through the work of decades that Hogshead-Makar and others have dedicated themselves to. Instead, I refer you to two place:

It is what makes our No2 entry, Cate Campbell, so significant, so important – and is it is what links all the entries in out top 20 that are not pure performance related.

  • And … the material from our archive that highlights the following issues that together make up your No 1 story of this polarised 2017: #MeToo and #MeTooInSwimming:

The areas covered (including a repeat of our No1 entry for 2016): sex abuse – making victims of victims all over again and the wilful neglect of authorities to listen and deal with it; doping abuse; where those two horrors collide – and the scream of human and swimming history; how the choice of leaders becomes the culture in play; a look back at a U.S hearing into football that comes with official challenge that needs to spread to swimming and other Olympic realms; and how empowering coaching can help promote good growth from the root of all things in sport – take a look at the work of these groups:

  • Empowering Coaching
  • Positive Coach
  • This file is dedicated to those who work on the betterment of swimming; to the victims and survivors of abuse and those, like Nancy Hogshead-Makar who have advocated, and those like Dia C Rianda, Katherine Starr and others who made complaint and fought against a system too often and too long unwilling to listen and even bent on blocking justice; to the generation of women summed up by the experience of Shirley Babashoff; to the teenager girls of the GDR who had syringes full of steroids stuck in their backsides by doctors and coaches, some of that while knowing that meant not only cheating in sport but ensuring lifelong medical complaints would be a part of the lives of the athletes – and ultimately in some cases their offspring down the years. This file is a message to the leadership of FINA that refused to even reply to a unanimous vote for reconciliation of victims and a new start filed to them by the Media Commission in January 2014: we await your response yet.

And on that note, best wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year to all our readers and the worldwide swimming community. To the world’s elite swimmers who have a job to do, reach out and help those who would represent you as you shake hands on the podium with some of those who have governed for decades but have not only turned a blind eye to the darkest corners of their realm but have actively encouraged murkiness in the water.

From The Archive – 2014 to 2017 (and back a half a century)

2017 …

USOC Apology “Repugnant” Says Lawyer Of Abused Athlete Paid $1.2m For Her Silence

Kayla Maroney, an Olympic champion making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after it emerged that she was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a USA team doctor and the response of USA Gymnastics was to seek her silence and pay for it – image, a ragout of the very many headlines on the story in the United States today, this one from

An apology from the United States Olympic Committee for being ignorant of the facts and extent of sexual abuse cases in gymnastics has been condemned as “repugnant” by the lawyer of an athlete who was persuaded to sign a non-disclosure agreement for more than $1m so that she would not reveal what she knew about and what she had suffered at the hands of national-team doctor Larry Nassar.

Scott Blackmun, the chief executive of USOC,  the International Olympic Committee member named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by McKayla Maroney, a London 2012 Olympic Team champion and vault silver medallist for the United States. The action alleges that those governing Olympic gymnastics in the United States had long promoted “a culture that concealed known and suspected sex abusers”.

The case may carry weight and relevance in other Olympic sports, swimming included. In March this year, 1984 Olympic 100m freestyle champion Nancy Hogshead-Makar, together with lawyers representing victims of sexual abuse in swimming, 
Jon Little and Robert Allard, wrote to Blackmun calling on him to remove Chuck Wielgus from the chief executiveship of USA Swimming on the grounds that he had not only failed to protect athletes but had spent millions seeking to block them in the pursuit of justice and compensation.

In an earlier intervention, Blackmun had refused to act on USA Swimming because “[w]e have high regard for the work that [USA Swimming’s] board and staff are doing, including their efforts to protect young swimmers from sexual abuse”.

Those seeking Weilgus’ removal before he passed away this year after a long illness, accused USOC of “deliberately and strategically failing to protect athletes” and described the Olympic body as suffering from “a moral lapse in judgment” that had “left America’s athletes uniquely vulnerable to sexual abuse”.

The complainants listed names of coaches who were removed from jobs quietly only to return to working with children years before eventual conviction for abuse and/or possession of child pornography. Some of those involved are still listed with honours in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

The Crisis In Gymnastics with implications beyond

In October, the gymnast McKayla Maroney revealed the extent of the abuse she suffered in public posts on Twitter, alleging that Nassar had begun to abuse her when she was 13 and attending national team training camp.

Nassar admitted to sexually assaulting women gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought treatment. He was sentenced earlier this month and will serve a 60-year jail term for possessing thousands of images of child pornography.

Neither the rules of the IOC nor those of its national-association members, nor those of their federation affiliates, specifically forbid such things as non-disclosure settlements even though secret deals to hide the truth have no place in sport – and least of all in sports in which the bulk of athletes are, in law, either children or ‘under-age’. Swimming is such a sport – and historic abuse cases point to a terrible truth: under-age teenage athletes have been the main targets of the abusers.

Maroney’s lawyer, John Manly, told AP in response to Blackmun’s letter of apology:

“If you’re the USOC, and you’re really committed to this, what you should do is get on the phone to the USA [Gymnastics] board and say you’re out or we’re decertifying you.”

In that sentence, Manly cuts to the chase and soul of crisis in international sport: while athletes come and go, those at the top table of governance stay and stay and stay – and survive despite clear evidence that criminality and abuse – sexual and substance among two key areas – has not only taken place on their watch but has been concealed and thus tolerated by leaders who, say survivors and those who support them, could and should have acted the very instant they knew of a complaint; could and should have initiated investigations the moment word reached them that ‘coach A’, ‘doctor B’, ‘official C’ had been up to no good.

The case may carry weight and relevance in other Olympic sports, including swimming, where sexual abuse and the bargaining of lawyers with victims/survivors and their parents have been a part of what is now being exposed as bad practice and culture, even before we reach the border of criminality.

International and related domestic sports governance has long been perceived and cited as a realm that enjoys the limelight of the big stage of global sport but takes too little (if any) responsibility when it comes to athlete welfare and the environment that sportsmen and women work.

USA Swimming also has a Safe Sport program in place and has for several years named any who receive bans and lifetime bans from working in the sport as a result of their abuse of others.

Such efforts in response to abuse cases also represent a shift of emphasis and policy from a time when lawyers working for and advising USA Swimming, according to federation officials, put allegations of abuse down to a matter of “local policing”. Today, USA Swimming imposes bans on coaches before legal action has been taken or a legal verdict has been returned.  That stands in stark contrast to the treatment of alleged victims of abuse in decades gone by.

There are victims/survivors in swimming who allege that the federation did not protect them from their abusers. Their voices and cases may yet be heard by a much wider audience as a result of events in gymnastics.

The history of abuse cases in swimming also includes non-disclosure agreements between lawyers acting for official organisations and athlete members. Some of those include the consent of the parents of those  abused in an era when to admit abuse could have made the teenager in question a victim twice over at a time when reporting abuse came with a high expectation of hostile response, including attempts to silence witnesses and survivors, from the system, judicial and in sports governance.

Fast forward to this decade and the consequences of a lack of action in the past have been and will continue to the felt.

In 2014, then USA Swimming CEO Chuck Weilgus, who died earlier this year after a long struggle with cancer, was dropped from the list of those about to be celebrated with induction to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

  • The ISHOF decision followed a petition to remove Chuck Wielgus’s nomination. It was signed by “Victims of Coaching Sexual Abuse”, namely “Diana Nyad, Deena Deardurff Schmidt, Kelly Davies, Caren McKay, Suzette Moran, Brooke Taflinger, Jancy Thompson, Caren Bonnet, Stephanie Tyler Vieira, Anna Strzempko, Katie Kelly, Laura Tocheny, Michele Kurtzman Greenfield, Laurie Priest, Julia Thompson, Allyson Turner, Gretchen Ash, Anonymous victim of Everett Uchiyama, Debra Denithorne-Grodensky”; as well as their supporters “Terry Carlise, Frank Comfort, Jennifer Hooker Brinegar, Randy Reese, Linda Jesse Wittwer, Megan Neyer, Ph.D., LPC, Robert Culliver, David Belowich, Lisa Burt, mother of deceased daughter and victim Sarah Burt, Carrie Steinseifer Bates, Linda Thompson Ayres, Bonnie Glasgow, Connie Beemer, Kelly Legaspi, Adrian Legaspi, MD, Kim Carlisle, Shelley Carlisle, Donna Decker, Dia Rianda, Janis Hape Dowd, Chris Breedy, Amy Wieland, Steven Breiter, Jim Bonnet, Chuck Thompson, Warren Deppong, Tony Ciccolella, Walt Lopus, J.J. Shaughnessy, MD, The Women’s Sports Foundation.”

The petition concluded:

“Chuck Wielgus has not demonstrated leadership and is undeserving of the honor of the Hall of Fame. We ask that you join us in making the voices of the victims heard, and send a message to the swimming world that we cannot have either sexual predators or those that enable predators such as Chuck Wielgus glorified as heroes worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.”

Claim 1 in the petition sealed Weilgus’ fate, one highly relevant to other leaders in sport deemed to have failed to act when abuse has taken place. The claim read:

1. Chuck Wielgus Failed to Remove Known Serial Molesters from Swimming.

Andy KingFrom 2002-2003, Wielgus covered up two separate sexual misconduct complaints against coach Andy King, going so far in one of them to direct the club to keep the matter “confidential” and that he would not conduct an investigation. Had King been investigated, Wielgus would have learned that King sexually abused numerous swimmers prior to 2003. By allowing King to continue coaching, Wielgus enabled King to continue molesting kids up until he was arrested in 2009 as a serial predator. In 2010, Chuck Wielgus lied to ESPN’s Outside the Lines by claiming that USA Swimming had never heard of Andy King until he was arrested in 2010. The segment details the email exchange in 2003 that demonstrated Wielgus knew about King and ordered the cover up of an Andy King complaint. King was sentenced to 40 years in prison for molesting underage swimmers.

Everett Uchiyama: When Wielgus discovered USA Swimming employee, Everett Uchiyama, had molested a minor swimmer over a period of years, Wielgus responded by allowing Uchiyama to quietly and secretly resign his employment as USA Swimming National Team Director. USA Swimming issued a press release entitled, “USA Swimming Announces Staff Changes” with no mention of his sexual abuse. (Exhibit 2) Not only was Uchiyama not reported to the authorities, but USA Swimming provided a positive recommendation for Uchiyama to a private country club about five miles from USA Swimming headquarters, where he once again gained access to minor swimmers as a swim coach. Worse, Wielgus, when asked by the media and again under oath, denied that USA Swimming had provided a recommendation. (Exhibit 3) Moreover, Wielgus knew Uchiyama was coaching at a nearby club, but did not think it was his responsibility to inform the club. (Exhibit 3) Only after the media pressured Wielgus into making the list of banned coaches public did the new club learn that USA Swimming had not disclosed that Uchiyama had been secretly banned by the sport.

Mitch Ivey: It took USA Swimming over 30 years to ban Mitch Ivey, acting on information known since at least 1984. In 1993, Mitch Ivey was featured in an ESPN “Outside the Lines” television segment that detailed his sexual abuse of his underage swimmers a decade earlier, in 1978 and 1983, abuse that surprisingly, Ivey never hid from the swimming community. The 1993 segment resulted in Ivey being fired from the University of Florida, but he continued to coach club swimming teams. In 2011, USA Swimming responded to a formal complaint and conducted an investigation, yet Wielgus still failed to remove Ivey from membership. Not until Congressional oversight and bad publicity from multiple channels, and the threat of litigation did
Swimming act to ban Mitch Ivey …in 2013.

Rick Curl: This coach molested his swimmer, Kelly Davies Currin, starting at age 13. Wielgus learned about the abuse from many sources, but in May of 2010, Wielgus admitted under oath that he had heard Coach Rick Curl had molested Kelly Davies Currin. (Exhibit 4) Despite the knowledge, Wielgus allowed Curl to continue coaching and access to young swimmers. Curl even received rare and highly rationed deck passes at the 2012 US Olympic Trials, even after the formal investigation had commenced. Curl was not banned from USA Swimming until after the London Olympics in 2012. Curl is now in prison for his sexual molestation of Davies. Her statement and story are here. The  Washington Post  compared the victim’s timeline with that of USA Swimming, and believed the victim, writing in an opinion  piece,

“…e-mails and other information provided by [Currin’s] attorney call [USA Swimming’s] accounts into question.

These coaches and their sordid tales are intended to be a representative list, not an exhaustive one. Prior to the 2010 media coverage, USA Swimming did not release its list of banned coaches to its members or clubs. Whatever rules were applicable, member clubs had no way of knowing whether rules were enforced, or whether it was safe to hire a coach. Yet these four coaches illustrate the way Chuck Wielgus has responded to reports of abuses, his behavior in litigation and his failure to protect future victims.

In June 2014, Weilgus issued an apology on the USA Swimming website, more than four years after telling media that he had nothing to be sorry for. He wrote:

“These are powerful words some people have wanted to hear from me for a long time. And so today, four long years later, I can truthfully say how sorry I am to the victims of sexual abuse … Going back in time, I wish I knew long before 2010 what I know today. I wish my eyes had been more open to the individual stories of the horrors of sexual abuse. I wish I had known more so perhaps I could have done more. I cannot undo the past. I’m sorry, so very sorry.”

Robert Allard and Jon Little, attorneys for 15 victims who signed the petition opposing Wielgus’ selection to the Hall of Fame, countered with a statement that included:

“Too little, too late and forced. Another example of this organization under Mr. Wielgus’ leadership being reactive and not proactive. Leaders who are not innovative, creative and caring thinkers and callously react only when forced into action are not true leaders but mere politicians.”

Blackmun: ‘I Knew Nothing About Settlement’

The Rings – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Blackmun states in his letter that he was not aware of the full scope of the Nassar sex-abuse allegations before police took up the case(s). He claims that he had no knowledge of a settlement between USA Gymnastics  Maroney in which the athlete received money in return for her silence over a doctor now behind bars.

Nassar’s case has blown a lid on deep-seated problems in sport. Mothers of the girls affected are now calling for  changes to sports governance that would stretch to bringing an end to the autonomy of international sports governance because leaders have failed to show that they are either willing or capable of policing the realm they rule over.

Blackmun’s letter was sent the day after Maroney filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the nondisclosure clauses in the settlement. He writes: “I am so sorry that the Olympic family failed these athletes”. While the USOC found out too late, it had taken steps to prevent future abuse by creating the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which investigates sex-abuse allegations in Olympic sports, he noted, adding:

“And I want to be crystal clear on the topic of transparency During my tenure as CEO, which began in 2010, we have never been, and will not be, party to any effort to conceal or keep confidential allegations or instances of sexual abuse.”

“Repugnant”, was the response from Manly, who pointed out that Maroney has not sought damages in the lawsuit: she wants only to be released from the nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses in the settlement.

That should be easy: USOC and USA Gymnastics simply need to rule such deals and clauses unacceptable in their realms whenever criminality is alleged. All eyes on that – and whether anyone dare ask for a single cent of the settlement to be returned.

Maroney was not part of the legal case against Nassar. For that to have been the case, she would have had to tear up the settlement with USA Gymnastics. Instead of direct involvement in the case, Maroney and her mother wrote letters to the court detailing Nassar’s abuse and how that affected the gymnast.

Comment: The questions run, such as:

  • what do we learn about leaders and lawyers who feel that they would rather pay for silence than root out abuse?
  • what do we learn about other aspects of athlete welfare beyond sexual abuse cases, given that a sexual abuse complaint is surely the highest level of no-brainer when it comes to NOT asking silence, NOT seeking to cover-up?
  • does this tell us anything about the approach of such leaders and lawyers to issues such as doping and other forms of cheating?

Time will deliver the answers, as it so often has in its merry and inevitable dance with truth.

2016 …

No 1 – In a Lifetime – What The Forbes & Shirley Have We Allowed?

What had he seen; what had he witnessed; what had he battled against; what had he lived through in a swimming lifetime? The experience of Forbes Carlile, lost to us in 2016, is one of  several pegs on which we hang our No1 entry in this list of the year’s top 20 stories.

Shirley Babashoff, Kornelia Ender and Enith Brigitha, 1976

Shirley Babashoff, Kornelia Ender and Enith Brigitha, 1976

The second peg is the SwimVortex book of the year, Making Waves, by Shirley Babashoff, a swimmer who represents generations of women beaten into submission by systematic, state and otherwise, doping – let’s hear it for Allison Wagner, for Maggie Kelly, for Edith Brigitha, for Nancy Garapick, for many others and their coaches and parents who went down as Olympic also-swams when they might well have gone down as champions and podium placers on the back of years of dedication and hard work. Babshoff, it should be noted, has also backed calls for reconciliation and has done much to further that cause.

Alongside that are the events related to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, namely statements such as those from:

  • coaches Jon Rudd, Bob Bowman and the swimmer of the year, Michael Phelps
  • the stance of John Leonard, George Block, Bill Sweetenham and many coaching peers on the burning topics of doping and failed governance; and the programs such as ADN and others who ask swimmers to sign up to clean sport and make that a habit and an oath.
Lillia KING of the United States of America (USA) celebrates after winning in the women's 100m Breaststroke Final

Lillian King – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Mack Horton of Australia - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Mack Horton of Australia – by Patrick B. Kraemer

and the icing on the cake:

  • the courage of Mack Horton and Lilly King in Rio de Janeiro and to all those who stood in the stands and booed and jeered and railed against that which they are no longer prepared to put up with.
  • and the courage of whistleblowers in Russia and China who want the news to reach the wider world so that their sports communities, their children, their young athletes do not have to travel the road of Babashoff, the GDR girls, Yuan Yuan and others who are, quite simply, victims of a system of abuse tolerated and, through that and a form of heavily subsidised-for-life governance founded on and sustained by self-interests, supported by the custodians of swimming.  Note well the identity of these people: they are Russian and Chinese. Neither we nor the vast majority of those who listens to their cry for help and call on authorities to tackle deep-seated problems in Russia, China (or anywhere else) are racist, anti-Russia, ant-Chinese, and so on.
  • The media that has pursued the truth and exposed the rotting corpse of victims and some of the weapons that killed them and clean sport. [NB: there is no recognition for the likes of Prof. Richard McLaren, WADA and others who have done fine reactive work, mainly because that job and the reform that needs to flow from it is far from over]

We are: anti-doping; we are anti-custodial malaise and the fat-cattery of blazer lifestyle first, blazer world tour second, blazer self-importance third, athlete off the podium, coach ignored almost entirely, both athlete and coach unrepresented in the governance of their sport but for committees chosen by the custodians working on their own podium agendas.

Making Waves - Shirley Babashoff - Santa Monica Press

Making Waves – Shirley Babashoff – Santa Monica Press

Shirley Babashoff and Kornelia Ender, reconciled - but what efforts have the custodians of swimming made on that score? None. - image courtesy of Shirley Babashoff and Making Waves

Shirley Babashoff and Kornelia Ender, reconciled – but what efforts have the custodians of swimming made on that score? None. – image courtesy of Shirley Babashoff and Making Waves

Here are some links to some of those pegs in honour of the brave who took a stand against the intolerable at the end swimming’s trail of sorrows. What the Forbes and Shirley have we allowed, asks our headline. The folk in the stories below know only too well. This No1 entry is a tribute to Forbes Carlile, his fighting spirit; to Shirley Babashoff for a lifetime in a life robbed of the recognition it deserves; and to all those who refused to simply go along to get along in the face of the intolerable and wholly unacceptable.

