With Corrupt Intent

British Journalist, Craig Lord, has earned the respect of us all. Lord writes for the highly respected newspaper, The Times. A few years ago he took up the cause of the flotation bodysuits that were distorting world swimming records. It took a while but eventually Lord managed to convince FINA to change the rules and ban the suits. Swimming today is a better and more honest sport because of the success of Lord’s campaign.

More recently Lord has turned his attention towards the corrupt leadership of FINA. His attacks are loud, powerful and valid. Like American healthcare, the state of FINA leadership is a cause in serious need of reform. Here is a copy of Lord’s most recent Facebook Swimvortex post on the subject.

Fina did not respond to interview requests by BBC Sport relating to the criticisms they have faced in recent months and that’s long applied to just about any media putting ‘the wrong question’, as Cornel Marculescu, the FINA director said to Craig Lord in 1998 when responding to news that teenage abuse victim Yuan Yuan had been arrested at Sydney Airport with enough HgH in her kit bag to feed a small army. “It’s a balloon, you will bring down your own house,” said Marculescu. I reminded him that it wasn’t my house – nor was it his house, either. FINA HQ and leadership have been ignoring athletes, their major stakeholders, media etc not in ‘recent months’ but for many long years when the questions and issues are inconvenient to the status quo that must be preserved at all costs, including athlete welfare, safety and wellbeing; and in that culture, they even break their own rules through interpretations that simply do not stack up, neither in fact, intent nor language.

I seldom comment on FINA’s problems. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I would hate some ill-informed opinion of mine to damage the cause of reforming swimming’s world governing body. The work of people supporting the call for reform has too much integrity to be upset by anything written in Swimwatch. Besides, when people like Adam Peaty, Dawn Fraser, Cate Campbell and Craig Lord are all singing from the same hymn book there is little need for me to add my toneless voice.

But what I can contribute is a New Zealand perspective. And that is valid. Why? Because the corruption being attributed to FINA is amazingly and accurately reflected by what goes on in Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Every criticism levelled at FINA could be equally aimed at SNZ. For example Cate Campbell decided to express her discontent. This is what she said;

“The world governing body is doing a disservice to the very people that they are supposed to advocate for and protect. FINA is not supporting us, they are putting swimmers at the bottom of their priority list. I think you need to stand up to it because there are a lot of people getting very rich from swimming but it’s not the athletes.”

Cate Campbell is right. There are a lot of people getting rich from swimming and it is not the athletes. Miskimmin gets paid close to $500,000 a year. Francis is probably paid in excess of $120,000. The SNZ accounts clerk takes home more than $100,000. Steve Johns is up around $150,000.

Meanwhile Lauren Boyle at her world championship best was paid $40,000. Dame Valerie Adams has won more Olympic and Commonwealth medals than most athletes can win New Zealand National titles. But Miskimmin decided she was only worth $80,000. My guess is the average New Zealand swimming international earns about $6,000. Now tell me Cate Campbell doesn’t have a point.

But it is not only financial abuse that causes concern. It is the way Johns, Cotterill and Francis treat SNZ members that is of equal concern; sufficient concern that it could reasonably be called enslavement. What about charging swimmers $5,300 each to represent the country at a World Championship while Francis flies for free? Is it right that SNZ can make slanderous accusations about someone and when SNZ is found to be at fault refuse to let the accused read the report? Beware SNZ if that report clears the accused there will be a court case for defamation. Is it fair that SNZ should pigheadedly refuse to give a Syrian refugee a national ranking in order to allow him to apply for recognition from the International Olympic Committee? I wonder how often the Russians have bombed and destroyed Steve Johns’ home. He is disgusting. Is it okay to lie on a world record application about the specification of the pool used? Is it right for SNZ to lie to sponsors about the numbers attending domestic championships? Consider for a moment 99% of the swimmers in your local club and then try and name one thing SNZ has done to make their experience positive and rewarding. That’s right – nothing. They are too busy feathering their own nest – that’s why.

I could go on but I imagine you get the idea. The culture promoted by SNZ is toxic and corrupt. SNZ is no better than FINA and possibly worse. Without question any administrator from the regions who cares for the welfare of swimming and swimmers should be using every opportunity to clear out the deadwood in Antares Place. Swimming in New Zealand needs reform; needs a revolution. It is time to sack Johns, Francis and the Board.

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