Arkady Vyatchanin Speaks Out About Serbian Eligibility Issues

As we reported earlier this week, 2-time Olympic bronze medalist Arkady Vyatchanin was left off the Serbian European Championships roster due to an eligibility problem with FINA. FINA’s problem with Vyatchanin converting over to Serbia from Russia (a country he hasn’t competed for since the London Olympics almost four years ago) was that Vyatchanin hadn’t proved that he has resided in Serbia for 6 of the last 12 months since attaining his Serbian citizenship.

Vyatchanin opened up about the situation today on Facebook, explaining why FINA claims what they do and about the situation he was forced into. Read his full “open letter” below:

“An open letter to the swimming community.

I’ve decided to write this in the light of recent developments, with an intention of explaining my situation thoroughly, to avoid any wild guesses and speculation. According to the FINA rules, even people who were caught cheating with banned substances have a right to a fair hearing. This letter serves a purpose of my “fair hearing”.

As many of my fellow swimmers and other people in swimming world know, I was looking for a new nation to represent since 2013, after I parted ways with All-Russian Swimming Federation. In late 2014 I was invited to Serbia to discuss the possibility of joining their team. Everything was going in the right direction and I was excited to represent Serbia in the future. I got my passport through an expedited procedure several months later. But this story is not interesting without a good portion of drama, right?

Of course, I knew that according to FINA rules relating to change of sport nationality I would have to live in Serbia for one year and represent only my Serbian club – Proleter during that transition period. And I was living there for some time, hoping to fulfill that requirement. 

But in early 2015 due to some clerical error that happened in the past in the Serbian Swimming Federation, the Ministry of Sport had suddenly decided to sanction SSF by taking away ALL funding for 2 years. SNAP!

The only funds that I could receive in Serbia were coming from Proleter club. Exactly 20,000 Serbian dinars a month, approximately $170. So I had to support myself and my family by training and attending the meets such as Grand Prix series here in the U.S. while representing New York Athletic Club. Thanks to NYAC and their agreement with TYR I am able to make my living this way. 

Here’s an excerpt from the letter that SSF had sent to FINA in an attempt to explain my case: “Unfortunately, as we are all aware, financial reasons – lack of funds available for day to day life and support of the family did cause an uncomfortable and demanding schedule placed on this athlete. He is literally forced to provide for his needs by himself with limited possibilities of our contribution and therefore is obliged to use each and every chance for making an income.

Being devoted to his choice of sports nationality, Аrkady has carefully and wholeheartedly taken every possible chance to practice, compete and live in Serbia. He has even participated in promotional activities and was a serious and reliable support to our federation and swimming sport in Serbia and it would be of greatest importance that all his efforts to practice and perform in challenging financial circumstances get a fair and sportive recognition. We strongly believe that the issue of the sports nationality of this swimmer should be treated as a positive example of clear devotion to his sports nationality and an enormous contribution to development of swimming in our country and in whole region”.

We believed that FINA would sympathize with our situation, especially considering that I haven’t represented any country internationally since August of 2012 and the fact that according to the Olympic Charter, at least 3 years should have passed since the athlete last represented his/her former country. In my case it’s been almost 4 years already. I guess it’s worth mentioning that Olympic Charter doesn’t have any sort of rules that would make doping convicts to wait some time before going to Olympics after they have served their suspensions. So apparently changing a sport nationality is worse than taking PEDs. Gotta love the irony here.

So I’m in a bit of a pickle here, I have qualified for Rio Olympics, but not allowed to go there. Funny thing is that I had declined offers from at least 2 countries which suggested that they can deal with the FINA “1-year living rule” by making it look perfect on paper. 1 of those countries was making it in the past successfully not even once. I just wanted to be honest, but it seems like honesty is not good enough…

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t write this to get people’s pity, quite the opposite actually. I stand by my choices every day and still believe that leaving Russian team saved my swimming career.

Call me Ronin again.”

Vyatchanin explains the fact that he did move to Serbia and was training there, but was hit with a problem when the Ministry of Sport in Serbia decided to take away all funding for two years due to a clerical error that happened in the past.

Only being able to make about $170 American per month swimming in Serbia, Vyatchanin was forced to travel and compete to earn money. He was only supposed to represent his Serbian club Proleter during his time living in Serbia, but in order to earn enough money to make a living and support his family Vyatchanin competed at overseas events such as the Pro Swim Series held in the United States. Here Vyatchanin represented the New York Athletic Club and through their deal with TYR was able to make enough money to support his family.

Serbia has sent a letter to FINA explaining Vyatchanin’s situation and the fact that he did everything he could do to live and train in Serbia but was forced to do what he had to do in order to make a living by competing elsewhere.

Vyatchanin comes off as frustrated in the letter, which is obviously reasonable given his situation, and even notes that he has declined at least 2 other countries who have claimed they could get by the FINA rule, but Vyatchanin wanted to do it fairly and honestly.

That hasn’t worked for him yet, but there is still hope for him to go to his fourth Olympics this summer, it just all hinges on FINA.

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Didn’t Cavic warn him of this?


He warned me that Serbian Federation was corrupt. But this isn’t the case here, because they’ve supported me as much as they could in given circumstances.
What about FINA’s decision allowing Mexican swimmers to swim under the FINA flag first and then, eventually be under the Mexican flag, while their Federation is still suspended?..

Gary P

To be fair, he also warned of incompetence and that they were making financial commitments they wouldn’t be able to honor. Both of those warnings appear to have been right on target.


Viktoria Solntseva of Ukraine became Zeynep Gunes and swims for Turkey with no problems, and not 3 years passed but months since her last representation of the former country. I do not get all this. Good luck Arkady!

Cayley Guimarães

This is appalling.

Cayley Guimarães

How can it be the 6 people don’t think that this is very bad?


It’s the same 6 people who keeps voting down all the pro-Ronin posts on this forum. Or maybe it’s the same obsessive person with 6 accounts. It’s pathetic. I upvoted your comment, as well as other relevant comments.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James formerly competed for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in February of 2018, placing 11th at the OUA Championships in the 200 IM, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in May. He …

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