Many coaches and programs out there are blind to their own history. Neither they nor so-called swimming ‘fans’ who celebrate the second but forget the century are friends of a sport soaked in abuse.

Below are some of the stories that feed into the common thread: here are the issues that have sullied and shaped swimming and the fine achievements of clean athletes in this Olympic years of 2016. They represent the failure of swimming’s custodians, the guardians of the sport in their roles as leaders of the international federation FINA and the domestic federations that have the power to shape what happens in global waters, to provide:

  • clean sport
  • safe sport
  • standardisation that speaks to both of the above

The pegs on which to hang the shame of swimming’s leadership:

Forbes Carlile, with kids and two significant women in his life, Ursula, his wife, and (b&w, NT Archive) Shane Gould

Forbes Carlile, with kids and two significant women in his life, Ursula, his wife, and (b&w, NT Archive) Shane Gould

Forbes Carlile (3 June 1921 – 2 August 2016): A Personal Tribute From Shane Gould

  • August 2, 2016 – A memory of Forbes Carlile – by Shane Gould

Australian Forbes Carlile Passes Away At 95: Swimming Mourns A Coaching Pioneer

  • August 2, 2016 – Obituary: Earlier today, legendary Australian swim coach Forbes Carlile, MBE, passed away at age 95. The following is the official statement and release on Carlile’s passing, followed by our SwimVortex memory and tribute to the man
Shirley Babashoff - as posted by the swimmer of herself on Twitter

Shirley Babashoff – as posted by the swimmer of herself on Twitter

40 Years On: Why Shirley Babashoff’s Making Waves Is The SwimVortex Book Of 2016

  • July 30, 2016 – Making Waves is the SwimVortex book of the year, not only because it is a good and painful and difficult and informative read but because it delivers the twin track to the doping court cases, the Stasi files, the victims in court and the criminal convictions in Germany. Both sides of a losing coin. Toss is up and pray for Rio. In the context of 1976 and in the context of 2016, this book is powerfully significant. I commend Making Waves to you. Read it and weep. From sexual abuse to doping, Shirley Babashoff talks us through our headline: In a lifetime – on our watch. She is the the 2016 recipient of the Carlile Cup.
The pathway to clean sport must start with a period in the cold for those who have fallen foul of Fair Play - by Patrick B. Kraemer

The pathway to clean sport must start with a period in the cold for those who have fallen foul of Fair Play – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Star Wars: When Swimming Custodians Leave Athletes To Defend Clean Sport

  • August 11, 2016 – Editorial: This is what happens when swimming is run by people who don’t do nearly enough to serve clean sport and clean athletes for decade after decade. There is a gathering of IOC, WADA and many more in September to sort it all out and start again. Their survival depends on it.

Coach Leaders Urge Swimmers: “Let Your Voices Be Heard, Own Clean Sport”

  • August 10, 2016 –  The swimosphere is an ocean of high fives for those who speak up and a doldrum of thumbs down for those towing an asterisk or excusing all that entails. Today brings the following open letter from John Leonard, director of the World and American swimming coaches associations. It is a letter of support for those speaking up and an appeal for more athletes to let their voices be heard. The letter in full…

Cold War In The Pool: As IOC Boss Backs Lifetime Bans – It’s Babashoff Vs Salnikov

  • August 9, 2016 – The echo from history stood out in twitterdom for the clarion call it was: @_king_lil you are #MAKINGWAVES and we love it! Go girl- you are what the world – and ESPECIALLY what the Olympics need right now. #HONESTY – Shirley Babashoff. And here was another slice of history: FINA Bureau member and Russian swim federation boss Vladimir Salnikov, twice an Olympic 1500m freestyle champion for the Soiviet Union (1980 and 1988) today said that the atmosphere surrounding his team at the Olympics reminded him of the Cold War. He criticised American 100m breatsstroke champion Lilly King for “attacking the integrity of her Russian rival”, apparently having forgotten the 2013 positive steroid test for which Yuliya Efimova* was banned.

“The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly” – Abraham Lincoln

  • August 8, 2016 – “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly” – Abraham Lincoln – In that sense, letting the Russians in, letting the charade unfold, letting the tears flow, letting each and every day of these Games so far be turned into a place where clean athletes confront on an event-by-event basis those who fell from grace when they tested positive for banned substances, just may be the best thing that could ever have happened if the Olympic Movement is to be salvaged from the shipwreck it floats on as sharks circle
FINA in focus: Julio Maglione, top right, is the latest in a line of federation presidents going back to George Hearn in 1908

FINA in focus: Julio Maglione, top right, is the latest in a line of federation presidents back to George Hearn 1908

Yuan Yuan under arrest, 1998, by Craig Lord at Perth Airport

Yuan Yuan under arrest, 1998, by Craig Lord at Perth Airport

Why Julio Maglione*** Is As Useful To Clean Swimmers As A FINA Fart In A Spacesuit 

  • July 26, 2016 – Editorial: I admit upfront that I’m writing a second editorial on the day under the influence of performance-detracting substances, typhus and various other shots coursing through vein as I contemplate words that, nonetheless, spark some of the clearest thought I ever had: Julio Maglione*** (that’s our new asterisk denoting FINA officials who should resign for bringing the sport of swimming into disrepute) is unfit for purpose and should step down from the FINA presidency without hesitation
Vitaly Melnikov - banned for 2 years, now for eight years - Russia's catalogue of woe places it on the podium of Shame

Vitaly Melnikov – banned for 2 years, now for eight years – Russia’s catalogue of woe places it on the podium of Shame

Vitaly Melnikov & Eight-Year Doping Ban Highlight How & Why The System Is Broken

  • November 13, 2016 – It was April 20 this year, just in time for the Russian nationals and Olympic trials, when Vitaly Melnikov returned to seek national-team selection after having served a doping suspension of two years for EPO, the blood booster. Now, he’s effectively gone for life: an eight-year ban has been imposed on the latest Russian doping case.
  • That makes the Russian case file of woe second to none in world swimming – and fit for third place on the all-time ranking of rogue nations in the pool after the GDR and China.

Has The Russian Masquerade Stretched to Foxing The IOC Into CAS Case Fit To Ruin Rio?

  • July 26, 2016 – Editorial: The IOC passed the ball to FINA, FINA passed the ball back to Russia and Efimova’s team, which passes the ball to CAS confident that, with Gatlin in goal, victory is assured. … Why else would Russia sacrifice Efimova and Co? That will be put to the test in the days ahead. If Russia is serious and genuine, then there will be no appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. If it made this move deliberately, knowing that the sacrifice followed by CAS appeal route would not only avoid a blanket ban but get its dopers back in, too, then Efimova and Co will have their day in court and arbitration may well deliver the death of the Olympic Games in Rio

The pathway to clean sport must start with a period in the cold for those who have fallen foul of Fair Play - by Patrick B. Kraemer

chinaflagSwimVortex and The Times

Jon Rudd at WADC in January [main image and Rudd inset, Craig Lord; Ben Proud by Ian McNicol; Ruta Meilutyte by Patrick B. Kraemer]

Jon Rudd at WADC in January [main image and Rudd inset, Craig Lord; Ben Proud by Ian McNicol; Ruta Meilutyte by Patrick B. Kraemer]

Jon Rudd’s Rallying Cry: If FINA Doesn’t Have Our Backs, Game Over, The Dopers Win

The McLaren Reports:

  • Jon Rudd, head coach to England’s Commonwealth Games team in 2014 and supremo at Plymouth Leander, believes that swimming is “one stroke away from allowing money, politics and bad influence to unlock the key to drugs cupboard and allow a free for all”. Reacting to The Times investigation of swimming’s doping crisis this week, Rudd, mentor to the likes of Lithuania’s 100m breaststroke champion Ruta Meilutyte and double Commonwealth sprint champion for England Ben Proud, said: “I’m blown away my these revelations. It is like an alien world from that that we in Britain work at and in with passion every day on the deck.

World Coaches Back Call For Probe Into Russia & FINA’s Handling Of Doping Issues

  • The Boards of the World Swimming Coaches(WSCA), the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA), the British Swimming Coaches Association (BSCA) and the Canadian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (CSCTA) have led calls for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to extend its doping probe into Russian Swimming, its relationship with FINA, the international swimming federation, and FINA’s handling of anti-doping matters.

wada doping logoThree Key Anti-Doping Experts Quit FINA Panel Because Leaders Ignored Advice On Russia

  • Almost half of the independent anti-doping experts on FINA’s Doping Control Review Board, including chair Prof. Andrew Pipe, have resigned amid claims their advice on how to deal with the Russian doping crisis was ignored before the Rio Olympics. Canadian Professor Pipe, who chaired FINA’s doping control review board (DCRB), Dr Larry Bowers, off the USA, and Dr Susan White, of Australia, three key figures on the review board eight-strong panel wrote to FINA president Julio Maglione on Thursday to render their resignations.

WADA-commissioned Doping Reports and McLaren Findings


Russia got to chink glasses with the IOC once more in Rio - but the IPC locked the nation out of the Paralympics, with CAS backing [All images are stills from "Red Herrings" by ARD]

Russia got to chink glasses with the IOC once more in Rio – but the IPC locked the nation out of the Paralympics, with CAS backing [All images are stills from “Red Herrings” by ARD]

More headlines from this year:

  • FINA Can Neither Survive Nor Be Rebuilt Without Cultural Revolution & Reform
  • Russian Anti-Doping Bosses ‘Offered To Remove Swimmers From Testing Pool’
  • Bye, See You After The Weekend: In Doping Darkness, Russia World Cup Merits No Light
  • Why A FIFA Penalty On Russia’s World Cup Would Score Winning Goal For Clean Sport
  • Park Tae-hwan* Makes It A Double, The Trouble With His Success A FINA Blindspot
  • Will IOC Have Balls To Bar Football From Olympics If FIFA Cries Foul On WADA Plans?
  • Allison Wagner Wants Rightful Rewards Handed Over To Those Robbed By Doping
  • Number of positive doping tests soared by more than 20% in 2015, WADA Report Notes
  • IOC Sanctions 12 athletes for failing anti-doping tests at London 2012 Olympics
  • IOC Sanctions 16 athletes for failing anti-doping tests at Beijing 2008 Olympics
  • Anti-Doping Agencies Admonish IOC For Failing To Note “Facts” Of Russian Scandal
  • USA Swimming Backs Plan To Divorce FINA & Doping Control; Olympic Summit Begins
  • Olympic Summit To Reinforce IOC Wish To Have Anti-Doping Removed From FINA Brief
  • After Assault On ADAMS, Is Transparency Too Opaque On Therapeutic Use Exemptions?
  • Bye, See You After The Weekend: In Doping Darkness, Russia World Cup Merits No Light
  • CAS Upholds Blanket Ban On Russia As Paralympic Ruling Highlights IOC Weakness
  • Check Mate: Russian Rook Fatal For IOC – Swimming In A Swamp At Rio 2016
  • As CAS Gives Efimova* Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down, Russian Hope Rests On Sun* & Park*
  • Vladimir Morozov & Nikita Lobintsev Back In For Rio 2016 As FINA Confirms Its Flip-Flop
  • Bob Bowman: Sports Bosses ‘Dropped the Ball” On Doping; Michael Phelps Agrees
  • FINA Plays Down Flip-Flop Decision To Make Morozov & Lobintsev ‘Clear For Rio Racing’
  • Yuliya Stepanova Says IOC Has Risked Deterring Doping Victims & Whistleblowers

And the cry of history:

Give everything, take nothing: Nada's welcome presence was unavoidable as Berlin hosted the European Championships in the former East 25 years after the fall of the Wall in 2014 - though someone forgot the box marked EPO when it came to anti-doping tests for the meet

Give everything, take nothing: Nada’s welcome presence was unavoidable as Berlin hosted the European Championships in the former East 25 years after the fall of the Wall in 2014 – though someone forgot the box marked EPO when it came to anti-doping tests for the meet

From the archive: Alles Geben, Nichts Nehmen: Healthy Option 25 Years After The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

  • On 26 August 1993, after the former GDR had disbanded itself to accede to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990, records were opened and State Plan 14:25 confirmed: the Stasi, the GDR state secret police, supervised systematic doping of East German athletes from 1971 until reunification in 1990. Doping existed in other countries but the GDR was officially unique in so far as having a state plan designed to win in international sport as a way of saying ‘look how great our democratic republic and socialist/communist state is’. The body and bulk of what was discovered is now held in places public and private in several countries, safe from the long arm of any single authority that may ver wish to suppress the truth. Some of that evidence was used in legal cases against coaches, doctors and others in the German doping trials of the late 1990s and subsequent compensation claims by athletes who suffered a spectrum of woes, from personal health, physical and psychological problems to the horrors of inheritance in the form of children born with club feet and a variety of other disabilities.

With that last link in mind, we recall the denials of Russians and others when it comes to accepting that systematic doping was at the heart of what has been a massive deceit, as revealed in late 2014 and then highlighted by the team at the ARD Sportschau led by Hajo Seppelt in Germany.

Fast forward Russian officials have for the first time admitted the existence of a doping operation which affected some of the world’s major competitions. The McLaren report of December 9 claimed that more than 1,000 Russians benefited from a doping cover-up between 2011 and 2015.

We recall the words of Julio Maglione, FINA president, earlier this year, when he said: “Its [WADA Commission] members exceeded their powers. For me WADA, and sooner or later this needs to be clarified, is an organisation with a function to control the doping abuse, approve the relevant rules and not to talk about the situation in a particular country, it must be done by the head of the Olympic Games, that is by the International Olympic Committee.”

Well, thankfully, things did come down to WADA and those who led the work to expose the truth. It has all led to this admission in December 2016:

“It was an institutional conspiracy,” said Anna Antseliovich, acting director general of Russia’s anti-doping agency. She claims  that top government’s top officials were not involved, though the record shows that Vladimir Putin himself ordered anti-doping samples to be stopped at borders and checked (thus breaking the chain of command and WADA rules) before leaving Russia.

Vitaly Smirnov, the 81-year-old who has been a leading sports official since the Soviet era and now appointed by President Putin to reform the anti-doping system, told the New York Times: “I don’t want to speak for the people responsible. From my point of view, as a former minister of sport, president of Olympic committee – we made a lot of mistakes.”

And so the clean up begins, we are led to believe. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the likes of Evgeny Korotyshkin get on with the job of instilling good culture in young athletes, the place where the battle will, ultimately, be won if it is to be won.

To The Eternal Shame Of Swimming’s Custodians

Let it be to the eternal shame of the custodians of swimming – global and domestic in so far as national representation at international level has failed as much as the world leadership group – that all of this came to pass on their watch.

Go along to get along has been the mantra and many an injustice has been treated to a blind eye here, a cold shoulder there in favour of maintaining a status quo that did not so much fall asleep at the wheel long ago but deliberately chose the path of least resistance, the one down which the show must go on at all costs, including tolerance and acceptance of doping and woefully inept governance.

With all due respect, what point USA Swimming celebrating The Last Gold and heralding Shirley Babashoff and others when it has failed for 40 years to change the course of history through its very powerful position in world swimming? If a change in the way the sport is governed was required so that the years of the GDR and the victims on both sides of that story could be recognised officially and lead to reconciliation then why did it not happen? The answers are clear: because domestic federations did not feel strongly enough to do enough about it; did not feel that abuse and denial was a theme worth going to bureaucratic war on.

shirleybabashoff4Fast forward 40 years from Babashoff, Peyton, Boglioli and Sterkel 1976 to this Olympic year 2016: in too many ways, swimming is in the same place: a failure to keep from the blocks those caught cheating in systematic fashion. This was a season marked by the fallout and spill from the Russian doping crisis. It took Star Wars to make the guardians wake up and even then, the badge of the club of self-interests was the more prominent symbol of what the Olympic Movement means to blazers than the worth of Olympic medals earned by those competing clean in an environment that has been filthy for far too long.

It was 1986 when FINA opened its first professional office at the heart and helm of competitive swimming: 30 years has past, it has taken us through the End Game of State Plan 14:25; past the China doping crisis of the 1990s, the denial of blazers as strong at times as those spilling from the lying mouths of child abusers feeding a cocktail of damaging drugs to underage athletes; and on, through years of tolerance and acceptance of the intolerable, to 2016 and the woeful events of this Olympic year on the back of media revelations that forced the system to stare deep down into the mire of systematic cheating.

  • In our time. On our watch.
  • In their time. On their watch.
  • In his time. On his watch.

Forbes Carlile, father of the pace clock. It was something Bill Sweetenham said to an audience at the ASCA World Clinic in 2015 that set me thinking about what Carlile will have seen in his days as a pioneer of coaching. by some miracle of his extraordinary nature, the place in which he was born, grew up in, through the events that shaped him, Carlile was a fighter to the very end.

rolandmatthesautographAs the image from my boyhood autograph book confirms, it was 1971 when I first met Carlile. I was eight years old when my dad took me to Crystal Palace to watch an international with some of those who today rank among the legends of swimming: Carlile’s charge Shane Gould, Debbie Meyer and Roland Matthes alone would account for 16 Olympic medals, 10 golds in the mix, between them by the time their racing days were done.

That day out in London as a boy, I watched such talent set a pioneering pace (Gould equalled the world record of fellow Australian Dawn Fraser in the 100m freestyle); spoke to them; had Matthes, the “Rolls-Royce of backstroke” lift me up and spin me in the air; heard Carlile, the father of the pace-clock and interval training, tell me ‘never forget to have fun and never, ever, ever give in’; and I asked them all to sign their autographs in the little book my mum had bought especially for me.

A spark. Just one great day out is all it takes, as many children and some future champions lucky enough to be there when London 2012 unfolded will tell us in the years ahead. Just one fine day.

The flame lit on April 30, 1971, burnt through all my years as a swimmer, got me through the pain, past school days that began in a haze of chlorine and ended that way, too; it burnt beyond my own modest racing days as a boy with his name below that of European and Commonwealth champion Ian Black on the 200m butterfly trophy handed out at the Grampian Championships in Scotland, a modest achievement but one of mine nonetheless; and on to a time when, several years into my career as a journalist, I became swimming correspondent for The Times in the very month when the Berlin Wall fell and the truth about the German Democratic Republic’s State Plan 14:25 Sytematic Doping was about to be revealed.

The story yet to be told of a story much told

The story yet to be told of a story much told

It was 1991 when I met Kornelia Ender and The Times ran the first interview with the four-times gold medallist of the 1976 Olympics. She’d worked hard for her medals, up to 100km a week in water but a regime others could not have coped with was possible because of the little blue pills, injections to help her “recover and recuperate” in time for the next session.

She was one of many. Britain’s Sharron Davies, Margaret Kelly, Ann Osgerby and generations of others beaten by East Germans and written up as never quite measuring up to best standards all felt the same were robbed of what was rightfully their’s. There was Edith Brigitha, the Dutchwoman who did not go down in the official story of the Olympic Games as the first black swimmer to claim Olympic gold – but she might well have been just that.

