Pre-meet trash talking isn’t what aquatics is known for, but it happens now and then. This year, in the lead up to the 2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships which begin Friday in Budapest, the fiery exchanges we might expect between rival athletes has been supplanted by a vicious campaign for the FINA Presidency.
If you haven’t been following the story, here’s a quick recap:
- In 2015, FINA President Julio Maglione champions amendments to the FINA Constitution allowing him to:
- The Amateur Swimming Union of the Americas (UANA) endorses Maglione for a third-consecutive term as FINA President in July of 2015.
- Paolo Barelli, President of LEN and Italian Swimming, raises his voice in protest of Maglione’s amendments to the FINA Constitution and accuses FINA First Vice President Husain Al-Musallam of Kuwiat of conflicts-of-interest that should warrant his removal from the FINA Bureau. Barelli also charged FINA Vice President Dale Neuburger of the United States of conflicts-of-interest due to his role within FINA and his career at TSE Consulting, a corporation that has worked with FINA and other national aquatics federations around the world. Barelli also accused Neuburger of trying to influence the 2016 LEN elections, which saw Barelli re-elected for a second-consecutive term as LEN President.
- Barelli took FINA to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) where he lost his case alleging conflicts-of-interest and unethical behavior against members of the FINA Bureau.
- US Aquatic Sports endorse Maglione for a third-consecutive term as FINA President in June of 2017 in a letter to Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation (CCCAN) President Felix Calderon.
- Barelli releases his manifesto, detailing his vision for the future of FINA.
- Last week the Kuwait Swimming Association (KSA) claimed FINA and the Asian Swimming Association (AASF) were in violation of the FINA Constitution, and that FINA and the AASF gave preferential treatment to Al-Musallam. The KSA requested the removal of Al-Musallam from the FINA Bureau, claiming as a delegate from a suspended federation, Al-Musallam should not be eligible to sit on the Bureau.
- The African Swimming Association (CANA) and the AASF both penned letters endorsing Maglione for a third-consecutive term, while also harshly criticizing Barelli.
- Barelli replied to the letters, and suggested the AASF letter was not written by Virendra Nanavati, Sr. Vice President of the AASF.
- Today, AASF Sr. Vice President Virendra Nanavati fired back at Barelli.
In the most personally-critical letter yet, Nanavati claimed that Barelli neither understood the FINA Constitution well enough to lead the organization, nor possessed the leverage and confidence to influence national federations.
Nanavati also contested Barelli’s claim that he was not the original author of last week’s letter, and said Barelli’s “command of the English language has improved tremendously.”
Nanavati’s letter is copied below, and an original copy of the letter can be found here.
To AASF Member Federations
I am certain that, by now many of You have read the most recent circular from Mr. Paolo Barelli President of LEN and Hon. Secretary General of FINA since 2009 dated 8 July regarding my letter date on 6 July 2017 sent to National Swimming Federations of Asia.
Mr. Barelli find my letter to be “extremely surprising and bewildering.”
Mr. Barelli’s frequent bulletins constantly mentioned the issue of Mr. Husain Al Musallam, where this matter was discussed by the FINA executive and then forwarded to the FINA Ethics Panel. In which the FINA Ethics Panel has dismissed his appeals twice, there after Mr. Barelli appealed to CAS, and his appealed was also dismissed by CAS, the matter should rest there.
Mr. Barelli, although he is the Hon. Secretary General of FINA, has no comprehension that election of “World at Large” means all member Federations of FINA have a vote, NOT ONLY LEN MEMBER. In truth, what is extremely surprising and bewildering is an individual who would like to be President of FINA who has so little understanding of the FINA Constitution that he has been responsible for upholding for the last years. Therefore, what he means by” Political Interference” is only a ploy to cloud the issue.
These fundamental gaps in his understanding include the following:
- All National Federation members at the FINA General Congress elect World-at-Large Candidates for FINA Bureau positions (C 17.5.2). While it is interesting that LEN has favored two European candidates for these positions, it is not “political interference” to carry out the electoral functions mandated by the FINA Constitution.
- AASF, at its Congress in Doha (QAT) in 2016, unanimously endorsed Mr. Erik Van Heijningen (NED) and Mr. Vladimir Salnikov (RUS) because both individuals have regularly interacted with National Federation leaders in Asia, seeking our opinions and supporting our development efforts, including regularly attending AASF Congresses. The two-candidate endorsed by LEN have never made similar efforts of inclusion and collaboration. It is not “political interference” to endorse the candidacy of two individuals who have shown interest in developing our sport worldwide, not just within Europe.
- The FINA Congress is the supreme authority within FINA, and Mr. Barelli’s suggestion that he would unilaterally increase the size of the FINA Bureau, adding two athlete members and a coach member, assumes authority not granted by the FINA Constitution. The FINA President must act in accordance with the Constitution, not work outside of it.
- Further, in 2011, FINA conducted an Extraordinary Congress in Shanghai (CHN) in which proposals for inclusion of a coach member of the FINA Bureau and changes to the selection process for an athlete member of the Bureau were considered. I do not recollect similar advocacy for coach and athlete inclusion on the FINA Bureau by Mr. Barelli, and thus, I conclude that his latest suggestions are mere political posturing. However, it is disturbing to know that the Honorary Secretary believes he can circumvent the FINA Constitution and add members to the Bureau by decree, instead of the collaborative process provided by the FINA General Congress.
- The FINA Constitution provides authority to the FINA Bureau for decision-making in the time between FINA General Congresses. I have read with astonishment the proposal by Mr. Barelli to spend $40 million USD on development and international initiatives. Such unilateral abuse of authority is not permitted by the FINA Constitution, and there is no precedent in the history of FINA.
- In a few days, the FINA General Congress will elect a President for the 2017-2021 term of office. My support is firmly with Dr. Julio C. Maglione, as he has clearly demonstrated that he clearly respects the FINA Constitution and will continue to work collaboratively with the National Federations and Continental Associations. This is the way that FINA has become so successful within the Olympic Family, and I know that our position has been the result of all of us working together in harmony, not disrespecting the FINA Constitution by seeking to assume absolute control and authority of our beloved sport.
Mr. Barelli is constantly bombarding us with various matters in his negative campaign to seek election as FINA President. This is the symptom of his insecurity to influence Member Federations.
Mr. Barelli has the arrogance of implying that the contents of my letter to the Asian has been written by someone else with my signature. I take great exception to this accusation, He has no idea about my credentials.
Further, we have observed in his bulletins that his command of the English language has improved tremendously.
The important and the real question; Do we wish to elect an insecure person and one who has no comprehension of the FINA Constitution to lead us in FINA?
Sr. Vice President
Asia Swimming Federation