World Coaches Urge Athletes To End Days Of ‘Slavery’ & Press For Rights & FINA Review

On Golden Thrones: FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu exchanges views with the then only woman on the FINA Bureau, Margo Mountjoy in Doha, 2014 - by Patrick B. Kraemer

The World Swimming Coaches Association has issued a public appeal to athletes worldwide, retired and currently in the swim, to end their days of ‘slavery’, organise themselves and press for better representation and the lion’s share of the spoils of their sport

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The World Swimming Coaches Association has issued a public appeal to athletes worldwide, retired and currently in the swim, to end their days of ‘slavery’, organise themselves and press for better representation and the lion’s share of the spoils of their sport


Guilty by association?

Dr. Margo Mountjoy is a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Medical Commission, is Chair of the FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) Sports Medicine Committee, and is a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) Committee.

A fan, perhaps, but let’s not slander her for sitting while speaking. She has a job to do and that might even include communicating with FINA’s ED.

Unless Mr. Leonard has information that hasn’t been shared publically that Dr. Mountjoy is a big part of the problem, don’t throw her in just to augment the broadside aimed at a worthy target.

Craig Lord

Reader by the name of Guilty by Assoc., I urge you to find your true voice and speak in your own name and let the reader know what function you play in sport – I know it and it will remain confidential if that is your choice but context is important in such matters and fear has no place in this debate if we truly want a better sport.
Beyond that, John Leonard may speak for himself on his choice of words. And beyond your suggestion, not mine, that she is guilty by association, I say this:
Dr Mountjoy has received emails from me, as have other Bureau members, with questions on very serious issues. I have never received a reply, neither when the mail came from The Times newspaper nor for this website. All must go through and be approved by the man she is seated with, it seems. The job she has to do includes asking questions of the director such as:
In my name and in the name of all Canadian swimmers and coaches and other members of our federation, precisely who voted in favour of granting Putin FINA’s highest honour – and why was I not asked to vote on the matter in a formal debate on the issue because that is part of my duties and responsibilities as a member of the ruling Bureau.
By all means defend Dr Mountjoy but also ask her the pertinent questions that pertain to her duties and responsibilities as a FINA Bureau member, such as – has she seen a full set of detailed accounts for the international federation – and is she happy with where the money goes?
Is she happy, too, that facilities rules designed with safety and athlete welfare in mind don’t count when it comes to world records., Of course they do count and the rule unmistakably backs that up …. but FINA HQ tell the media that ‘no, not the case, minimum FINA Pool Standards’ don’t apply when world records are set. Where does Dr Mountjoy stand on that issue – and has she spoken up for athlete welfare?
And how about Dr Ba Zhen – has Dr Mountjoy asked what her director and FINA is doing to enforce the WADA Code after the banned doctor appeared on the poolside working with Sun Yang with official accreditation at the Asian Games during his suspension – under the Code, his penalty should be doubled. Fact. So, has Dr Mountjoy asked?
And has Dr Mountjoy asked about what penalty will be imposed on her fellow Bureau member from China and the CSA after China fell foul (by a big margin) of reporting deadlines under the WADA Code and FINA rules in the Sun Yang case.
Given Dr Mountjoy’s roles as you describe them, she would surely have taken a very keen interest in the doping issues on the table and will be keen to enforce the WADA Code. I can only assume she has taken up this matter with the director in the most vigorous manner.
I could go on and on – but I think you get my point.
I’d be delighted to hear from Dr Mountjoy, the representative of Canadian swimming in the world, on the above and other substantive issues in the sport. She has my email address. Whenever she is ready, I’m all ears.
Reader I thank you for your comment and the opportunity it raises. I urge all members of the FINA Bureau to stand up and start asking the questions that they have long needed to ask when things were going down in their name, on their watch. Best, Craig


Golf, football, swimming… Spot the difference.

Our sport does not make money. There are plenty of pie in the sky ideas as to how it could, but in the real world no one has cracked the formula. With the exception of one week in a thousand, that’s just the way it is.

Fina can’t be held to ransom because Fina events don’t make money; that’s just following a simple principle of union strategy. Contrary to a rather silly notion that’s becoming a popular meme here, the athletes are not assets (in the financial sense, which is the theme of this letter).

For a sports professionals Union to make any sense there has to be an identifiable market and an identifiable membership. There’s no market (Leonard has some nebulous ‘tour’ vision) for swimming, and that basically ensures an uncertainty as to membership. Who would be part of this Union? Olympic swimmers, self-defined professionals, promising juniors, the guy at the local club. Without some idea of the professional market place, we can’t get off the ground enough to even start a membership.

As always, to be clear: yes Fina is an anachronism; yes, it Is not fit for purpose; no, I do not claim to have the answers. Although, I do believe size correlates well with corruption and Fina’s multi-sport mandate is harmful to progress. The first step is separate administrative futures for the aquatic sports.

Craig Lord

Last point felixtzu, I agree… won’t happen within FINA – they survive on universality and all that goes with it. I don’t agree with the money argument, however. No, of course it is not football and golf but a pot of $20m a year (and a bit more) is what we’re talking about… that’s not a pittance… used wisely and directed properly in a sport that could attract bigger and better there is fine potential that is simply not being tapped into right now (and it costs nowhere near over 100m $ to put on a phenomenal world swim champs … depends what you want to spend vast sums of money on). No-one has all the answers (and FINA has very few that look at all attractive), felix but in my experience there are swimmers out there who do have some very fine ideas but are never heard and have no say. Getting things off the ground always takes effort. It was the case with FINA in 1908: there was a mess, chaos, no standards or parameters… but it happened. Current swimmers are often too busy and focussed to deal with such things as organising to have a voice while retired swimmers are often lost to the sport (and a fair few leave somewhat embittered by that lack of say in their own feds as well as at intl level (to some extent, same thing, same problem). I give your an example: Michael Gross is a very smart man, some of what he had to say simply did not match the cosy existence of federation folk in his country – he left and with him went a great deal of potential for swimming beyond his swimming years. That picture is repeated many times over in many countries. What athletes – even if some of the most senior in the pool now and some retired get together to represent the rest – need to do if they want change is simply begin. You won’t build Rome in a day – but begin. best, Craig


I hate, hate, hate the term “slavery” used here. I agree with either changing or moving away from FINA. But that is a choice of swimmers, coaches, countries, etc. Those either currently in bondage or slavery in the past (as in the USA) was not a choice not are/were those people ever afforded the chance to travel, earn medals and earn a living. Use a different word.

Craig Lord

Appreciate why you would hate it jman but just to note that the definition of slavery includes:
servitude, subjugation, enthralment, a condition of having to work very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation …
Such things speak most closely to what is being suggested.
But by all means suggest that other word as way of helping people understand what is being suggested.


I think chump says it well. But if you insist: servant, low wage worker, white collar, without representation.

The word slavery used here demeans real slavery, not even reminiscent.

Craig Lord

Thanks jman. I will choose a word when I get to writing my own on this theme (slavery means the same here, too … and it is not historic… it continues to be an issue, with people kept prisoners in the homes of very wealthy folk etc etc.. please don’t imagine I don’t know what you mean)

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