And then there was Shirley Babashoff

And what did the IOC and FINA do about it? Nothing. No result changed, no medal handed in and redistributed. Even when the German doping trials of 1999 slapped Dr Lothar Kipke with a criminal conviction, FINA let its former medical commission man keep his ‘silver pin’ for service to swimming. He has it to this day.

GDR, state plan 14:25: abuse victims on both sides - yet a call for reconciliation has fallen on deaf ears

GDR, state plan 14:25: abuse victims on both sides – yet a call for reconciliation has fallen on deaf ears

In 2016, we witnessed the resignations of three of the leading anti-doping experts from FINA. Not before time. It will take that kind of action to change FINA from within. Who will have the courage to do the right thing in 2017?

FINA has long been proactive, never reactive, its very structures are built not to serve swimmers but to keep the blazers in the lifestyle they’ve cecome accustomed to. The arrogance of its leadershio knows no bounds: 35 questions sent by email from The Times to FINA by me in the past eight months alone. Answers: none.

Why? Because that’s how FINA functions. I served on the federation’s media commission (giving advice on what journalists need for best working conditions at events) for four years but resigned in October 2014 when FINA granted its highest honour to Vladimir Putin. What had he done to deserve it? Given money and backing to FINA so that its showcase events could be hosted in Russia.

At what price, we are just beginning to discover. If the evidence of state involvement in doping is strong, then just as clear is the need for international federations, from the IOC downwards to submit to independent review and oversight, the days of autonomy on life support.

FINA faces a challenge for its survival from a body called the World Swimming Association, established by leading lughts at the helm of the World Swimming Coaches Association in partnership with the fledgling Professional Swimmers Association.

The FINA Bureau, Algerian Mustapha Larfaoui (fifth from right, back row), at the inaugural world championships in 1973; from 1989 he would be president for 20 years

The FINA Bureau, Algerian Mustapha Larfaoui (fifth from right, back row), at the inaugural world championships in 1973; from 1989 he would be president for 20 years

The rebels backed a polite letter from former British head coach Bill Sweetenham urging FINA to submit to independent review of finances and structures. The Australian coach guru never even received a reply. Not a word. And a target of reform switched to replacement.

Head of WSCA John Leonard, sent a stark message to some of the most senior figures among the coach organisation’s membership – and received support back almost instantly from a who’s who of coaches, many headed to Rio next week.

“The IOC,” wrote Leonard, “has made the cowardly decision to defer to its subordinates on the question of Russian participation in Rio. Shame on them, shame on the president [Thomas Bach], shame on all who accept this decision … The IOC has lost the moral right to ‘guard’ the Olympic Ideal. It must be replaced.”


Meanwhile, the last email of a great many I received from Forbes Carlile arrived a few weeks out from his passing on the eve of actions at the Olympic Games in Rio.

Beyond a note about the IOC and the poor choices he believed it made on a regular basis, Carlile was easrching for information on early swimming records dating back to 1836. He passed on information about the wasy “swimmers went off on their number, thus getting a flying start” in handicap races, making it hard to access speed, the winner simply the one that got home first regardless of when they set off. Australian records, he reminded me were often set in the People Palace Indoor Pool until it closed in the 1890’s but even those marks were subject to question: the 33 a a third yard pool was later found to be a few inches short.

Forbes and Ursula Carlile - at the centre of swimming lives for generations

Forbes and Ursula Carlile – at the centre of swimming lives for generations

An inquiring mind, right to the very last – and literally so, according to his wife Ursula, herself a towering contributor to swimming.

Forbes interest in the early records was not so much in the records themselves as in what they could tell us about the impact of changes in technique down the thread of time and stroke evolution.

Such passion and deep interest in swimming and the nature of the sport, the swimmers’ relationship with the water. From that point of view you can see why the malaise at FINA, the international body, was, to Forbes, a thorn in the side of the sport he loved. Here were men (and largely so for decade after decade and right through to this day) ‘leading’ the sport but unable to stick to their own rules on world records that were shaped with two key things in mind:

  1. standardisation, one of the very reasons why FINA came into being in 1908
  2. the healthy and safety of swimmers

On those two grounds were rules formed that clearly state that no world record can be set in a pool that does not comply to minimum pool facility requirements. That is clearly stated on a world-record aplication form that iniststs that “all” FINA rules are complied with. A pool in Wellington did not and does not comply with those rules when set up in a specific competition mode. No matter, said New Zealand; no matter said FINA: we will not only allow this world record to stand but tell the world that facility rules (covering the size, shape, dimension and so forth of pools – the very essentials of standardisation) do not apply when world record are set.

There, right there is the gulf between a man like Forbes Carlile and the leaders of the international federation who seem to care less when it comes to rules that speak to the very essense of Fair Play long before you get to the file labelled “Doping”.

Michael Phelps ended his career on his own terms, on a high and wearing his own brand of kit, MP by Aquasphere - photo by Patrick B. Kraemer

Michael Phelps – by Patrick B. Kraemer

And so we return to the desire of Michael Phelps to take swimming to the next level; to make the sport big. It remains to be seen what he and others have in mind. Whatever it is, the abuse of the past half a century must be acknowledged and dealt with, while any new era in the sport must start with a promise of transparency and a pledge that there will be no repeat of the malaise that has tolerated abuse of young athletes for decades in FINA’s watch.

There is hope in moves being made by athletes, coaches and others with a view to either having FINA submit to independent review and reform or face replacement. All the signs are that replacement will be the only way unless leading domestic federations stop sitting on their hands and truly represent their athletes and the interests of clean sport fit for a professional era.

Athletes need their own professional representation. Only then will they truly be able to shape their own futures.

On that note, we leave you not with what’s gone but what we might celebrate on December 31st to come:

The last half a century…recalled at a poignant moment in 2014…

Alles Geben, Nichts Nehmen: Healthy Option 25 Years After The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

GDR, state plan 14:25: victims of abuse included young athletes used as guinea pigs

Tomorrow, Germany will rest from work and will play instead – and my family and I will do likewise, the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the German Democratic Republic marking a moment that made it possible for me to meet my wife and for us to know our sons.

The Peaceful Revolution came to a head this week 25 years ago with emotional scenes as Hans-Dietrich Genscher, speaking to a crowd from a balcony at the West German Embassy in Prague (to where thousands of East Germans had fled that September) announced the terms of the deal he had negotiated for them to travel to the West and freedom. The trains had to pass first through the GDR and as they chugged through Dresden, police were forced to stop the cross from jumping on the rolling wagons.

Not much more than a month later, it was, in essence, all over: 40 years of the official GDR were done, the Berlin Wall about to be dismantled as Stasi (secret police) made for the files archive and the shredding room.

Thankfully, there was just too much to shred, too much to hide, too many notes to wipe from the slate of history, from the mundane that informed the authorities what colour people liked to paint their front doors to who might be having an affair with whom and on through reams of scribblings that noted down the precise dosages of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs – some of them clinically trialled on human guinea pigs – that had fuelled the GDR sports medals and records factory.

It was 1990 before reunification became official – so another 25-year anniversary will be declared next year and east and west parts of the new Germany will pour over the past once more, much of that done with a sense of happiness and hope, some looking back in sadness and some searching for and finding reason to look back in anger and bitterness (east and west).


In the realm of swimming, the impact of the GDR’s demise was not fully felt until the FINA World Championships in Perth, January 1991. I recall Michael Gross taking to a platform with Kristin Otto and appealing to the media not to dwell on the doping issues. Of course, it was impossible not to do so (Otto out and about with a bag on her back bearing the logo “Just Say No”)- especially when, later that year, the first details of the GDR Crime of the Sporting Century emerged in the book Doping: From Research to Deceit. 

What follows are words that have appeared under my name before with a few more recent thoughts. I make no apologies for repeating words old and do so both to mark the date and for the benefit of any who may need reminding. Today, as Germany prepares for a day of reflection on a national holiday, we take the opportunity to recall why we should never forget what came to pass. The day is all the more poignant because it marks the passing two years ago of Nick Thierry, a staunch advocate for clean sport, a coach, publisher and supporter of recording the truth no matter how hard it may be to swallow.

Before we proceed, I give thanks for the fall of the Wall, for what was unearthed, for all those who sought to get to the truth and to those who went to great lengths to report it, none less so than my colleague Karin Helmstaedt, who  sat in on the doping trials of the late 1990s and reported from them in English.

Doping: From Research to Deceit


The book confirmed – in part through Stasi and other documents saved from the shredders by people, since deceased, who worked with the authors Prof. Werner Franke and his wife Brigitte Berendonk – the existence and nauseating detail of State Plan 14:25,  complete with the dosages of Oral Turinabol administered to specific athletes, generations of swimmers included.

On 26 August 1993, after the former GDR had disbanded itself to accede to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990, records were opened and State Plan 14:25 confirmed: the Stasi, the GDR state secret police, supervised systematic doping of East German athletes from 1971 until reunification in 1990. Doping existed in other countries but the GDR was officially unique in so far as having a state plan designed to win in international sport as a way of saying ‘look how great our democratic republic and socialist/communist state is’.

The body and bulk of what was discovered is now held in places public and private in several countries, safe from the long arm of any single authority that may ver wish to suppress the truth. Some of that evidence was used in legal cases against coaches, doctors and others in the German doping trials of the late 1990s and subsequent compensation claims by athletes who suffered a spectrum of woes, from personal health, physical and psychological problems to the horrors of inheritance in the form of children born with club feet and a variety of other disabilities.

Oral Turinabol was just part of the poisonous cocktail of substances administered not only to medal-winning ‘ambassadors in tracksuits’ but to many who were never destined to make it beyond the Berlin Wall. Like the bulk of good but not world-class swimmers in the world, they were club swimmers – but with a dark difference; they served as human guinea pigs to test the effectiveness of substances that had never been clinically trailed in labs before bing administered to the athletes.

The Times in London carried the first post-reunification interview with Kornelia Ender in December 1991, penned by me and revealing her recollection of regular injections and pills that she now knew, along with the rest of us, to be performance-enhancing substances. News agencies, broadcasters and news publications galore from around the world revealed similar cases, after cases, many confirming the shocking depth, width, malice aforethought and criminality of State Plan 14:25.

In the late 1990s, as the doping trials unfolded, a special page on the internet was created by doping victims trying to gain justice and compensation, listing people involved in State Plan 14:25. Those people included Dr Lothar Kipke, who remains on the list of those who received “FINA Pins”, the awards given to those who have graced swimming with good service and upheld all the best of values.

There was never any official proposal from the USA or others with cause to speak up for their athletes to have Kipke and other convicted criminals removed from the FINA honours list and for that to be officially recorded and publicised. This year, after a campaign to recognise victims of the GDR crime on both sides of the divide, I lodged a request with FINA to have that situation reviewed. I am yet to hear news of any progress.

It is well past the time when leading members of FINA, the USA at the helm of them, pressed for the kind of recognition of the past that would result in Kipke’s official removal from the list of FINA honourees with an accompanying statement acknowledging the crimes committed, as recorded by the German court.

State Plan 14:25


State Plan 14:25 held that children (for many of those doped, particularly in sports such as swimming, were under age) would be doped with substances such as anabolic steroids, some never clinically tested on animals before human guinea pigs were plied with them, and without the knowledge or consent of their parents. The 1966 blueprint refers to the drugs as “Unterstutzenden Mitteln“, or “supporting means”. The blueprint would not be signed as official policy until 1974 but experimentation on athletes started much earlier – certainly from 1971 with research for the plan dating back to the mid 1960s. It was the biggest pharmacological experiment in sports history.

The drugs, administered by doctors and coaches, included Oral-Turinabol, a synthetic anabolic agent developed for cancer patients; testosterone derivatives; and “STS 646“, a drug considered too dangerous to licence inside the GDR but given to teenagers before being tested on lab rats. “The pills came in a box of chocolates,” Catherine Menschner would say in court in 1999. You are unlikely to know her name. By the time she spoke she had suffered seven miscarriages in the years after quitting the sport in which she was fed a diet of drugs but not for international glory. “I was a guinea-pig. I was used to test drugs for better athletes so they could win for the GDR,” she said.

The masterminds behind the plan were Manfred Ewald and Dr Manfred Hoeppner. Hoeppner made his base at 21 Czarnikauer Strasse, Berlin, doping HQ, the hub of State Plan 14:25 if you like. The room is just 3 metres square. In it he penned his reports for his Stasi (secret police) overlords on a fold-down table he had installed because there was no room for a proper table. The room was all taken up by boxes of steroids ready for shipping to sports programmes around the country. Hoeppner filed some 1,000 reports to his Stasi contact. Ewald was always in the loop as chief political player at the scene of the crime. In 2000, Ewald, then 74, was found guilty on 20 counts of contributing to bodily harm, the tip of an iceberg of his involvement in a terrible crime.

Ewald, who started off his court case a confident and robust man but ended it with a ruling that his health would only allow him to appear for two hours a day, received a 22-month suspended sentence and Hoeppner an 18-month suspended sentence, the fact that they had criminal convictions against their names more pertinent than the lenient nature of their penalties. Together they had faced 142 counts of assisting grievous bodily harm. On grounds of time, the judge heard just 22 cases before coming to his conclusion that the men before him were as guilty as sin.

Ewald was not handed a financial penalty, as so many others were, for his part in State Plan 14:25, on the grounds that much time had past since he had been up to his eyeballs in guilt. It took German authorities the best part of 10 years to get cases to court, even though the same evidence as produced in 1998-2000 had been available in 1992-93.

At Hoeppner’s right-hand was Dr Lothar Kipke, member of the medical commission of FINA. In that capacity he bangs the anti-doping drum but back home he is one of the worst offenders in the sporting crime of the century. A former member of the Nazi party, Kipke was described in a German court in Berlin in 2000 as “the Joseph Mengele of GDR sport“. He will also be damned by Hoeppner’s hand.

“In preparation for team travel to the US, Dr Kipke forced … athletes to be given testosterone injections. Dr Kipke is brutal in giving the injections. He doesn’t consider any pain it causes to the athlete and almost rams the shringe into the body.” – Hoeppner’s notes to his Stasi liaison officer.

Hoeppner and Kipke sat at the helm of a covert network that coerced and corrupted doctors, coaches, scientists, chemists and swimmers, among others athletes. He keeps a tight ship: beyond issuing “supporting means guidelines” with specific instructions on dosages, he orders abortions:

“Should a pregnancy occur while anabolic steroids are being taken then it is recommended in all cases that an abortion is carried out.” Children born to athletes who had taken steroids are to be delivered in a Stasi clinic so that “a decision could be taken as to what to do” in the event of “complications”.

Hoeppner later got cold feet as the monster he created got out of control and coaches started to choose their own doses for their girls (and boys). Most victims were teenage girls. Carola Nitschke and Antje Stille were 13 when they were put on a steroid regime, court cases would reveal in 1999 and 2000. In his trial, Kipke adopted the role of Nazi concentration camp guard: “I was only following orders…”. There to hear him was former swimmer Martina Gottshalt, who urged her abuser to “look my 15-year-old son in the eyes and tell him you were just following orders”. Her son, Daniel, sat beside her, his clubfoot swinging under the bench.

NADA's 2014 educational material seeks to have young people understand how their bodies are magnificent without the need to cheat

NADA’s 2014 educational material seeks to have young people understand how their bodies are magnificent without the need to cheat

The network headed by Hoeppner and Kipke extended to beyond Berlin HQ. In Leipzig, Prof Dr Helga Pfeifer is among those rolling out State Plan 14:25. As she confessed me in 2005 during a reflection of her GDR days and in the days after  it was revealed that she had been selling flume equipment for Chinese swim programmes in Shanghai:

“Yes, I was involved. I knew about the doping … The doctors decided. I was informed. I knew. I didn’t want to risk 35 years of sports science work and I don’t feel I have to apologise for that. I know which system I had to live and grow up in. No-one at the time knew how long that system would be in place.”

Pfeifer handles the sports science data at the heart some of the biggest Olympic sports, swimming included. It is unfair, she told me, to taint “brilliant” work with the doping that was a part of something bigger. Many beg to differ, if only because neither she nor we can say how good GDR swimmers might have been had fair play been the watchword of a rotten regime.  Two months after the Berlin Wall fell, Pfeifer, with official government permission Down Under, was invited to the Australian Institute of Sport. Her scientific papers were still to be found in the library of the AIS in recent years.

Pfeifer, along with many others steeped in the task of rolling out State Plan 14:25 were never called to account in a court of law. Among coaches, national team coaches Juergen Tanneberger and Wolfgang Richter and the East German swimming federation general secretary Egon Muller were among those who received one-year suspended jail sentences after being found guilty grievous bodily harm for having distributed steroids to under-age athletes without their knowledge. Several other national team coaches who had continued to coach Olympic, world and European champions throughout the 1990s, also had their careers brought to a halt after being convicted in trials in 1999 and 2000.

If their guilt was weighty it paled by comparison to that of Kipke, of whom one lawyer for victims said:

“He gave injections, he initiated experiments, and didn’t care about the individuals. He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Kipke, 76 and retired in Leipzig the last we heard, provided a packed courtroom in Berlin in 2000 with this explanation: “At 14 the girls were biologically adult. That’s why we could give them the stuff. They weren’t considered minors anymore.” Or even human, some might say.

Kipke was found guilty on 58 counts of grievous bodily harm to underage female athletes, was served a 15-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. That was January 2000. By October 3 that year, time would run out on the GDR doping court cases under a statute of limitations and all those not already called would walk free. Kipke was among seven GDR officials to receive honours from FINA. He received his in 1985, the year in which Stasi documents show that those who were spying on a spy reported back to Stasi bosses that Kipke appeared to relish administering doping in a “brutal” way. The rotten regime itself saw in Kipke a man who ought to be reined in. Dark irony indeed.

Among doctors called to court to account for their role in a massive deception was Dr Dorit Rosler. She would set up a surgery in Czarnikauer Strasse in post GDR days with the very purpose of helping victims of the GDR doping system. In court, Rosler broke down in tears when she faced some of those victims and said:

“I should have shown more courage. In Nazi Germany we did what we were told to do. The GDR doping machine was no different; we were just carrying out medical orders … have we not learned anything?”

No such level of remorse from Dr Dieter Binus, Dr Ulrich Sunder (sounds like Sünde, ‘sin’ in German) and Dr Horst Tausch. They all broke the Hippocratic oath and indeed the law when they administered drugs to swimmers. They were convicted of bodily harm. They continued to practice as doctors years after the doping factory their talents were put to use in had ceased to produce dark results. Among others working in the system was Dr Eberhard Koehler, who sought an injunction to try to prevent publication of a book on GDR doping in which he was named.

He was not alone among those wishing to keep the past a secret and denying that events took place in the way that Stasi documents clearly suggested that they did. Before travel to racing outside the GDR, all swimmers were tested and their urine samples sent to the IOC-accredited laboratory at Kreischa, a place charged by the Olympic movement with the task of catch cheats. In fact, what Kreischa did was to make sure the world would never catch the GDR cheating. Sportsmen and women found positive for drugs simply stayed at home, many after serious attempts had been made to wash their bodies of damning evidence. Little wonder that not a single GDR swimmer was ever caught, even though Stasi documents would later reveal the names, with specific doses of drugs administered, of generations of Olympic and world and European swimming champions.


