USA Swimming and its delegate at FINA, Dale Neuburger, a vice-president of the international federation, are coming under pressure from its membership to take a stance on the scandal rocking the sport and the Kuwaitis cited in U.S. court papers as “co-conspirators” in a FIFA bribery case.
USA Swimming’s president Jim Sheehan has been asked to intervene by asking Neuburger whether he has called for fellow executive Husain Al-Musallam, of Kuwait, “to step aside from his FINA role while he is under investigation for his role in the FIFA bribery case of a USA citizen to the tune of a million dollars?”
In a letter to Sheehan, John Leonard, the director of the American Swimming Coaches Association, asks whether “Mr. Neuburger as the USA Representative to FINA, has put [that] question and if not, pray tell, why not? ”
Leonard states that while Al-Musallam, the No 2 official at FINA as first vice-president despite the fact that Kuwait is currently suspended by the International Olympic Committee and FINA “deserves a fair trial and opportunity to defend himself …
“… the ONLY suitable course of action is for him to step aside from FINA, where two other Bureau Members are already under indictment for crimes in their own countries and within the sport of swimming.”
The U.S. Justice Department case involving Al-Musallam is that of Richard Lai, a Guam football association boss who has pleaded guilty to receiving almost $1m in payments from parties that included “Co-Conspirator 2” and “Co-Conspirator 3”.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, cited as “Co-Conspirator 2” in U.S. Court papers and the boss Al-Musallam, cited as “Co-Conspirator 3”, is scheduled to speak on a stage with Neuburger at the FINA ‘swimming for all’ clinic in Bangkok this week.
The Kuwaiti officials, in conflict over positions at the Kuwaiti Swimming Federation at home, hold the top two positions at the Olympic Council for Asia and positions at the Kuwaiti football association. Kuwait is currently suspended by the International Olympic Committee, as well as FINA and a wave of other international sports federations over alleged political interference in the sporting realm.
Al-Musallam is the first vice-president of FINA who would be first in line to take the top seat at the international swimming federation should the president, Uruguayan Julio Maglione – 82 this year and seeking a third term in July this year despite a 2009 election promise that he would stay for “one-term only” – step aside. He is accused of having played a key role in the payments made to Lai.
Sheikh Ahmad stepped down from all FIFA roles when the accusation made against him was revealed in U.S. Justice Department papers. He continues to operate in Olympic and swimming circles. Al-Musallam continues to operate in all his many sports roles. Both men deny any wrongdoing. Internal inquiries are underway.
The other two FINA Bureau member referred to by Leonard are Coaracy Nunes, of Brazil, and Ben Ekumbo, of Kenya. Both face corruption charges at home related to the Olympic Games.
Last month, Nunes, forced to step down from the presidency of the Brazilian Aquatic Sports Confederation (CBDA), was arrested as part of an inquiry into the alleged misuse of public funds. That now forms part of a federal investigation into the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Brazilian media reports revealed this week.
Nunes was not the only official arrested at the CBDA: finnacial director Sergio Ribeiro and Ricardo Cabral, a water polo technical coordinator, are also accused of “over-billing, diverting public funds and embezzlement” in a case involving the alleged misuse of around BRL$40 million (€12 million) related to the Olympic Games.
FINA has said that it will take “all measures necessary” when investigations related to Al-Musallam have been concluded but the timing of events – FINA will vote in new office bearers for the next four year in July, Al-Musallam up for being returned to his first vice-president role – as well as the seriousness of what is alleged, demand more action from the international swimming federation, some of swimming’s key stakeholders believe.
“Al Musallam, the Current FINA First VP and in Line to become FINA President (from Kuwait! No less – … suspended from FINA membership!) certainly should be NOWHERE to be seen in FINA while this sword hangs over his head. Mr Neuburger as a FINA VP, should have and perhaps has (?) told him to excuse himself from FINA activities while under suspician from the USA Department of Justice.
“Regardless of which sport member (FIFA or FINA), the rightness of his continuing to serve FINA in the interval is beyond question, inappropriate.”
Leonard then asks Sheehan to please inform coaches whether:
“Mr. Neuburger as the USA Representative to FINA, has put this question and if not, pray tell, why not? This affects everyone in USA Swimming and in the world of swimming.”
SwimVortex has put those questions to Dale Neuburger and will publish his answers if and when we receive them. SwimVortex has also sent questions to FINA and will bring those to you should we receive a reply (more than 100 written questions from this author to FINA on behalf of The Times and SwimVortex have now gone unanswered by the FINA press office and others within FINA in the past two and a half years since I resigned from the FINA Press Commission after issues raised by the group were ignored for 10 months by a FINA executive that found time to grant the federation’s highest honour to Vladimir Putin on the cusp of the Russian doping scandal).
Meanwhile, Neuburger is the subject of a complaint from Paolo Barelli, the Italian and fellow member of the FINA Executive standing against Maglione for the FINA presidency who has taken his case against the FINA top table to the Court of Arbitration over a conflict in FINA rules over how complaints may be referred to the FINA Ethics Panel.
The other man cited in Barelli’s complaints is Al-Musallam, who in evidence he gave to the Ethics Panel acknowledged that he had backed Erik Van Heijningen, a Dutch rival of the Italian’s for the presidency of LEN, the European Swimming League last year even though he has no role in European swimming. Barelli, who trounced Van Heijningen in the continental vote, believes that Al-Musallam has acted against the FINA Constitution and therefore FINA’s interests, while Al-Musallam has defended his right to play politics on the grounds of furthering FINA’s interests. Barelli also alleges that Neuburger has a conflict of interest, a claim denied by the American, over his role as a director of TSE Consulting, a FINA commercial partner and the group that worked on Van Heijningen’s bid for the LEN presidency against Barelli.