In my archive is a copy of a Stasi document that shows tests taken on four women – three already Olympic champions by then – at Kreischa, a place not far from Dresden and close to where I sit writing these words. The tests were conducted two weeks before racing at the 1989 European championships in Bonn. All four were massively over the allowable testosterone:epitestosterone limit. Between them they claimed six solo medals, four gold, a silver and a bronze, while all four women contributed to a clean sweep of all three relay events for the GDR. Between 1970 and 1989, no other nation claimed a gold medal in women’s relays at the European championships.

Many a success was built on a little blue pill made in Jena at the eponymous drugs company Jenapharm. Its representative sat at the table when State Plan 14:25 was discussed and honed, according to Stasi papers. None was ever called to account for their role in the mass abuse of large numbers of young athletes.

“If the treatment with anabolics is long-term, or at high dosages, real possibility for androgenic side effects exists. Skin conditions such as acne will develop, virilisation effects such as deeping of the voice, growth of facial hair, masculine habits, increased sexual appetite, and clitoral hypertrophy will all occur.” – Jenapharm (drug company) paper, 1965.

In 2003, Jenapharm, beyond its GDR days, won Germany’s Golden Pill Award for services to womanhood. Two years on the company was named in a law suit by 162 athletes, many of them swimmers. Jenapharm’s parent companies denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, Jenapharm acknowledged that the company was obliged to “collaborate in the GDR ‘Staatsplan 14.25’, but that it was not a driving force behind the national GDR doping programme”. The blame rested with politicians, sports doctors and coaches. The athletes’ claims were unfounded, the company said.

Ultimately, an out-of-court settlement was reached and victims compensated by the pharmaceutical industry in Germany and by the German Olympic Committee, which assumed the responsibilities of the GDR Olympic body after reunification.

Among the victims were swimmers who in their 30s and 40s suffered defects to heart, liver, gallbladder, chronic back pain, damaged spines and reproductive organs, tumours, had endured multiple miscarriages and given birth to disabled children.

Some of those stories may only be told alongside revelations found in Stasi documents confirming the sporting crime of the century because of Prof Werner Franke, a cell biologist and cancer expert in Heidelberg, his wife Brigitte Berendonk and their lawyer Dr Michael Lehner.

One of the few victims to have spoken eloquently in public about her plight is Rica Reinisch, who at the age of 15 won three gold medals at the Olympic Games of Moscow in 1980, each win producing a world record. “The worst thing was that I didn’t know I was being doped,” she told The Guardian years later.

“I was lied to and deceived. Whenever I asked my coach what the tablets were I was told they were vitamins and preparations.”

Years on and Prof Franke would say: “There was no medical reason to give steroids. It was against the law of the German Democratic Republic. It was against medical ethics. Everybody knew these drugs were not allowed. The people who participated in this clandestine operation knew that they would lose privileges if they refused to take part.

“But they also knew they wouldn’t be executed. Some of the arguments now resemble those brought forward in the Third Reich. Those involved disapproved of what they were doing. They knew it was wrong. But they also knew it was a matter of national prestige, and was good for their careers. The Jesuits have a saying: ‘For the greater glory of God.’ This is what happened here.”

God and goodness, of course, had nothing to do with the abomination of the GDR’s State Plan 14:25.

It was from 1990 that the many who spoke out against the massive deception on which GDR sport was built felt truly free to do so. Two decades on from reunification, there are those who prefer to stay silent rather than tell the truth that unfolded at the expense of others who were robbed of their rightful claim to history. And there are former athletes who cannot lead normal lives, who live in pain, who take daily medication to help them to cope with the fallout of the poison pumped into their bodies.

In 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Deutsche Welle reported the case of Berlin resident Birgit Boese, for whom just getting to and from work is a triumph. Noted the report: The 48-year-old former athlete depends on crutches to get around, and she and her husband have to forego visits together to the theater, movies or local swimming pool. “Because of the pain, we can’t really take part in public life,” she told DW.

Once groomed to show the world that the GDR was best at shot put, Boese now suffers from an irregular heartbeat, high-blood pressure, diabetes, nerve damage, kidney problems, “and a list of other ailments that have made her all but an invalid”. Her journey through a nightmare started when she was just 11, when she started at sports school and was told to take the little blue pills that fed the East German medals machine.

Boese and 183 other victims of State Plan 14:25 were awarded compensation in 2006 from the German Olympic Sports Organisation (DOSB) and the drug company Jenapharm. Each received 9,250 euros from the pharmaceutical company in an out-of-court settlement and 170 of the plaintiffs were paid another 9,250 euros from the DOSB. Said Boese:

“It helped, sure. But for those with chronic illnesses and who have to pay out of pocket for medications, the money didn’t go that far.”


Officialdom in swimming has taken a ‘let-sleeping-dogs-lie’ approach to all of the above. This year, there were plenty of signs that Germany has long moved on: at the European Championships in Berlin in August, the corridors down which athletes, coaches media, public and others flowed to get to the stands were lined with an exhibition that related the story of the GDR’s swimming past, the Oral Turinabol and what came of it all.

Alongside the billboard presentations were stands belonging to NADA, the German anti-doping agency. There were brochures for parents and other brochures for their athletic offspring, agents were on call to answer questions and information was abundantly available. Bravo!

Germany has had a tough time keeping up in world waters of late but it has reached a deeper understanding with its past, settled on a better course – and can be proud of having done so.

A Different Perspective


Long gone is the time to stop portraying 14 to 16-year-old victims of abuse as thieves, cheats and deceivers (that thought as pertinent today as it was back in the days of the GDR and the 1990s).  Those whose names flood the books of swimming records and results from the 1970s and 1980s grew up in a time and a place and in circumstances that put a torch to suggestions that they had a choice, could have objected, could have told someone, could have gone home told their parents and expected their parents to step in.

This was a country, at the political level and beyond sport, in which, some objectors who later developed cancer believe that they were deliberately exposed to radiation while waiting to be called for interrogation; a country in which many were shot dead while trying to escape to a place of choice through barbed-wire barricades.

Down the years, I have met many of the GDR’s swim champions and medallists. In two cases, I detected a troubling tone of self-justification and defence of an indefensible system. In the vast bulk of cases, the swimmers, polite, pleasant, well-educated and getting on with what might be described as “ordinary lives” – beyond the pills and potions and sports-related problems that they endure – manage to speak with dignity and patience about painful episodes in their lives.

Some of them may well have gold medals but they are all victims to one degree of another. Victims of the likes of Kipke, who, like them, has kept his international honour in official terms.

Last year, SwimVortex joined hands with Swimming World to call for a better way of dealing with the past, called on officialdom to seek a way of recognising Babashoff, Brigitha and Co without making Ender and Co victims all over again.

Our purpose was clear: let the record stand – alongside every footnote necessary to make sport an honest place for future generations while treating victims on all sides with the dignity and recognition that they deserve.

Official silence has followed. On the day that Germany celebrates the first 25 years of a new beginning, may that silence deafen those who have had the power but not the courage to act.

2017 …

FINA’s Hero, Sun Yang*: Honouring The Dishonourable, A New Creed For Swimmers


FINA’s hero Sun Yang* – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Sun Yang draped in one banner and supported by another – by Patrick B. Kraemer

“Something is not right, rife with errors from top to bottom, leading to suspicion of motive. If the authorities knew about the problems and chose not to prevent them, then clearly something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. – Marcellus in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I.

2017, nothing to do with Denmark, nor Hamlet; much to do with the universal thought that underlines Shakespeare’s timeless line.

In swimming, Denmark is FINA, FINA is Denmark. No getting past it. Today we must deliver sad news to all you swimmers dedicated and committed to hard, smart and consistent work, clean sport, fair play and engaged in programs that live and breathe all of that, day in and day out.

We start with this: it is as if none, but none, of the lessons of history – including the widespread doping and abuse of teenage girls, in the GDR, China and in various forms, elsewhere – have been learned; as if the guardians of swimming live only for the things they have, regardless of what all of that has meant for others.

Scripted for you by the actions of a FINA leadership that finds enough honour in Sun Yang* to make up a whole new category of prize just for him – “Outstanding Contribution to Swimming Popularity” (yes, that’s right, no April Fools joke, no seasonal jest, no looking back and finding the Meyers, Goulds, Biondis who might have been honoured; no official announcement of the new award’s existence; it simply had to be Sun*), here it is, your new creed:

  • It is fine to dope in pursuit of the biggest prizes in your sport;
  • It is fine to take a heart booster for the best part of your international career because that is the only way you can be world-class;
  • It is fine to keep taking that booster even after it becomes a banned substance;
  • It is fine to swim on and race to three major international titles knowing what you’ve done but saying not a word to your fellow competitors nor the watching world thinking you a hero;
  • It is fine to have your home federation and anti-doping authorities hide it all away until someone a touch further up the chain of command says ‘best to come clean – and we can all then be lenient and lovely with each other’;
  • It is fine to hold out for silence and a total lack of transparency until FINA says ‘come on, let’s cut a deal here, your country being among those who keeps the funds flowing through our gravy train’;
  • It is fine to miss deadlines set out in the WADA Code enshrined in FINA rules, given that breaking and stretching FINA rules is something that appears not to be of any great concern to the guardians of you and those rules;
  • It is fine to declare yourself a victim of nasty media and racist westerners and so on and so forth after the deal is cut with FINA, after you get a backdated three-month suspension that you never actually serve – all the fault of others;
  • It is fine, then, to hug the FINA director Cornel Marculescu when he rushes up to greet you like he greeted no other on the burning deck at the Rio 2016 against a backdrop of booing and jeering from a community of peer athletes, coaches and others from around the world who simply can’t see that you did nothing wrong and remain a hero of your sport and a role model for your generation and others, an athlete worthy of honour.

Thomas Bach, IOC president, with Sheik Ahmad and FINA’s Julio Maglione – all chums together

Ah, honour! Back to Shakespeare. Let’s turn to Henry IV, where we find a complex Prince Harry, for whom honour appears to be associated with noble behaviour but that includes murder and more, all self-justified on the road to ultimate honour via sacrifice (of others).

Then we have the amoral rogue Falstaff, for whom the whole idea of honour is nothing but hot air and wasted effort that does no one any good. As Falstaff puts it through the bard’s quill:

“What is honour? a word. What is in that word honour? What is that honour? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No.”

Seems FINA’s leadership didn’t hear it either.

As Shakespeare’s Anthony said to his Octavia:

“If I lose mine honour, I lose myself…”


At which point, I have a couple of questions for USA Swimming: at which point did you lose your honour and way? When was it that you were diagnosed wilfully blind?

Don’t get me wrong. I see all the great things achieved and I see some areas that need serious improvement, just as I can see those in me and the rest of humanity but that’s not the point. What I’m asking of you, as the federation with more power in the world than any other ( were you to choose to use it wisely and tell the United States Olympic Committee that you cannot compromise on any of the issues that affect and inflict harm on your prime asset, the athletes, under any circumstances) is why you have not only done nothing about FINA but have even backed the current regime making mistakes (to put it mildly) hand over fist, season after season.

Some of the USA prime assets that deserve better – Caeleb Dressel, centre, cheers on Nathan Adrian with teammates before celebrating USA gold in the 4x100m free – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Just the act of having an honest heart-to-heart with USOC would surely free you from the bad path you have walked of late, sticking, as you have, to backing folk that have no business being guardians of young people in sport. The dollar may be mighty but it should not rank above the young people you govern and serve as guardians for.

There are a great many federations that need not cower behind this note to USA Swimming: you’re just as bad if not much worse. I address you, USA Swimming, because you truly have the power and skills in your midst to make a massive difference, to speak up for athletes and change the game for the good of all.

Will you do it? Will you ask your representative FINA vice-president Dale Neuburger what the hell he is thinking of when he sits down next to people cited as co-conspirators to fraud by the U.S. Justice Department, when even standard diplomacy would suggest a reasonable dose of ‘caveat emptor’ might be wise; what was he thinking when his fellow ‘volunteer executives’ granted Vladimir Putin FINA’s highest honour (especially in light of the news today)? What was he thinking when word came to him that Sun Yang* was about to be honoured with a prize especially created for … well, for those who fall foul of anti-doping rules, fall down on behaviour left, right and centre; including an aggressive, threatening stance towards a woman swimmer at a world championships that ended in official complaint; including kicking a locker in at those same world titles in a fit of anger directly linked to the controversy of his doping case?

What was Dale thinking about? What words did he speak on behalf of the USA and its aquatic athletes when such moments unfolded on his watch – only to be rewarded by ‘grandad’ (Sun’s word, not mine) Marculescu and Co at the FINA top table?

Hopefully you, USA Swimming, did ask him – and hopefully he explained it in terms you could understand. I have to say, try as I might, I can find no reasonable explanation for any of the above in the realms of what I know. Hopefully, you told Dale, USA Swimming, that this is ‘wholly unacceptable’ and that your prime assets (that’s the swimmers), deserve much, much, much better.

The truth is, FINA’s current leadership are simply unfit to govern.

In the days of the GDR, we had grown men sitting around a table nodding their agreement – after small groups of men had met in the quiet corridors of their own secret worlds – to a plan that involved doping 10,000 or so young athletes, some not yet teens, many just into their teens. Many have since led lives dependent on constant medication; some had sex-change operations because they’d already had that done to them, short of an organ or two; some gave birth to disabled children at a rate you won’t find in the general population. (And Dr Kipke has his FINA honour to this day; never recalled, despite criminal conviction in 1999).

In the days of FINA, we have small groups of men following their political agendas, failing to follow the rules of the organisation they lead; planning how best to spend $150,000 set aside to discredit critics in a hostile PR campaign; and bypassing those who are supposed to be consulted when awards are handed out, so that Sun* can be a pawn in a game of ‘please host and fund our World Series here and a cup event there; perhaps we might persuade you to spill $100m on a world championships…?’

Julio Maglione, the FINA president who lambasted WADA investigators for their work uncovering the rot at the heart of the Russian sports system

The award to Sun comes at a time when the IOC rules that Russia is suspended from the Winter Olympics in 2018 (though ‘clean’ Russians can compete under the Olympic flag). The IOC decision came with a lifetime ban for Sports Minister of Russian Vitaly Mutko and his deputy at the time of the systematic doping of young athletes.

Systematic doping: the very thing that prompted Julio Maglione, the Uruguayan president of FINA and a man backed by USA Swimming – to charge WADA with having “overstepped its authority” when it called commissions of inquiry to action – and then believed the findings now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt on several damning levels.

It comes down to this: when in China, honour Sun*, when in Russia, honour Putin; when in the GDR, honour Dr Lothar Kipke***; when in any part of the world and with any kind of people, regardless of whether they have committed abuses of one kind of another, regardless of any dark material swilling about the place or even whether the place and people could truly be said to be remotely linked to swimming and a swimming culture, let alone one wedded to clean sport and best practice, we will honour you, rest assured.

The culture is well tried and tested (see below). It is precisely why WSCA and affiliates across the world, athletes commissions far and wide, Usada boss Travis Tygart and many others have called for anti-doping to removed from the auspices of FINA and others who have proven time and again that you cannot promote and police sport all at once. The conflict of interest is as obvious as the skills of Phelps et al.

“… clearly something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Those were the very words once spoken to me as a code for seeking out the truth on a doping case. The world-leading anti-doping expert who spoke them was officially reprimanded by FINA director Cornel Marculescu after news broke of the fall from grace of an Olympic champion. At no stage did the expert tell me anything of the case. Yet reprimand followed, merely on the suspicion that someone “inside the Family” had played any part in getting the truth to the light.

“Something is not right, rife with errors from top to bottom, leading to suspicion of motive. If the authorities knew about the problems and chose not to prevent them, then clearly something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. – Marcellus in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I.

For those who did not catch it on previous occasions, here is a previous editorial, written before USA Swimming and others placed Maglione back on the throne for a third term back in July this year but no less relevant now:

Why Maglione*** Is As Useful To Clean Swimmers As A FINA Fart In A Spacesuit


I admit upfront that I’m writing a second editorial this day under the influence of performance-detracting substances, typhus and various other shots coursing through vein as I contemplate words that, nonetheless, spark some of the clearest thought I ever had: Julio Maglione*** (that’s our new asterisk denoting FINA officials who should resign for bringing the sport of swimming into disrepute) is unfit for purpose and should step down from the FINA presidency without hesitation.

Why? Well, we start with his view on the WADA IP report led by Prof. Richard McLaren. The independent commission, says the chap from Uruguay, that towering temple of swimming excellence he has helped build all these decades, has “exceeded its power” by uncovering state-sponsored doping in Russia.

No, surely the chaps at the Sputniknews misheard him when they report Maglione as saying (sit down those of you less solid than Shirley Babashoff):

“Its [WADA Commission] members exceeded their powers. For me WADA, and sooner or later this needs to be clarified, is an organisation with a function to control the doping abuse, approve the relevant rules and not to talk about the situation in a particular country, it must be done by the head of the Olympic Games, that is by the International Olympic Committee.”

In other words, one might imagine – ‘shut up. We’ll tell you if we’ve judged anything to be bad news’.

  • NB: Sputnik was launched in November 2014 by Rossiya Segodnya, an agency wholly owned and operated by the Russian government, which was created by an Executive Order of the President of Russia on December 9, 2013

Perhaps they heard right. Anyhow, here’s an explanation, yon Julio Maglione, ye who broke a presidential campaign pledge to stay for two terms only but want to fight on well into your 80s to keep the top seat in swimming for reasons best know to yourself (competence in the job cannot be one of them): the reason why WADA has had to step in (and thank God it did) … because:

… you, FINA,  the signatory to the WADA Code have failed miserably, decade after decade, to stand up for clean athletes and cut out the rot of doping in the primary sport under the umbrella of the organisation of which you are now chief among custodians (that a title far more important than ‘president’).

The thing is, Julio, you say you want clean sport; you say you are zero-tolerant; you say dopers should be punished. And it may well be that you are sincere. And yet the record paints a different picture. I feel very comfortable writing that uncomfortable truth, starting with the fact that more than 50 Olympic gold medals since 1976 have gone to swimmers who fell foul of anti-doping rules, most of those on your watch as FINA Bureau member and that’s just counting the ones that we can say that of without a shadow of a doubt.

Yuliya Efimova at the London 2012 Olympic Games before her troubles began - will she be in Rio? - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Yuliya Efimova by Patrick B. Kraemer

Sun Yang - a FINA star who has got no stripes for good behaviour of late - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Sun Yang – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Outfoxed by the extension of Russia’s masquerade from the mousehole in the lab wall to the court room of arbitration, Maglione presides, yet again, over another fine mess: when Yuliya Efimova* and entourage take their case before the CAS, what do you think is going to happen, Maglione, to the FINA grand plan of nodding to the IOC’s unwillingness to impose a blanket ban that would have got the job done?

What do you think might be said about cutting out the Russians who have had a positive test to their name in the past while leaving your star turn, China’s Sun Yang*, FINA world titles man of the meet, Korea’s Park Tae-hwan, and others with an asterisk to their names (NB: you get three, Julio, because you’re a very important person) in the Olympic pool?

vladimirmorozovfacebookVladimir Morozov went on Facebook to make a parallel point today, writing directly to Maglione when he says:

“I am sure that I am a clean athlete and my name must stay clean, supported by the facts of testing throughout the years. I am sure that in a justice-driven system I have full right to take part in the Olympic Games.”

He has a point: when you are punished, the least those punishing you should do is let you know what your offence is.

Three ways of looking at it: Maglione and Co at FINA are either (feel free to tick the box you perceive as most appropriate):

  • deliberately divisive
  • lucky gamblers
  • or, complete nincompoops

CAS will decide. Now, it could well be that the sports court, having sided with the IAAF to keep Russian track and field athletes out of Rio because the rules say that it can, may find a way of making exceptions of Russians who have tested positive even though Justin Gatlin**, with a big thumbs up from USOC, will be there making a sham of the track and field events.

It may be that the CAS finds that in response to exceptional circumstances, all who have been found wanting previously under the WADA Code will be locked out of Rio. Now that would be a great day for the Olympic Movement.

I’m not a betting man, Julio, but if I had to place a wager, I’d say that CAS will struggle to forge either of the two suggestions above out of the cauldron of chaos the IOC placed on the stove the moment it abdicated its responsibility to FINA and its peers in other sports and failed to say to Russia:

‘You have been involved in systematic doping and we cannot and will not tolerate that – come back in 2020 and show us that you’ve placed your bad habits and abuse of minors on the compost of bad practice that has no part in the Olympics nor any elite world sport in 2016.’

Vladimir Salnikov

Vladimir Salnikov

Is that not what you, Maglione, and FINA ought to be saying, too? Have you, Maglione, asked Vladimir Salnikov, fellow Bureau member and head of the Russian Swimming Federation, about those two EPO positives that never got reported – in contravention of the WADA Code?

I only ask because if WADA isn’t the body to look into such things, then it must be you. So, where are you with it?

Of course, it may be that it will take you some time to get to it, given that the queue of unresolved issues at FINA dates back to the days of the German Democratic Republic and State Plan 14:25.

Have you got that silver pin back yet, Julio? You know the one, the services-to-swimming award the Bureau you served gave to Lothar Kipke …  for services to what? Well, monstrous abuse, as it turned out.

You honoured the GDR beyond Kipke, of course.  You’ll remember at least some of these:

The FINA Eminence Prize

Kornelia Ender (GDR) – 1975 … that was the year she won two solo golds, a solo silver and two relays golds at the world championships, while Shirley Babashoff (USA) won two solo golds, a solo silver, a solo bronze and two silvers in relays behind the GDR and State Plan 14:25. Ender would later recall the little blue pills, the injections and the growing out of t-shirts in three months in her mid-teens.

Stasi (secret police) documents emerged in the 1990s naming scores of Olympic champions and world record holders had been doped

Stasi (secret police) documents emerged in the 1990s naming scores of Olympic champions and world record holders had been doped

Go down a peg and we have …

The FINA Prize:

Kristin Otto (GDR) – 1988, six golds at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games.  On the image to the right, Julio, you’ll spot the ‘positiv’ anabolic steroid test result she returned in-house at the IOC-accredited Kreischa laboratory, that a process not to reveal the cheating inherent in State Plan 14:25 but to hide it from the world.

Where were you, Julio, when the evidence flowed like a river of blood all through the 1990s and culminated in the criminal conviction of coaches and doctors and officials for abuse of minors?

What did you do, Julio? I ask because you were right there at the top table throughout all those years in the GDR and China-crisis era. Here’s a reminder in case you’re forgotten:

  • 1984: voted on to the FINA Bureau
  • 1988: promoted to Vice-President
  • 1992 (beyond the first very clear evidence that State Plan 14:25 fuelled the GDR success from 1973 to 1989): promoted to Honorary Treasurer.
  • Yuan Yuan under arrest, 1998, by Craig Lord at Perth Airport

    Yuan Yuan under arrest, 1998, by Craig Lord at Perth Airport

    And, then, all through the years of the China doping crisis, your journey as a career politician earning a vast wage in per diems even though your every expense is covered beyond the need for any per diem … did you, Julio, ask whatever happened to Yuan Yuan and her generation? Did you care to know if they are of good health, Julio? What can you tell the world about the health of the GDR girls long since women and the Chinese girls long since women and their offspring and the doctors who treat them? Is there anything you’d like to say to them, Julio – if so, do feel free to pen your thoughts and we promise to publish every last word you write.

  • 1996, 2000, 2005-2009: returned to the treasurer’s position which you held for 17 years until…
  • 2009: voted into the president’s chair on the back of a campaign in which you pledged to stay for two terms only.

That brings your tenure to a close next summer in Budapest. Or not, given that you called the troops together and told them something along these lines: ‘look, chaps, we’re all in this together and wouldn’t it make perfect sense for me to stay for a third term: all it will take is another change to the constitution I had changed in 2009 and hey presto, I’m your octogenarian leader once more even though my age rules me out of being a member of the IOC under modernising Olympic rules’.

Guess what, all you people who are ‘served’ by Maglione and Co? They bought it, USA Swimming, the lot of them. Paolo Barelli was among the only few who, for whatever reason, thought that FINA might be better off with some younger blood to steer the ship into new waters and get the organisation out of the stagnant pond and stench of inaction and inability to deal with the ghosts of the past.

So, let’s return to those honours given out during the years Maglione was a decision-maker, a leader on the FINA Bureau and a man giving the thumbs up to a Russia right there at the heart of the prevailing crisis, courtesy of a recommendation from president Vladimir Putin:

FINA Honour Plaques

  • 1980 – Vitali Smirnov (URS) and Vladimir Rodichenko (URS)

For those too young to recall, the URS is the Soviet Union and this is what Putin said of Smirnov, the now 81-year-old, this past week as he recommended him to lead the ‘independent’ anti-doping commission in Russia at the start of a process of ending the bad old days:

“The question is, of course, who would head the commission? Clearly, the answer is a person with an absolutely impeccable reputation, somebody who has credibility and the respect of the Olympic family. We have a person like this in our country. It is Vitali Smirnov, Russia’s representative in the International Olympic Committee, a member since 1971. I think we should ask him to head up the commission. I hope that he will accept as a person who has devoted so many years to the Olympic movement and the development of sports in our country.”

Absolutely impeccable reputation? Well, here’s Smirnov’s record:

  • IOC member from 1971-2015, now an honorary member
  • First Vice-Minister of Sport of the USSR (1970-1975)
  • Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation (1981-1990) among other senior positions
  • Executive President of the Organising Committee of the Games of the XXII Olympiad Moscow 1980 (1975- 1981)
  • USSR National Olympic Committee President (1990-1992)
  • President (1992-2001) then Honorary President (2001-) of the Russian Olympic Committee.
  • A player in the Olympic bids of the 1990s (St. Petersburg and Sochi in early stages) which were connected to allegations of money laundering and other olympic deals.
  • Involved in a costly and failed Olympic Lottery scheme that was the subject of ligitation in Russia and Switzerland
  • Cited by IOC inquiry in several olympic schemes of alleged bribery (Atlanta 1996, Salt Lake City 2002)

According to a Russian historian, Mr Smirnov was also a KGB agent. As German journalist Jens Weinreich noted so well this week, the historian, Yuri Felshtinsky, wrote in his book “The KGB plays Chess”, published in 2009:

“Vitaly Smirnov, the Vice President of the International Olympic Committee and head of the NOC of the USSR, was recruited in 1978 by the deputy head of the Fifth Directorate of the KGB, Major General Ivan Abbramov.”

So, Maglione, we press on with those FINA Honour Plaques:

  • 1982 – Juan Samaranch (ESP) – IOC President and former ambassador for Spain in the Soviet Union
  • 1991 – USSR Swimming Federation

And on to the Pins, gold, silver and bronze:

The story yet to be told of a story much told

The story yet to be told of a story much told


  • Georg Zorowka (GDR) 1984; Gerhard Hecke (GDR) 1988


  • Georg Zorowka (GDR) 1980; Gerhard Hecke (GDR) 1985; Lothar Kipke (GDR), 1985; Eberhard Bade (GDR), 1985; Egon Muller (GDR), 1988

A quick trawl of all pin awards 1977 to 1997 – 20 years of honour for services to aquatic sports: 210 pins handed out – 200 to men, 10 to women.

Those GDR awards were handed out during the years when State Plan 14:25 was being rolled out. Let’s remind ourselves:

The masterminds behind the plan were Manfred Ewald and Dr Manfred Hopper. At Hoeppner’s right-hand was Dr Lothar Kipke, member of the medical commission of FINA. In that capacity he bangs the anti-doping drum but back home he is one of the worst offenders in the sporting crime of the century. A former member of the Nazi party, Kipke was described in a German court in Berlin in 2000 as “the Joseph Mengele of GDR sport“. He will also be damned by Hoeppner’s hand.

“In preparation for team travel to the US, Dr Kipke forced … athletes to be given testosterone injections. Dr Kipke is brutal in giving the injections. He doesn’t consider any pain it causes to the athlete and almost rams the shringe into the body.” – Hoeppner’s notes to his Stasi liaison officer.

Hoeppner and Kipke sat at the helm of a covert network that coerced and corrupted doctors, coaches, scientists, chemists and swimmers, among others athletes. He keeps a tight ship: beyond issuing “supporting means guidelines” with specific instructions on dosages, he orders abortions:

“Should a pregnancy occur while anabolic steroids are being taken then it is recommended in all cases that an abortion is carried out.” Children born to athletes who had taken steroids are to be delivered in a Stasi clinic so that “a decision could be taken as to what to do” in the event of “complications”.

Hoeppner later got cold feet as the monster he created got out of control and coaches started to choose their own doses for their girls (and boys). Most victims were teenage girls. Carola Nitschke and Antje Stille were 13 when they were put on a steroid regime, court cases would reveal in 1999 and 2000. In his trial, Kipke adopted the role of Nazi concentration camp guard: “I was only following orders…”. There to hear him was former swimmer Martina Gottshalt, who urged her abuser to “look my 15-year-old son in the eyes and tell him you were just following orders”. Her son, Daniel, sat beside her, his clubfoot swinging under the bench.

GDR, state plan 14:25: abuse victims on both sides - yet a call for reconciliation has fallen on deaf ears

GDR, state plan 14:25: abuse victims on both sides – yet a call for reconciliation has fallen on deaf ears

That, Maglione, is what the FINA Bureau voted for when it granted the man a pin for his services to swimming.

Are you absolutely sure that you feel WADA to have exceeded its powers. After all, you did nothing about it yourselves; you left it to others and they filled the void.

After all, you have now spoken out on an issue beyond your jurisdiction – would you feel that an abuse of power, Julio?

No, probably not. But what you should now do is resign, step down immediately for bringing the sport of swimming into disrepute through a voting record on the Bureau that has backed the GDR, then done nothing to put that right in the intervening years even though the evidence was overwhelming, even though a court in Germany confirmed criminality, names attached, and even though you have been asked time and time and time again to reconsider the issue.

I know that because I asked you myself in 2013. “Let sleeping dogs lie,” you replied. SwimVortex and Swimming World, a petition signed by many hundreds of leading athletes, including dozens of Olympic champions, asked the FINA Press Commission to request Bureau consideration of a reconciliation ceremony for victims on both sides of State Plan 14:25. The press commission agreed unanimously to send the matter on to the Bureau.

  • You, Julio, have not even had the decency to send a single word of reply back.
  • You, Julio, have not even had the decency to send a single word back to Bill Sweetenham when he asked you to consider an independent review designed to improve the structures and governance of FINA in the interests of athletes
  • You, Julio, have not had the decency of speaking to the coaches of the world represented to the tune of 17,500 professionals when they think something called the World Swimming Association would be a better alternative than keeping a deaf FINA alive.
  • You, Julio, with those words to Sputnik, have now ridden roughshod over the rights of clean athletes to have independent oversight and inquiry of monstrous events in the world of sport in which a state stands charged with assisting (at the very least) systematic doping of athletes, some, like one of the swimmers you, FINA, have now barred from Rio 2016, as young as 14 when they tested positive for doping.

Oh, back to those prizes, forgot one:

The FINA Order:

  • October 2014, on the cusp of crisis – Vladimir Putin
The unavoidable asterisk that taints unclean and clean alike in Russian swimming can be removed only by revolution at home, with clean athletes pressing the case for a clean culture and sport and getting on the case of their elders not the rest of the world. Pictured - Svetlana Chimrova, second left, and Veronica Popova, who shared a podium with a two problems among many - Daria Ustinova*, left, Yulia Efimova*, right, for global honour - by Patrick B. Kraemer

The unavoidable asterisk that taints unclean and clean alike in Russian swimming can be removed only by revolution at home, with clean athletes pressing the case for a clean culture and sport and getting on the case of their elders not the rest of the world. Pictured – Svetlana Chimrova, second left, and Veronica Popova, who shared a podium with a two problems among many – Daria Ustinova*, left, Yulia Efimova*, right, for global honour – by Patrick B. Kraemer

As FINA even having any role at all in anti-doping in the future heads to the table at the September conference of the IOC and WADA, have you ever asked yourself if you are part of the doping system as opposed to the anti-doping system, Julio? I ask only because your words to Sputnik suggest that you’d rather not have seen any inquiry at all.

If I’m wrong on that, do send me your clear view on doping with a list of all the measures you have taken to investigate the evidence unearthed by ARD, the New York Times, The Times, SwimVortex, SportIntelligence, Sport & Politics a whole raft of other media and journalists around the world; the WADA investigators; the courageous Russians who brought the woeful news to the world … and so on.

You mustn’t feel picked on, Julio. The thing is, the same questions are being put to Thomas Bach – and he’s even more important than you.

Take this from dpa, the German news agency on a day when the IOC president has been savagely lambasted by a host of leading athletes and coaches in his native country:

Discus Olympic gold medalist Robert Harting heaped massive criticism on IOC President Thomas Bach today, saying of his countryman in the wake of the IOC board’s failure to impose a blanket ban on Russia for the Rio 2016 Olympic games in response to clear evidence of state-sponsored, systematic doping and associated cover-up:

“For me he is part of the doping system, not the anti-doping system. I am ashamed of him. I have often expressed my disappointment about Thomas Bach. But this is now a new level of disappointment.”

On the IOC’s decision not to invite whisteblower Yuliya Stepanova to race in Rio, Harting said: “That’s not right. She has averted so much damage to the athletics world. Her being able to start [to race] would have been a slap in the face for Mr. Putin. Therefore, she cannot take part.”

Did you, meanwhile, Julio, ask Vladimir which coach, which doctor was responsible for Ustinova’s positive. Just that I see no adult on the list of those held to account for a 14-year-old testing positive for a banned substance – and since you’ve now removed all spent cases from the public domain, we are left with only one image for Daria K. Ustinova, now 17, then 14: cheat.

Is that fair, Julio? Or don’t you think you might have exceeded your power? CAS is about to decide.

FINA in focus: Julio Maglione, top right, is the latest in a line of federation presidents going back to George Hearn in 1908

FINA in focus: Julio Maglione, top right, is the latest in a line of federation presidents going back to George Hearn in 1908

Those dogs lie sleeping no more, Julio Maglione. They’re up, they’re hungry, they are athletes – and they have turned their gaze to you and yours and those who have spent decades in self-service, sitting on hands, asleep at the wheel as victims get run over generation after generation. Those victims are the clean athletes of the world, Maglione.

What do you have to say to them as you advocate that only the IOC leadership can deliberate on matters doping like some latter-day dictator.

Out of step again, Julio: time for independent handling and oversight of anti-doping; time for the end of autonomy and the start of independent oversight of sports governance from business to structures of leadership and accountability.

I’d like to believe you when you declare zero-tolerance on doping as your mantra. Your words speak far louder than your deeds.

Your time is up, Julio. Go in peace. But go. And now.

  • – * Sun Yang* tested positive for the banned stimulant trimetazidine, a substance he said he had taken for “several years” on May 17, 2014. The case was revealed in November of the same year in a short note from Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, that noted that a three-month suspension had been handed down retrospectively. The ban was never actually served. Sun trained on and raced to three gold medals at the Asian Games in September 2014.
  • *** – official who was either proven to have taken part in doping practices or who took no action against those proven to have done so

2014 …

The Themes Above and Back to the Roots Of It All: Empowering Coaching

From The Archive – Lund, WADC, 2014

Swim Sorority of Thinkers Light Up A Pathfinding Day In Lund

A sorority of thinkers (from left): Prof. Joan Duda, Allison Wagner, Dana Vollmer, Caitlin Leverenz, Dr. Fiona McLachlan

When Professor Joan Duda stood up to speak at the World Aquatic Development Conference here in Lund, Sweden, she said: “We’ve heard the good the bad and, quite frankly, the ugly, here today.” Just before she sat down at the end of a world-class presentation that challenged swimming to find a better way of being, she concluded: “I never want to see this kind of thing happen ever again.” SwimVortex was there to hear the outstanding presentations of American swimmers Allison Wagner, Dana Vollmer and Caitlin Leverenz that triggered her comments and we will report on those soon alongside the pathway set out by Prof. Duda beyond a leading research project by seven European Universities that aims to transform the environment of youth sport and athlete wellbeing.

Rarely, if ever, do you sit through four presentations at a swim conference (any conference for that matter) in one afternoon without being overwhelmed by a need for coffee and fresh air. Though coffee and 15-minute breaks were on the agenda, the first day of four at WADC went far further than marking one of those rare occasions: if in the years ahead (and the sooner the better), the words spoken by a sorority of thinkers in Lund do not influence change for the better in sport, if they are not held up as building blocks for a culture to aspire to and act upon, we will all have to hang our heads in shame.

Of the four presentations, that of Vollmer and Leverenz marked the only deliberate collaboration and interaction, yet there was no denying the thread that wove all themes neatly together by coincidence on a day that started with the swimmers in the water at the Swedish Center for Aquatic Research demonstrating and advocating the work of the man on the deck, Milt Nelms (more on that over the weekend). The ethical and performance issues raised, opinion based heavily on experience, facts and research, are as challenging to the sport as a whole and those who govern it as much as the coaches at the conference.

The Stage-Setter: How to be Good

Context was set from go. Coaches were asked to think outside the box from the starting blocks, the day 1- heat 1 presentation from Dr. Fiona McLachlan a call for the guardians of swimming youth to consider “How to be Good”.

McLachlan, a scientist from Victoria University’s Institute for Sport, Exercise and Active Living, took her cameras, supertroupers and director’s chair away from the familiarity of the pool deck to a hilltop several waves back to a glimpse of a different horizon for swimming to set its cap to.

Her opening shot, one that would frame all that was to follow on a day stacked high with thoughts, facts, experience and research broad and deep, offered four signposts. The pathway did not come with a set of directions demeaning ‘take this route to the light’, rather this was about “the beginning of a conversation”, and “the start of a process” designed to empower and to deliver a better environment and understanding than that which prevails.

The journey set out by McLachlan, academic adviser to Shane Gould as the 1972 triple Olympic champion embarks on PHD studies, took in the cultural shock of the Australian review that judged culture at the heart of the sport Down Under to be “toxic”, the Stilnox saga, leadership vacuum and what she described as “the mismatch of expectations (nation) and what they (swimmers) did”.

McLachlan listed her four-step process as follows:

  • Big-picture thinking (philosophy)
  • Contextualisation (sociology, history, cultural studies)
  • Critique (social and cultural analyses of power)
  • Transformation (professional experience + research = performance)

Her work is centred in the realms of bringing meaning and fostering integrity to sport. There were, as McLacghlan told it, two key pillars:

  • a. understand swimming, its embodiment and performance, including an invitation to travel the road down which Milt Nelms has led: “unlearn the cognitive and go back to the sensation of being in water”.
  • b. enhance elite swimming coaching, learn-to-swim instruction and everyday aquatic experience in public places.

Technical and tactical efficiency is the aim of most performance-led programs and clinics and that comes with the pursuit of the latest and best knowledge with which coaches can help their athlete to get the best out of themselves.

How does that fit into the four-step process of the scientist, asked McLaghlan prior to explanation:

Big-picture thinking

This requires letting go of taken-for-granted assumptions, engaging in experiment, asking why and thinking about possibilities for practice. The need to question should be a daily, integral part of the coaching role, she suggested, big-picture thinking as important as the technical and the tactical.

Asking the question what do we want sport to be about, she listed an environment “exclusive, progressive, healthy, one that promotes good practice, diversity and enables people to live fulfilling lives”. The question came down to “how do we use sport in society?”. The theme is an ethical one, including this range of thought put to coaches by McLachlan:

” … what swimmers do, what they should do, what they are made to do, what you make them do, what you do to them in making them good”. Thought extended to “what coaches should do and how they can be good”.

In swimming, the answer to the question “how to be good” ran on parallel lines: performance, yes, but also “being human”. Said McLachlan: “Being good is about both of these things.” She then challenged coaches to send to the conference app five quick-fire answers to the question “what makes a good swimmer?”

The replies spoke often to the theme of the three D’s that Debbie Meyer once cited to me as the mantra of her illustrious achievement:

dedication, determination, discipline. Here’s a sample: training; sleep; food; motivation; self confidence; water perception; being interested; wanting to get better; being mentally strong; physical attributes; athletic readiness; independence; being focused on goal/goals; a will to train hard; passion; intelligence.

  • Leverenz and Vollmer offered: a competitive drive, a continual desire to learn.

One coach wrote: A good swimmer wins! Another offered: being coachable. The latter is among those thoughts that invite further questions on a day that raised issues of power and control, of task-led approaches versus ego-led approaches and the directions in which such journeys lead athlete and coach. What does it mean to be coachable? Presentations by Leverenz, Vollmer and Allison Wagner would shed light on answers from the book of deeper understanding.

Coaches, meanwhile, were invited to discuss their answers with McLaghlan throughout the conference and its workshops over four instructive days in Lund.


Coaching is something that happens in Fiji, Sweden, the USA, Australia, Japan and many other countries every day. The word describing the job may be the same but each situation comes with its own environment and circumstances: context. Neither was coaching now what it was 50 years ago, nor what it will be 50 years from now.

“It is important to understand the context in which you are working, to understand changes and trends and meet prevailing challenges in ethically responsive ways,” McLachlan told coaches. Doping, suits and a number of other topics sprang to mind, all apt to mould the coaching profession, the sport, the governance of it and the environment in which young folk grow up on the way to a wider world.

McLaghlan, from New Zeaalnd, had arrived in Australia not too long before the fall out of the Australian review into the events of 2012, lead-up and London 2012 Olympic Games. She felt the cultural shock of it all through media coverage that left her reeling. The accusations included:

  • Abuse of a system designed to assist preparation
  • Not attending competition to support teammates
  • acting in a manner detrimental to team and elevating themselves above teammates
  • expecting special treatment
  • being satisfied simply with selection rather than performance in Olympic waters
  • having an attitude of what’s in it for me
  • bullying

The end result was one of a sport that had not lived up to what the media (supposedly reflecting the views or a nation and a culture) expected of ‘good swimmers’. There had been a mismatch of expectation and what unfolded.

Though much coverage was focussed on the ‘Stilnox Six’ and carried a tone that left McLaghlan “appalled”, the subsequent review came to conclusions that spilled well beyond the individual athlete, including:

  • lack of leadership
  • generational shift challenges
  • lack of proper induction processes
  • team not enforcing consequences for poor behaviour
  • failure to create the right environment
  • abrogating responsibility

The challenge to coaches was not only to list the things that influence and determine how they run their programmes for athletes and what environment they created but to do so regularly in equal measure to the attention paid to the technical and the tactical.


This is where we raise problems, ask questions, including those that challenge the status quo. It was, suggested McLachlan, hard for those “outside the sport” to do this but it was crucial to do so. Much more difficult for many within the sport to raise hot topics, from discrimination to sexual misconduct, doping, other bad practice and much else.

Many within the sport would find it difficult to engage in the ‘critique’ part of the process because:

  • a. They have vested interest in keeping the status quo: it is not in their best interest to challenge or annoy the organisations that employ or control them in some way
  • b. when practices become entrenched and part of the culture of the sport, being a part of that culture “obscures from us the negative context of what we do and criticism of it”

It was important, McLaghlan noted, that the process of critique was not focused on the individual athlete but the big picture. Convention often limits us from thinking outside the box, she suggested, with careful, moral judgment not always within easy reach.


There is, said McLachlan, no point in points 1 to 3 if you don’t close the deal: transformation was the where you change for the better, rid the status quo of the problematic and dangerous.

The process of finding areas for potential problems, working through solutions and finding a way to change for the better required “ethical engagement’. It was not simply a process of fact accumulation. Instead, coaches needed to think about it as an ongoing critical reflection, updating knowledge and responding to context in an ethical manner. The effects on swimming could be potent.

McLachlan is due to make further presentations here in Lund.

From the library:

Journal articles

  • McLachlan, F. (2010). ‘You can’t take a picture of this – it’s already gone’: Erased evidence, political parody, postmodern histories. Sporting Traditions, 27(2), 91- 100.
  • McLachlan, F. (2009). Cohesive narratives: Dissolving Aotearoa/New Zealand’s heroines of water. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 26(14), 2143-2159.
  • Loy, J., McLachlan, F. & Booth, D. (2009). Connotations of female movement and meaning: The development of women’s participation in the Olympic Games. Olympika, XVIII, 1-23.
  • McLachlan, F. (2009). Working with ‘obesity’: Lessons from reality television. The New Zealand Physical Educator, 42(1), 22-25.

Book chapters

  • Burrows, L., McLachlan, F. & Spowart, L. (2011). The dissertation. In K. Armour & D. Macdonald (Eds). Research methods in physical education and youth sport. Routledge: London.


How Case 1:17-cr-00224-PKC & The FIFA Scandal Could Now Shape The Future Of FINA

The paperwork for Case 1:17-cr-00224-PKC lodged at the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, makes fascinating reading beyond its headline “United States of America – against – Richard Lai”.

In swimming, the term “case No 1:17-cr-00224-PKC” may one day trip off the tongue of swimming readers like “State Plan 14:25” does, so significant could it become. The future shape of FINA hangs on it.

Case 1:17-cr-00224-PKC raises many questions for swimming.

Some of those will be doing the rounds at the annual Congress of the European Swimming League (LEN) in Marseilles today as the old continent contemplates its chances and campaigns ahead in a bid to lead FINA for the first time in 33 years. The swimming debate is now linked to big movers and shakers in the Olympic realm.

Thomas Bach, IOC president, with Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah and FINA’s Julio Maglione – courtesy of Jens Weinreich

Among the questions running are:

  • What to do about Husain Al Musallam?
  • Why has FINA not imposed a temporary suspension on Al Musallam given that the U.S. citizen he is alleged to have paid bribes, namely Richard K. Lai, a United States citizen, has pleaded guilty? [pleaded guilty to “a criminal information charging him with two counts of wire fraud conspiracy in connection with his participation in multiple schemes to accept and pay bribes to soccer officials.  Lai also pleaded guilty to one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts and agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties”.
  • Why has the FINA executive not opened inquiries into all three men and refererred matters to the organisation’s Ethics Panel?
  • Is a statement saying ‘keeping an eye on it’ really enough under the circumstances?
  • Why is the FINA president Julio Maglione not calling for Al-Musallam to step down pending investigations into soaringly serious matters?
  • What does it all mean for the Kuwaiti succession plan at FINA?
  • How best to throw the continent’s weight behind a challenge to Maglione from Paolo Barelli, the LEN president for the top seat at FINA?
  • And – how did it come to this? How did we manage to build a system, attempt to promote it and call it achievement when, in fact, FINA is on the cusp of collapse, with three of its ruling Bureau members now faces charges of corruption?

Two of those men, Coaracy Nunes, of Brazil, and Ben Ekumbo of Kenya, are alleged to have been engaged in illegal activities in relation to the Olympic Games, while Al-Musallam is cited in a U.S. Justice Department indictment.

Case 1:17-cr-00224-PKC lodged at the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, makes fascinating reading beyond its headline “United States of America – against – Richard Lai”.

Short recap: Lai is the head of Guam football and a fellow member of FIFA, FINA’s football equivalent living on a somewhat higher plain of power and money. Lai has been accused of receiving almost $1 million in kick-backs/bribes. He is a U.S. citizen and therefore subject to American laws and courts.

The paperwork lodged at the Brooklyn office of the U.S. Department of Justice cites “Co-conspirator 2” and “Co-Conspirator 3”.

While the two people are not referred to by name, their leadership roles at the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) the Kuwait Football Association (KFA) are – and it is those positions that have identified them as Co-Con 2 and Co-Con 3, who are alleged to have played key roles in the payment of those vast sums of money to Lai.

Case 1:17-cr-00224-PKC

The detail of what is alleged includes the following list of the bribes said to have been paid to Lai by Co-Con 2 and Co-Con 3:

  • Nov. 17, 2009: $200,000
  • Oct. 7, 2010: $20,000
  • Feb. 16, 2011: $100,000
  • April 4, 2011: $50,000
  • May 5, 2011: $50,000
  • Aug. 11, 2011: $200,000
  • Jan. 17, 2012: $125,000
  • Feb. 14, 2012: $125,000
  • Additional transfers: at least $200,000:

Husain Al Musallam

When the co-conspirators were identified far and wide as Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah (No2) and Husain Al Musallam (No3) they denied any wrongdoing. The sheikh stepped down from all his FIFA role pending investigation but continues to act in key positions at the International Olympic Commitee, Al Musallam continues as a serving member of the FINA executive and as Director General of the Olympic Council for Asian.

Sheikh Ahmad is Al Musallam’s boss, both hail from Kuwait, a nation currently suspended from the IOC and FINA over alleged ‘political inteference’ in the running of domestic federations. That suspension has not prevented Kuwait’s officials from continuing to operate in the roles at the IOC ad FINA.

Co-Conspirator No1 in the case is Mohammed bin Hammam, the Qatari official and former AFC head who was banned for life by FIFA in 2012. The extent of his role was exposed in 2014 in a Sunday Times investigation (reported here by the BBC).

Lai has confessed. Internal investigations are underway at FIFA and pressure is mounting for life bans from all international sports roles for “Co-Conspirator No2” and “Co-Conspirator No3” if the evidence in the U.S. that led to Lai pleading guilty is accepted by FIFA, the IOC, FINA and other sports organisations affected.

Included in the case are the following allegations relevant to the FINA First Vice-President:

Case 1:17-cr-00224-PKC

31. After the initial payment of $200,000 in November 2009, the defendant RICHARD LAI periodically received, in offshore accounts he controlled, wire transfers from accounts in Kuwait controlled by Co-Conspirator #3 or his assistants at the OCA. On some occasions, LAI asked Co-Conspirator #3 for additional funds, and on other occasions Co-Conspirator #3 sent or caused the funds to be sent without being asked. These payments continued until in or about the fall of 2014.
32. Such additional transfers included the following, all of which the defendant RICHARD LAI received in the Lai HSBC Hong Kong account: (a) $20,000 on October 7, 2010, through correspondent accounts at Citibank, N.A. and HSBC U.S., N.A. in the United States; (b) $100,000 on February 16, 2011, through correspondent accounts at HSBC U.S., N.A. in the United States; (c) $200,000 on August 11, 2011, through correspondent accounts at HSBC U.S., N.A. and J.P. Morgan Chase, N.A. in the United States (d) $125,000 on January 17, 2012, through correspondent accounts at Citibank, N.A. and HSBC U.S., N.A. in the United States; and (e) $125,000 on February 14, 2012, through correspondent accounts at J.P. Morgan Chase, N.A. and HSBC U.S., N.A. in the United States. Over time and in total, LAI received at least $770,000 in this manner.
33. Like the funds he received from Co-Conspirator #3 in November 2009, the defendant RICHARD LAI kept these funds for himself, and never used them to hire a coach for the Guam national soccer team or to otherwise benefit the GFA. On some occasions Co-Conspirator #3 told LAI to write an email asking for the money, so Co-Conspirator #3 could show it to Co- Conspirator #2.
34. On one occasion when the defendant RICHARD LAI met Co-Conspirator #3 outside of the United States, he attempted to give him a significant amount of cash in a bag, but LAI declined the offer of cash because he did want to travel back to United States territory with more than $10,000 in cash.
35. One of the functions the defendant RICHARD LAI performed for Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 in exchange for the funds they sent him was to advise them on who was supporting which candidates in AFC and FIFA matters, including elections, and who Co-Conspirator #2 and Co- Conspirator #3 should recruit to support their chosen candidates. LAI similarly advised Co-Conspirator #2 and Co- Conspirator #3 as to which soccer officials or former soccer officials from various national member associations within the AFC they should attempt to persuade to join them in opposing Co-Conspirator #1. In furtherance of these goals, LAI arranged for meetings between such soccer officials and Co-Conspirator #3 or Co-Conspirator #4. LAI did not personally participate in these meetings or ask the participants what was discussed during the meetings, because LAI understood that at these meetings Co- Conspirator #3 or his assistants would offer or make bribe payments to these soccer officials, and LAI did not want to be present for or gain direct knowledge of such payments.
36. Another component of the defendant RICHARD LAI’s efforts to advance the interests of the faction led by Co- Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 was by ensuring that an accounting firm performed a thorough audit of the AFC’s financial records after Co-Conspirator #1 was suspended from holding positions in soccer in 2011. This audit uncovered, among other things, the misuse of funds by Co-Conspirator #1 when he was president of the AFC. After this audit was provided to FIFA, Co-Conspirator #1 was banned for life from holding positions in soccer. Later, a high-ranking FIFA official, the identity of whom is known to the United States Attorney (“Official #1”), met with LAI and thanked him for his work on the audit. Official #1 subsequently rewarded LAI for these efforts by having LAI named to the FIFA audit and compliance committee in or about July 2013.
37. The defendant RICHARD LAI often communicated with Co-Conspirator #3 and Co-Conspirator #4 about these matters, as well as the payments he received, via electronic mail using the LAI email address.
38. Neither the defendant RICHARD LAI nor any of his co-conspirators disclosed the foregoing bribery and kickback schemes to FIFA, the AFC or the GFA, including without limitation to those organizations’ respective executive committees, congresses, or constituent organizations.

The Challenge Within FINA

Battle of the FINA Bureau (clockwise from top left): Dale Neuburger, Husain Al Musallam, Paolo Barelli and Erik Van Heijningen

In a matter that for the first time links FINA to the FIFA scandal, Case 1:17-cr-00224-PKC sets out how everyone, including the United States and its legal authorities, fits into the picture of prosecuting Lai. The paperwork sets out the way things work. For example:

5. FIFA’s purpose was, among other things, to develop and promote the game of soccer globally by organizing international competitions and creating and enforcing rules that govern the confederations and member associations. FIFA helped finance the confederations and their member associations, including by providing funds through the Financial Assistance Program and the Goal Program.
6. FIFA first instituted a written code of ethics in October 2004, which code was revised in 2006, again in 2009, and most recently in 2012 (generally, the “FIFA code of ethics”).
The FIFA code of ethics governed the conduct of soccer “officials,” which expressly included, among others, various individuals with responsibilities within FIFA, the confederations, member associations, leagues and clubs.

FINA, too, is now facing a rewrite of its own Ethics Code this July when the international federation gathers in Congress (“the ultimate authority” of FINA under the constitution, though in practice the Congress of more than 200 nations, each with two votes, has little or no say in daily running and decision-making). A rewrite is required in several key areas of the Ethics Code, not least of all where it deals with who can and should refer complaints to the Ethics Panel. The Code, say both the Panel itself and an in-house governance review team from Carrard, is conflicted. It is not hard to see how they came to deliver that warning to the FINA executive in 2015 and 2016.

The FINA constitution states:

C 24.5 The matters are transferred to the Ethics Panel by the FINA Executive.

It is on that basis that the FINA executive felt empowered to tell Barelli: no, we will not let your complaints go to the Ethics Panel for adjudication.

However, the Ethics Code of FINA also states:

VI. Implementation and duty of reporting and co-operation

1. Persons bound by this Code shall immediately report any potential violation of this Code to the Ethics Panel.

Paolo Barelli – by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Barelli did just that. Clearly the intention of that line in the Ethics Panel is to recognise the independence and integrity of the panel to judge whether matters that come before it are worthy of adjudication and accompanying process.

And yet, the FINA executive used the constitution to override Barelli’s right under the Ethics Code to put his complaints directly to the Ethics Panel.

The Court of Arbitration will rule on that matter but the consequences of the case will be far-reaching come what may given the battle now underway for the leadership of FINA.

Whichever man wins the day in the vote in Budapest on July 22, the eve of racing at the World Championships, it is likely to be “winner takes all”.

The conflict in the FINA rule book was highlighted by Barelli’s challenge to the FINA executive when that small group of men refused to refer his complaints against two fellow Bureau members to the Ethics Panel for consideration.

The Italian had wanted his grievances against Dale Neuburger (USA) and Al Musallam – over alleged conflicts of interest and interference in the election for the LEN presidency in 2016 by non-Europeans. Barelli even pleaded with Maglione to allow the Panel to decide so that the matter could be dealt with ‘in-house” and “the wrong kind of headline: could be avoided.

Maglione’s response was: it goes no further, neither in-house, nor out of it. Barelli took his case to the Court of Arbitration. SwimVortex understands that FINA questioned CAS’s right to adjudicate in such a case. CAS, we understand, told FINA ‘actually, this is well within the bounds of our jurisdiction’.

Sources in Lausanne tell SwimVortex that FINA almost list the case by default when a deadline was missed before clemency was applied.

Back to the Brooklyn court documents – and we read:

” … the FIFA code of ethics provided that soccer officials were prohibited from accepting bribes or cash gifts and from otherwise abusing their positions for personal gain. The code of ethics further provided, from its inception, that soccer officials owed certain duties to FIFA and its confederations and member associations, including a duty of absolute loyalty. By 2009, the code of ethics explicitly recognized that FIFA officials stand in a fiduciary relationship to FIFA and its constituent confederations, member associations, leagues, and clubs.”

The details that then flow, including the role of the Asian Football Confederation and how that links to the FIFA scandal and those facing allegations in the Lai case, make fascinatiing reading and – if the case if proven – will provide valuable insight into the immense influence and power weilded by some in the Olympic realm, including FINA.

Spotlight on swimming – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Here is the battlefront – from the FINA Code of Ethics:


7. No Official shall, directly or indirectly, solicit, accept or offer any concealed remuneration, commission, benefit or service of any nature connected with their participation in Aquatics or with their function as an Official.

8. No Official shall solicit or accept benefits, entertainment or gifts in exchange for, or as a condition of, the exercise of their duties, or as an inducement for performing an act associated with their duties or responsibilities except that gifts, hospitality or other benefits associated with their official duties and responsibilities may be accepted if such gifts, hospitality or other benefits:

a) are within the bounds of propriety, a normal expression of courtesy, or within the normal standards of hospitality;

b) would not bring suspicion on the Official’s objectivity and impartiality; and c) would not compromise the integrity of FINA.

9. No Official may be involved with any company, association, firm or person whose activity is inconsistent with the objectives or interests of FINA. If it is unclear, whether this kind of a connection exists in any given situation, the matter shall be submitted to the Ethics Panel for a decision.


10. Officials shall remain politically neutral, in accordance with the principles and objectives of FINA, the confederations, associations, leagues and clubs, and generally act in a manner compatible with their function and integrity.


13. Officials shall avoid any situation that could lead to conflicts of interest.

 and… 2015 … and the kind of scrutiny that FINA needs to face…
Why Sports Governance Needs A New Start: Pooling Lessons From A USA Senate Hearing


In the latest three-parter on the poor governance afflicting swimming, we looked first at the financial reality being embraced by Rio 2016 Olympic organisers and how that serves as a red flag to FINA and the choices it has been making of late; we then turned to the coping strategies employed by federations when navigating through FINA waters and why those simply reinforce the status quo; and today we turn to the beautiful game, ethics and a USA Senate Congress Committee hearing on Capitol Hill that provided excellent explanations as to why FINA and its members must reach for radical reform if they wish to avoid replacement. The level of transparency and the keen discussion and blunt honesty that ensues at the heart of American democracy is precisely where organisations such as USA Swimming should be going.

The Ugly Side Of The Beautiful Game

The day brought news that FIFA president of 17 years, Sepp Blatter, being handed a 90-day provisional suspension. Members of Fifa’s ethics committee recommended the sanction after the Swiss attorney general opened criminal proceedings against the 79-year-old.

Blatter is accused of signing a contract “unfavourable” to football’s governing body and making a “disloyal payment” to Uefa president Michel Platini. Blatter denies any wrongdoing and his lawyers said he had “not been notified of any action”.

European football chief Michel Platini was also hit with a provisional 90-day ban over the £1.3 million suspected illegal payment he received from Blatter from work he says he carried out nine years ago. If the payment is proven to be illegal, gone are Platini’s hopes of succeeding his former mentor as president of the scandal-plagued governing body.

The investigatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee met today and the decision was issued by Hans Joachim Eckert, the head of FIFA’s ethics adjudicatory chamber.

The 79-year-old Blatter was interrogated over the Platini payment and another suspected illegal deal with disgraced former vice-president of FIFA Jack Warner.

What has this to do with swimming? A great deal when it comes to the structures, mindset and model of governance for many sports beyond football/soccer.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.03.37 1At a Senate Congress Committee, Capitol Hill – Russell Senate Office Building, Senator Jerry Moran, right, chaired a hearing on the state of International Soccer Governance (FIFA).

Integrity, ethics and the entire model of international sports governance, including a lack of independent checks and balances, were highlighted.

We hear why some say FIFA is worse than the Mafia. Chief among those saying that is Andrew Jennings, the British journalist who worked with the FBI on work that led to the indictment of a club of high-flyers in an investigation still ongoing. Jennings’ contribution, alone, is worth the two hours it takes to watch the video below but all four witnesses and the two men in the chair make this democratic process essential viewing for any who care about the poor state of governance in swimming (and the wider world of federations across many sport beyond).

In stretching to the role of the U.S. in international soccer, concerns over human rights abuses and foreign workers in Qatar – including a woeful death count in the country scheduled to host of the 2022 World Cup – and the pay disparity between men and women in soccer, the hearing can be watched and listened to at two levels:

  1. for what it is and what it means in soccer
  2. for what it means and how it translates and relates to the world of wider international sports governance, swimming our primary focus, of course

First up the link to the two-hour tape of the hearing. If you can find the time to watch it through, all the better, whether you are someone for whom this is confirmation; whether you are someone trying to understand what transparent democracy means; or whether you are right down at the deep end of the spectrum of understanding on FINA and haven’t yet connected the dots of a network of governance in need of replacement because nothing else will get the job done.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.00.25Below the following link to the video, we relate some of the discussion to why this is about much more than soccer and why coaches and others gathered in Cleveland at ASCA Clinic this month overwhelmingly supported a move for change, revolution and even replacement of FINA as the folk running swimming at global level.

The following is a trawl of that tape, interspersed with a few STOP THE TAPE notes where an issue talks to the schism in swimming. Note that there is no suggestion of financial corruption at FINA. That it not the point of this exercise. The following is here for the record and marks the last in our FINA Future series.

Senator Jerry Moran starts by saying that he does not believe Government should get involved in every scandal in the world of sport nor could he give any assurance that any outcome of the hearing on soccer governance would translate to the statue books in any way. But as chairman of a sub-committee overseeing the governance of professional sports, he believed that the issues deserved to have “public attention”.

“Corruption, bribery and other criminal activity” had become a part of international soccer. By shining light on that, he hoped that the public, current and future sponsors of sports events, the “media companies that supports the games today” will “better understand the consequences of allowing those governing soccer to continue without reform, including the tragic loss of life”.

According to some reports from organisations like Amnesty as many as 4,000 migrants workers will die before world cup starts. “That is appalling.”

Soccer gained profile in the United States when its women won the World Cup this year. Billions make up the budget of world soccer. Corruption and loss of life are part off that realm.

Serious …

“On May 27, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a 47-count indictment against 9 FIFA officials and 5 corporate executives, charging them with racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering”. Four other individuals and two corporate defendants have also pled guilty to various charges and Swiss investigators are looking at 81 suspicious financial transactions in relation to the World Cup bids of 2018 (Qatar) and 2022 (Russia).”

STOP THE TAPE: if you take the names of those indicted and trawl the history of gatherings among sporting blazers, the dots connect friendships and partnerships, shared committees, government posts and more between those now facing legal action and many in places of high office across a range of sports, including swimming.

Senator Moran adds: “The culture of corruption must be addressed… now is the time for the USA and the USA soccer federation to engage in meaningful reforms as well as elect a leader at FIFA who will spearhead long overdue changes in the organisation.”

He talks of the human lives lost and the consequences of “lapses in integrity”. He emphasises the need for the USA to take responsibility for “restoring integrity”.

“We cannot must not should not turn a blind eye to this issue any longer”

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.03.07 2Senator Richard Blumenthal, right, of the commerce sub-committee on Consumer Protection, takes the microphone.

He refers to soccer as a growing sport in the USA and congratulates the USA women’s bream on its victory at the World Cup this year.

With a nod to that he addresses the champions directly when he states:

“The corruption in world soccer is a disservice to the game, it is a disrespect to them, it betrays the trust of countless men and women, many of them young people just beginning in this sport who have a right to expect better from the leaders of this sport.”

On the FIFA inquiries, he notes:

“What has been revealed so far is a Mafia-style crime syndicate in charge of this sport. My only hesitation in using that term is that it is almost insulting to the Mafia because the Mafia would never have been been so blatant, overt and arrogant in its corruption.”

The indictments pressed by the USA Justice Department, he added, showed that the organisation had a ‘chart that showed how it [the network of corruption] was run’.”

He asks: “… who knew about this criminal wrongdoing, when did they know it and … why did the not act more quickly? … These are classic questions involved in any racketeering conspiracy investigation.”

“The facts show that there had to be wilful ignorance or blatant incompetence on the part of many of the members of this organisation – and that’s true of U.S. soccer … they either knew about it or should have known about it and I’m not sure which is worse.”

The hearing, he hoped, would lay the groundwork for the kind of “far-reaching, fundamental reforms” of the kind that had been necessary in world sports in the past when scandal reared its head.

“I wanna know what reforms the US Soccer federation is planning to introduce to instil greater transparency and accountability in the governance of soccer in America. Not whether but what and when because clearly there is an urgent and immediate need for such reforms.”

Having soccer run by a billion-dollar enterprise run behind closed doors was “a recipe for disaster and a moral catastrophe”, he added.

One idea is to reorganise FIFA as a public corporation or at least some part of it as a public corporation, the Senator noted.

He urged private corporations that sponsor sports events to take responsibility, too. McDonald’s, Nike, Coca-Cola and Visa are all cited as having the chance to serve as “guardians of good governance” rather than acting as “silent beneficiaries who benefit from opaque governance”. He notes, without naming, that one of those corporations is mentioned in a FIFA-official indictment.

The witnesses

Dan Flynn, USA Soccer federation CEO and Secretary General

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.02.35 1The first to talk. He explains how his federation works and how it fits into FIFA and other international bodies such as CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), among organisations cited in the corruption investigation.

Flynn notes that USA Soccer advocated full release of the reports into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. In another defence of his position he notes that true federation he leads backed Prince Ali for FIFA president against Blatter despite “the risks” of damage to any USA bid to host a future World Cup, in 2026.

He noted recent moves to press for “sweeping reforms” at CONCACAF but says almost nothing about the fact that it has taken scandal on a monumental scale to get to a place where the dialogue for reform was even possible or deemed necessary.

Michael Hershman, former member of the FIFA Independent Governance Committee (served for two years), founder of Transparency International and president and CEO of Fairfax Group, a risk management firm

STOP THE TAPE: Hersham and his outfit did indeed bring some reform to FIFA but as the man notes much on the issues of transparency and more was rejected. If USA Swimming was serious about reform within FINA it could and should have backed the Sweetenham call for a review – and Hershman would have been the perfect man to lead the way. USA Swimming chose to stick with the status quo, with Dale Neuburger, Bureau member, and Carol Zaleski, Technical Committee, leading the call to stick with what has served them well and at certain key levels served swimming well (important to note that much good has come from having the right people take decisions at critical moments down the years). The stance is that what the USA gets out of the status quo is worth putting up with a deal of stuff that really ought not to be tolerated. For example, at the tip and side of the iceberg, no word from the USA on awarding Putin, no word from the USA on FINA’s work with a British PR unit offering four months of ‘toil’ for $150,000 to discredit those raising red flags and selling Michael Phelps as a poster boy for the blazers and bureaucrats at the top table of FINA when they’d never asked him and when clearly he had no intention of being any such thing. Good relations and even friendships stretched and broken all the while. That need not have been. 

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.02.22 1Hershman widens the discussion beyond football when he says that the FIFA inquiries delivering “a tremendous opportunity to discuss the inherent autonomy in sporting organisations. Sports organisations have long maintained that autonomy is central to the preservation of the values embedded in sport. This is a difficult concept to argue with” he notes but only until the core values of sport and trust are undermined as they have been by the revelations on FIFA.

The growing commercial nature of sport, the protection of governments that soccer has enjoyed and the rapidly expanding gambling industry (legal and illegal) are “all converging to create a situation where self-regulation is increasingly challenging.

“The sports industry must put in place governance and compliance standards which demonstrate the best practices of transparency and accountability.”

FIFA business: worth about $5.6 billion every four-year World Cup cycle. FIFA had a chance to lead reform in sports organisations when the scandals started to emerge about 10 years ago on the back of the work of the likes of Andrew Jennings.

Transparency International presented plans for reform to FIFA, Hershman noted, but FIFA held on to the “irresponsible notion that it was autonomous and did not have to adhere to outside oversight or ‘interference'”.

The US sporting public cannot, he emphasised assume that “FIFA is the only sport with endemic structural problems,” he adds.

“Every single governing body in the sports world, from the International Olympic Committee to the ICC to the NFL needs to agree to modern standards of transparency and accountability.”

Sport is big business and needs regulating as such, he states.

Recent events were “bigger than FIFA” and require “coordinated action across all sporting bodies and I believe there is a way we can achieve this reform; with the cooperation and support of governments and sports industry leaders around the world.”

The International Centre for Sports Security (Hershman sits on the board, he notes) has come up with the Sports Industry Transparency Initiative, a set of standards that would be voluntarily adopted. The group would work with sports organisations to promote higher ethics and values in governance. A benchmark would be created, including:

  • professionalising boards of directors in sport
  • managing conflicts of interest
  • building a democratic foundation
  • embracing transparency and accountability
  • levelling the playing field for athletes, men and women
  • motivating ethical behaviour for staff and volunteers
  • engaging with key stakeholders
  • showcasing sports-event integrity
  • considering the positive role of sport in society
  • establishing effective risk controls

Comprehensive and far-reaching is how Hershman describes such moves.

The purpose was to leave sports organisations knowing precisely “what is expected of them in terms of integrity and transparency”

Sunjeev Bery, Amnesty International, Middle East & North Africa Advocacy Director

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.03.01Here, for the most part, I will leave you to watch from 26 minutes in, for the issue is the most important raised in terms of consequences of corruption, bad management and the turning of blind eyes and going along to get along mentality of federations around the world who not only tolerated FIFA’s leaders but propped them up and played a part in maintaining the system and status quo. All to one degree or another have blood on the their hands.

Bery notes the outcomes starkly in the realm of a nation such a Qatar (2022 World Cup host so far), where 90% of folk are foreign workers brought in to do the drudge and dangerous stuff in wholly unnacceptable conditions: slavery, entrapment, suicide, hunger, dependence on charities for basic foods, eviction, lack of labour-law enforcement, exclusion from rights, sexual violence … and death.

On construction sites related to but not exclusive to the World Cup bid:

“FIFA assumed responsibility for the above” the moment it awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a bid “based on labour exploitation”.

If reform is not forced through with urgency then the 2020 World Cup will carry the “permanent stain of forced labour and human suffering”.

Andrew Jennings: Investigative journalist and filmmaker and the leading force in exposing corruption in the IOC and FIFA down the years, some of that work leading to cooperation with the FBI on enquiries that led to the indictments making the headlines.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.02.05He congratulates the USA women’s team, who’s success “contrasts sadly with the massive, massive deficiencies of the US Soccer Federation; frightened to upset Blatter’s corrupt FIFA while enjoying the elite lifestyle that he provides.”

He notes the absence of the US Soccer representative at FIFA, Sunil Gulati (Gulati was one of several executive committee members at FIFA to call for the publication of the full Garcia Report into allegations of corruption surrounding Russia and Qatar’s bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups).

“Where’s Sunil?” asks Jennings taking a peek under the table just in case. “He’s the man who takes American values to FIFA and CONCACAF and he’s not here to talk about it. It rather undermines the whole process.”

From there I recommend wholeheartedly that you listen to every single word uttered by Jennings.

He concludes his presentation with two fundamental calls for action:

  1. Scrap FIFA and start again because the organisation is too rotten to cure itself of being “an organised crime family”
  2. Repeat the exercise that followed the Salt lake City scandal at the IOC: “external, respected, non-partisan” investigation was essential, at US Soccer.

Gulati was treating the hearing “with contempt” by not appearing. Jennings urges Gulati to get to Lausanne for a due meeting in the week that followed the hearing on Capitol Hill and tell Blatter to pout all his play slips and earnings on the table, perks, bonuses, per diems, the lot. And if that’s not forthcoming, get home and held the USA kick-start reform.

“That’s what you’ve got to do as a country” to regain credibility internationally.

The questions following the presentations:

What did U.S Soccer know?

Flynn: “I knew nothing about any corruption…”

Senator Moran interrupts to ask him to clarify who he’s talking for; Flynn answers by saying that neither he nor anyone who was there to report such things ever brought back “cold, hard facts about corruption” at FIFA or CONCACAF.

His defence then stretched to describing the alleged corruption as a series of private transactions that U.S. Soccer knew nothing about, transactions that took four years of FBI work to get to.

Senator Moran: so the indictments came as a surprise?

Flynn pauses and cannot answer the question directly, saying ‘I just wasn’t involved’.

Bery, of Amnesty is asked how the corruption feeds into the topics that concern him: human rights.

The moment FIFA accepted the bid from Qatar and awarded its event it took on responsibilities for human rights under United Nations principles, replies Bery. It had a duty not to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses related to its activities.

“Why was it that FIFA did not go more deeply into such things” before awarding its event at a time when the human rights abuses there were well documented?” asks Bery. He notes that for 2026, FIFA will incorporate human rights concerns in bidding processes. Tough for the folk losing their lives in large numbers up to 2022, of course…

STOP THE TAPE: This is an important principle and one that FINA leaders, a group of people increasingly wedded to staging their events in the Middle East, need to take note of. Qatar has been a FINA host and will be again. Thus, FINA bears just as much responsibility of the kind Amnesty talks of as FIFA does. The question is clear: did FINA check whether there were any human rights abuses associated with the construction projects and related hosting of events related to swimming championships?

Jennings is asked for context.

Everyone knows in soccer bids that you have to “pay to play”, so silly of England to even have put in a bid given that they, like the USA, says Jennings, tend not to be into paying bribes.

“A Dirty Decision” is how he described the moment FIFA allowed its game to be placed on a strip of sand that is “boiling” and “broiling … people would die if there was a summer tournament there”.

He notes that Blatter and “stakeholders” then move the dates to November to take account of the weather. Beyond noting that “stakeholders” were not fans and such folk but “Blatter’s mates”, Jennings makes a point that ripples out to many sports:

“If you want to die young, come to England and stand outside Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, all the big clubs and say ‘we’re going to stop you having football for seven weeks’ because Jack Warner took the money’. I hope it’s a painless death. You can’t just walk into someone else’s sports culture and take it away but that’s what Blatter’s done.

Who, asks Jennings is questioning him, who is calling him to account, holding him in check?

“I don’t see any of the U.S. Soccer officials at FIFA saying ‘no, no, no – we’re friends with the English and the Germans and the Dutch and the other western European nations who are going to have to stop their game because of the dirty slime-bags at FIFA.”

STOP THE TAPE: taking away a sports culture is precisely what has happened in swimming. In some parts of the world they have stuck to their guns: plaudits to the USA, where the college kids race at NCAA’s and other college events and never go on world cup tour (most of the ‘pro’ swimmer don’t either for they have other traditions and long-established pathways to follow).

But consider the tit-for-tat escalation in events between LEN and FNA since 1999 and there you will find a wrecking ball.

Take Britain (whose experience can be found elsewhere): the notion of a national champion is not quite dead but it is diluted, distorted and well on the way to being destroyed in terms of what that title ought to mean. Not only the fault of international federations, of course, but these days, national champions are folk who got left off the major team for the year, the domestic event unfolding as the national team leaves for world titles. Calendar chaos, like human rights and all other issues, is the responsibility of the international federations and their domestic members. The discussion has gone on for decades and has become all the more pressing in the past 15 years as FINA and LEN have doubled their impact on the calendar with complete disregard for traditions and events that were established long ago but now have scant connection to any sense of swimming history.

The model in swimming has not been reform and careful readjustment but of sporting colonialism and bullying from top downwards in the name of “promoting swimming”, when all the while the lore and glue of the sport has had a flame-thrower aimed at it.

Jennings then suggests that too many soccer officials must have headed a wet football too many times in their youth, only that, he indicates, a possible explanation for how often they seem not to notice things happening and can’t remember events at all clearly.

He takes a side swipe at Flynn’s suggestion that he knew nothing when he notes that accusations of corruption are there in the media and well documented in 2002, again in 2006, again in 2010.

“Richly documented; that racketeering was a way of life for CONCACAF. But apparently that news never reached the Chicago offices of the U.S. Soccer federation.”

Swift intervention from Senator Moran, who hands over to Senator Blumenthal. Flynn had had no knowledge of any corruption until the news broke in May this year, he confirms.

Senator Blumenthal: “Did you have suspicions?”

“There were moments … when if I had a level of discomfort I would just get myself out of any situation that offered any level of discomfort to me”.

STOP THE TAPE: Beyond the sinking feeling you get when you hear a top official utter such words of what might well be described as an abdication of duty and responsibility, Flynn points to a fundamental flaw in the model of sports governance, swimming included. Time and time and time again down the years I have watched and heard witness from delegates who arrive at FINA full of enthusiasm for changing things for the better only to find they meet resistance, a pat on the back, an attempt to persuade – and measures all the way to threats and actual exclusion if they are perceived to be folk who don’t tow the party line. Bad culture is a place where bad things are bound to happen.

  • Senator Blumenthal, looking slightly irritated, presses Flynn: it was evidence that caused him to remove himself from discussions and meetings?
  • Flynn lays “evidence” aside and says “it was a comfort level”.
  • When did that “comfort level” begin? Flynn could not pinpoint a time.
  • “Years before the indictment”? Flynn wouldn’t say years but couldn’t pinpoint the time.
  • “Months?”
  • “Greater than months but it would be hard to pinpoint …”
  • “Did you make any effort to investigate?”
  • “If there were cold facts I would have brought that to the attention of the appropriate people.” Flynn says there were no facts he could take to anyone top press a case.
  • Outside counsel was consulted and Flynn simply “passed along my level of discomfort”.

Senator Blumenthal:

“Would you agree that U.S. Soccer acted inadequately to investigate or prevent or stop any blatant criminal wrongdoing at FIFA?”

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.00.25“I wouldn’t say we would do it differently,” says Flynn. “We have two choices. here are 200 nations … we have to find a way to participate in a manner consistent with our mission and our core values and we think that one of the ways to do that, starting in 2013, was that we finally had someone on the FIFA exco [executive committee] … that we had someone at the table…”

Senator Blumenthal interrupts what is “fairly well-known history”. Instead he throws it forward to this:

How much did officials come to learn and “very bluntly, why those officials did so little until the Department of justice indicted Chuck Blazer and others who had long-standing ties with U.S. Soccer, particularly in light of the lack of comfort level you had? In retrospect, what’s the explanation?”

Flynn starts to answer … “I didn’t” … he then cuts his microphone and consults legal counsel.

“I was away of a level of discomfort but it was … a general feeling, so I had no hard evidence and we wanted to continue to participate and influence the organisation of 209 members. The second choice we have is to opt out … with that comes a series of ramifications. We no longer have a seat at the table, we are no longer involved in any competitions, Olympics… “

STOP THE TAPE: perhaps it is possible to envisage world soccer going on without the USA but I wouldn’t know. Translating the scenario to swimming: any such thing would destroy the show – and everyone knows it. Regardless of how things would play out in soccer, swimming or any other sport, does the reported deaths of many people and Amnesty reports galore on human rights abuses not tip the conscience to a better place than ‘no real option but to go along to get along’?

There would be ramifications for the business model for soccer in the USA, Flynn continues. Billions have been invested in past 20 years …

Senator Blumenthal understands the options but was there not a third? “To start asking questions and begin an inquiry, begin shining a light, begin blowing the whistle .. and essentially holding accountable officials who might be guilty – and we now know they are – of wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, bribery, that directly impacted the quality and integrity of the sport that you are responsible for upholding?”

STOP THE TAPE: This question is one that cuts to the heart of the issue across many federations regardless of whether financial corruption is present or not. The point is that flag raising, blowing whistles, shining lights is all part of good governance and should be seen as such. Evidence abounds that such things are rejected, sometimes forcibly so, at FINA. Bad culture is a place where bad things can happen. Good culture is a place where poor to bad outcomes are anticipated and prevented wherever possible.

Flynn notes that U.S. Soccer did support the 2011 Ethics Committee moves and pressed for full disclosure of the full Garcia report and supported Prince Ali against Blatter “at great peril” to USA chances of hosting the 2026 World Cup.

He stuck to his view that being at the table was a proper course of action to reform FIFA.

Senator Blumenthal made it clear that his questions and comments were directed not at Flynn personally but at the whole leadership of U.S. Soccer.

On that note, why was Gulati not there?

Flynn and team had anticipated “rather broad and specific questions, potentially”. It was determined with outside counsel that Flynn would attend. He had more of “a comfort level” than Gulati when it came to the day-to-day operations of U.S Soccer.

Senator Bluemnthal: “Don’t you think he has an obligation to answer the questions we’ve been directing at you?”

Flynn would do his best to have Gulati answer questions in writing.

Senator Blumenthal describes U.S. Soccer’s silence as “deafening” in many respects. He wonders whether Flynn now believes more should have been done to expose the bad things that had unfolded.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.00.25Flynn skirts a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and points to “the recent reform of CONCACAF”, which was “weeping” and involved independent directors and greater degree of transparency. That was a footprint that “we’d like to bring forward to FIFA, recognising that we’re one of 25 on the FIFA executive committee and one of 209 nations …. We pride ourselves on our leadership and recognise … the limited capacity that we have for reform.”

STOP THE TAPE: precisely. Limited capacity for reform. Precisely as things stand in swimming, with deals, compromises and much else a part of universality and a bad model of governance. Precisely one of the reasons why USA Swimming, among others at the pointy end of business, should be pressing for a new model not simply trying to reform what they’ve got while knowing that decades have gone by and will go by again with the same old, same old if no-one takes a stand.

Senator Steve Daines notes the 15 years of Flynn’s governance and asks him to describe any specific example of when he felt “a level of discomfort”.

Flynn recalls Blazer’s way of holding meetings at which, he seemed to indicate, a deal had been struck or an outcome already decided before a closed votes count was taken.

His discomfort centred on “the way Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer ran their meetings”.

Did he express those concerns to Blazer, asks senator Daines.

“I did not,” Flynn replies, his subsequent explanation a return to those two choices: participate or jump ship.

Flynn was left to feel that had he raised the issue with Blazer, he would have been made to “feel a level of discomfort in another way”.

The threat was tangible, it seems, though the nature of it was not expressed.

Did he see peers experience the same? Says Flynn:

“If we reached out to talk to other federations … there wasn’t anyone else that had the same feeling that I did as an organisation, so we operated as best we could …”

STOP THE TAPE: If I had a dollar for every time an official, coach, athlete, doctor, anti-doping expert and journalist said something very similar about meetings they had attended with the FINA Director Cornel Marculescu and others in the FINA leadership, I’d put a smile on the face of my bank manager. As in the last point, set aside any notion of financial corruption, for that is not the point. It is the mechanisms at the heart of the decision-making process that limit independence and democracy of thought. Just as Flynn is left looking like a man working in a system that does not make provision for red-flag-raising without consequence, the same is true of many navigating their way in FINA World.

There ensues an exchange with Senator Amy Klobuchar over the fact that the USA’s world-champion women get far less pay and reward than their male counterparts who finished far from the helm of their world tournament.

STOP THE TAPE: The discussion is interesting but in swimming we must note that women’s equality in prizes is established and there is not an issue. The one issue FINA has not faced well is, yet again, its close relationships with Middle East nations that simply do not allow women to participate in swimming, let alone sports such as water polo, in any meaningful way, the presence of a 10-year-old in Kazan this year part of a sickening parade of sugar-coated political correctness.

Senator Moran asks Hershman what would have to change structurally at U.S Soccer to avoid a repeat of what Flynn had described as the way the domestic federation finds itself operating at international level.

It is, says Hershman, necessary to “understand the nature of the beast”. FIFA is, he added “not an international federation; it is not an NOG, it is not a corporation; it doesn’t follow any guidelines or standards. What exemplifies FIFA is a small clique of very powerful individuals whose self-dealing was kept very secret at the top level of the organisation.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.00.25From an hour and 15 minutes into the tape, well worth listening to the rest of Hershman’s description of how Blatter and a few others ran FIFA.

To Jennings, Senator Moran asks what needs to happen at FIFA.

“FIFA’s got to be dissolved. They don’t want reform. We use terms like reform, they go ‘boring’,” says Jennings raising his hand to a yawning mouth. “To them everything’s fine; a few get arrested…”. He notes how the mafia operated on for years even when its leaders were picked off by the authorities.

Jennings procedes to take a sledgehammer to Flynn’s notion of reform at CONCACAF.

U.S. Soccer had been “cowardly”, says Jennings. A delegate from St Kitts, a titchy island dwarfed by many of its neighbours, had had “the guts” to stand up and says that Warner had been stealing money, says Jennings. Warner and Blazer turned their poison upon him and he “just survived… but he had the courage to do it but where was America?”

STOP THE TAPE: Some in and close to USA Swimming were “disappointed” by this analysis from yesterday. Well, sorry about that but I stick to the view that the world No 1 swim team’s federation is not showing enough courage, is not exercising the power it can most certainly wield and carry the day with when it comes to setting a course that many others would be keen to follow if they could get a sense of an escape route from the current malaise at the heart of FINA.

Senator Moran returns to Flynn: did his belief that to oppose Blatter for presidency of FIFA was to risk success of a USA bid to host the 2026 World Cup stack up to confirmation that he must have known that something was not right at the heart of top-table governance?

“It reflects a management stye and that was what I was trying to impart. Blatter wields a lot of influence in the organisation…,” says Flynn – and that would cause U.S. Soccer difficulties comes the 2026 vote.

Senator Blumenthal turns to Jennings. Had big sponsors “been enablers”.

“Inadequate,” replies the journalist to the term “enablers” before stating: “They’ve had terrible attacks of blindness … when the rest of the world has been listing corruption at FIFA and CONCUCAF, I mean documented, the sponsors have said ‘well, we only sponsor the World Cup, not FIFA’; well, isn’t that brave of them.”

STOP THE TAPE: swimming sponsors have privately complained for many years about the way they have to deal with FINA and of late they have complained about an adherence to the same championship models wherever swimming is held, be that eight days, five days, two days: same old, same old. There are practices at the heart of FINA that sponsors and partners are deeply unhappy with … and yet, search the worldwide media database of newspapers, broadcasters, online portals and more and if you can find a truly harsh word of criticism of FINA in the public domain or any suggestion that money is being pulled because the sport’s leaders are getting it wrong, I’ll take on Sarah Sjostrom over 50m butterfly in a red Jaked from 2009 if anyone can lay their hands on one. The reason may well be obvious: it is the swimmers that the sponsors have a relationship with and wish to support alongside their businesses, FINA an inconvenience. But as the senator asked: just how effective is silence (and even quiet whispers behind closed doors) if genuine change is what you want?

Jennings urges that sponsors withdraw their money until reforms are in place and new body with a new culture is in place.

Should the soccer nations have known about the human trafficking and rights issues related to Qatar – and should they have done something about it, asks Senator Blumenthal.

Yes, says Jennings, while Bery, of Amnesty, says:

“There’s definitely been a startling lack of attention by many parties involved … It’s time for the sponsors of the sport and the contractors and the businesses involved with the World Cup as well as the host Government itself, Qatar, to start taking action and doing something about this labour rights crisis.”

Hershman notes that sponsors spend millions on protecting their brands through adopting best-practice standards. So what dies it say about them if they sign up in partnership with the likes of FIFA.

Is FIFA salvageable, Senator Blumenthal asks Jennings. “Salvageable? No, not at all. Corruption is so heavily embedded that if you cut the head off the snake the rest of it would still be wriggling about.” He then dispenses this advice:

“America has to, with its moral values, join with other nations with similar values and say to FIFA ‘you stay in Zurich, we’re outta here, we’re not going to be contaminated by sitting at your meetings with a bunch of organised crime experts; that’s what FIFA is. And it was very good to see your FBI, your department of Justice assess them like that. I’d thought that before; I’m very glad that they came aboard. You don’t go to John Gotti and say ‘Mr Gotti, there’s really too much heroine on the streets of New York, could you cut back on it a bit?”

Is FIFA salvageable, Mr Flynn?

Different answer to that of Jennings, as you might expect. He points to CONCACAF reforms once more, the very thing Jennings has shot down in flames for the heap of nonsense he believes that is.

Senator Blumenthal presses on: had he seen tangible evidence of an attempt at reform.

Yes, but they’d come up short. He returns to the stuff holding him back: 209 nations, we work within and try … he sounds like a stuck record.

So Senator Blumenthal asks whether the U.S. Soccer fed will withdraw from FIFA if it fails to put in place meaningful reform.

Flynn returns to more of the same: “… opt out is very difficult and has severe ramifications…”.

STOP THE TAPE: Flynn is struggling at this point; he cannot bring himself to a place where there would be a limit to being a part of FIFA; to a place where a new start would be best. In a swimming context this is interesting: it mirrors the stance of many inside the house of FINA but with one big difference – Flynn has been more critical of FIFA leaders in the public domain than any top official of a domestic federation close to or at the helm of international swimming governance has been of FINA.

As a fan, a public official, a parent, Senator Blumenthal says directly to Flynn:

“Sometimes inaction and silence signal complicity and there’ll be a point where in effect U.S. Soccer is complicit in the ongoing lack of reform and action. You may have no direct control of it but I respectfully suggest that may be something you want to consider more seriously.”

Flynn confirms that U.S. Soccer will cooperate with an inquiry that is brought to the table. The Senator rolled back: no, he was suggesting that U.S. Soccer launch an inquiry into goings on at FIFA and whether it could have performed better.

Flynn suggests that talks would have to be had with like-minded federations if that was going to get off the ground. His commitment was limited to working with other federations to seek reform at FIFA.

Spin on to 1hour 35-36 on the tape and you find Bery talking about 400 deaths on building sites in Qatar among Indians and others. No serious investigation is underway.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.02.05Jennings then returns to taking Flynn’s arguments apart. American was not a nation that had to go an seek the permission of others to hold an enquiry. “Please,” pleads Jennings. “I find this very dispiriting that this view of America as being gutless … because that is what is being suggested. Get on and do it: don’t ask permission of some other countries.” In other words: lead and show the way; don’t move in numbers apt to hold you back in a system that can’t afford to be held back any longer.

American didn’t need its nuclear weapons to solve the problem, said Jennings. “You’ve got the sponsors, you’ve got the media, you’ve got the moral power of this huge country”. Western Europe would follow in a flash, he believed. “They need leadership and they’re not getting it.”

STOP THE TAPE: The same could be said in swimming, no matter how disappointed anyone may feel about that conclusion. Courage has not been found in great enough supply so far in the swim schism at federations the world over, USA Swimming at the helm of them.

Senator Moran asks what Jennings hopes will come out of the hearing. American should hold its own inquiry and look at where the old way of doing things had led them, how and then resolve to change the model. Independent, he notes, was what an inquiry should be.

His second point was stark:

Walk away from Blatter and Co; take a new course. If the USA did not do so then they were “cowards, weak and have no perspective on the rest of the world … and I don’t think that’s true of America, generally”.

Herman’s final testimony is of great relevance to FINA. He is talking about his time trying to persuade FIFA to reform and says this:

“We came in as a group of independent compliance and sports experts to look at the internal checks and balances of FIFA; to look at their governance and compliance procedures. We did so and made a number of recommendations, many of which were adopted by FIFA.”

The Ethics Commission came into being, for example, with two co-chairs who were “independent outsiders”. An independent chair of the audit group was established.

But when it came to other issues such as term limits for top officials and the president, when it came to transparency of compensation, including to this day no-one knows what the president of FIFA is paid nor what the members of the executive committee are paid; when it came to setting up an independent, outright oversight mechanism to ensure the compliance and other issues were being observed: all turned down.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.02.22 1Hersham notes, importantly, that without a change of leadership and culture, even the best reform packages would not have resulted in much difference in terms of the way things were done.

Senator Blumenthal described the hearing as just one step in a larger very intensive and critical scrutiny that has to be given to the responsibility of United States Sports Organisations.

The exceptionalism of the United States was not simply its military might but its moral example, its values and its ethics, said the Senator.

“The fans here and around the world deserve better from the sports organisations that have a responsibility to oversee and organise … corruption is not a game; it is deadly, serious , it is criminal and it betrays the trust of fans…”

“U.S Soccer had a responsibility to know; either it knew or it should have name .. the fans can judge which is worse.”

The Hearing is almost done. Senator Moran’s concluding comments include:

“We cannot tolerate the status quo.”

He is talking about soccer. Take away the allegations of massive financial corruption and focus on the mechanisms that allowed bad practice to flourish, lack of review, lack of transparency, decisions and information often in the hands of the same few for long years, rewards to those who nod, banishment for those who don’t, and you have something far too close to swimming for comfort.


No 1 – #MeToo & How Wilful Blindness Pours Poison In The Pool. Many an annual glimpse over the shoulder at a polarised 2017 in media reviews far and wide across the globe has included #MeToo of late. That hashtag will spill and spill, ripple and roll in the year ahead and beyond. It has extensions, like #MeTooInSwimming. This file is dedicated to those who work on the betterment of swimming; to the victims and survivors of abuse and those, like Nancy Hogshead-Makar who have advocated, and those like Dia C Rianda, Katherine Starr and others who made complaint and fought against a system too often and too long unwilling to listen and even bent on blocking justice; to the generation of women summed up by the experience of Shirley Babashoff; to the teenager girls of the GDR who had syringes full of steroids stuck in their backsides by doctors and coaches, some of that while knowing that meant not only cheating in sport but ensuring lifelong medical complaints would be a part of the lives of the athletes – and ultimately in some cases their offspring down the years. This file is a message to the leadership of FINA that refused to even reply to a unanimous vote for reconciliation of victims and a new start filed to them by the Media Commission in January 2014: we await your response yet. And on that note, best wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year to all our readers and the worldwide swimming community


Richard Ortiz

It took me a very long time to finish reading your article, Craig. There were so many places which forced me to stop, get up and think of something else. This article was a masterpiece. It is clear you spent a good deal of time composing your words so that they came across as a symphony. I would like to go point by point with you, but that would take a very VERY long time. Let’s just say that I will be reading the article quite a few more times until I have absorbed every bit of it. My biggest curiosity is how you must have felt sitting across from Kornelia Ender (still a legend to me) speaking with her about the doping in the 1970s. Oh, to have been the fly on the wall during your time with her! Thank you for detailing. My head is still spinning.

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