Barelli Accuses AASF of Political Interference & Shadowy Figures

There’s a lot going on in FINA right now. The world of aquatic sports governance is in flux as leaders from around the world prepare to descend upon Budapest for the 2017 FINA Congress where they will decide what direction FINA will take over the next four years.

Paolo Barelli, President of LEN and the Italian Swimming Federation, is challenging current FINA President Julio Maglione of Urugay for the FINA high office. If it seems like this campaign has gotten a lot of attention, it has. Unlike previous elections of this scale–remember, FINA is a non-governmental organization that exists solely to promote aquatics–individuals and organizations from all over the world have spoken up in a steadily-building cadence, voicing their opinions on Barelli and Maglione, among others, that sit on the FINA Bureau.

Yesterday SwimSwam published two letters that both endorsed Maglione for a third-consecutive term as FINA President, despite him having surpassed the previous age-limit to hold a position on the FINA Bureau. The first letter, sent by the African Swimming Association (CANA), spoke highly of Maglione while portraying Barelli as a corrupt bureaucrat. The second letter, sent by the Asian Swimming Association (AASF) did not spend as much time on Maglione and Barelli, but instead focused on FINA First Vice President Husain Al-Musallam.

Al-Musallam, who is presumably under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for his assumed role in a FIFA bribery scheme, sits on the FINA Bureau despite also being from Kuwait, a country that is suspended by both FINA and the IOC. The Kuwait Swimming Association (KSA) recently sent a letter and a list of complaints to FINA challenging the legitimacy of Al-Musallam’s office and accusing FINA of giving Al-Musallam preferential treatment. The letter also challenged the AASF for its support of Al-Musallam as FINA First Vice President.

In an interview with SwimSwam, Barelli said that he did not believe Al-Musallam should sit on the Bureau, due to Kuwait’s suspension and the pending DOJ investigation. In addition to cleansing the Bureau of conflicts-of-interest and promoting transparency, Barelli also believes FINA should set aside far more money for developing national federations around the world. More of Barelli’s strategy can be read in his manifesto.

Today, Barelli released his response to the AASF letter. The complete statement is below. (Emphases by Barelli.)

“Political Interference by FINA Officials and Officers Goes On”

Dear National Federations Presidents, Dear FINA Family Members, Dear Friends,
The letter of 6 July 2017 sent by Mr. Virenda Nanayati, Sr. Vice President AASF, to the FINA Members, is extremely surprising and bewildering.
Such letter aims at justifying the candidacy of Mr. Husain Al Musallam as both AASF Bureau and FINA 1st Vice President, as well as that of Mr. Sheikh Khalid Al Bader Al Sabah as AASF President.

I do not believe I need to once again highlight the reasons for the ineligibility of the two above mentioned individuals. The irregularity of their candidature is abundantly clear from both a political and regulatory standpoint.

It is worth reminding that Kuwait Swimming has been suspended by FINA since 2015 and that the current Kuwait Federation has not endorsed such candidatures.

Nonetheless, I must intervene regarding the fact that the representative of AASF, Mr. Virendra Nanavati, has mentioned my name twice in his letter, trying to make me part of the (wrong) decision taken by FINA allowing the candidacy of two members of the suspended Federation of Kuwait.

I have always considered this irregular and in complete contrast with the current FINA rules regarding the candidature to FINA positions (or to one of its Continental Organizations, AASF) by any individual who is part of a National Federation suspended by FINA.
I believe that the procedures put in place by FINA to allow such irregular candidatures are in contrast with the current FINA Constitutional rules, and, this was also confirmed by the legal representatives of FINA during official proceedings.
My point of view on this matter is very clear: the lack of good governance within FINA is indeed the reason that led me to put forward my candidacy to the Presidency of FINA.
This in order to promote an absolutely necessary change of behaviour, inspired by transparency and in full respect of the rules.
The most serious fact included in the letter sent by the representative of AASF, Mr. Virendra Nanavati, and that I want to strongly denounce, appears in the second to last paragraph “…in addition to the recommendation Asia has extended in respect of Mr. Vladimir Salnikov (RUS) e Mr. Erik Van Heijningen (NLD) for FINA Bureau membership Europe – World at large”.
It must be clear that LEN, the FINA European Organization, has already decided with regards to the two candidates of Europe for the at large positions: they are Mr. Fernando Carpena (ESP) and Mrs. Christa Thiel (GER).
The vocation of some Continental FINA Officials and Officers to politically interfere is already universally known, and this, in total disregard of the principles of neutrality and hence acting irregularly. I think that Mr. Virendra Nanavati, has once again shown and confirmed this attitude with his letter.
How is it possible that a FINA Continental Organization (which is a part of FINA!!!) takes the liberty to interfere in the choices of the representatives of another Continent to be voted for to the FINA Bureau? How is it possible that such nasty behaviours, which we have already experienced in the past and were denounced one year ago, can still happen, and even worse, are still allowed to happen?
Perhaps Mr. Virendra Nanavati is not fully aware of the content and the implications of the letter he signed. Possibly, he only put his signature on this letter, perhaps written by someone else above him, who wants to take over the World of Aquatics, whilst choosing to remain in the shadows.
I am sure that each individual National Federations of AASF does not really know the details of this matter, and I deem their behaviour to be absolutely correct.
However, the invitation to vote in this manner, officially promoted by the leadership of AASF, is a blatant and very serious case of interference. It shows, once again, that within FINA we are missing a responsible leader who can keep things under control and lead our Aquatic Family with authority and clarity.
It is important that all Member Federations reflect over this serious problem. This is seriously jeopardizing the success reached over the years by FINA, mainly thanks to the great and irreplaceable commitment of the National Federations, the Athletes and the Coaches.
For any additional information on my electoral programme, please also visit my website
Ligue Européenne de Natation (LEN)
Italian Swimming Federation (FIN)
Candidate for the FINA Presidency

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6 years ago

If Paolo gets me a free lime green Vespa I’ll take his side . The only time I have ever been jealous is when I saw a lady on one of those & I realised I really really wanted one . I could buy myself one of course but then I’d be left unbribeable .

Tom from Chicago
6 years ago

I don’t like the first 2 points in Barelli’s manifesto. I don’t care about financially supporting local federations. This is a national responsibility. Handouts will be a big problem in the future.

I like Barelli’s 7th and last point, an emphasis on enforcing the “Fair Play” code and increased scrutiny on PED doping.

Maglione has had some poor performance. I absolutely hate that he changed the age limit to allow himself to run again. I hate that FINA Vice President Dale Neuberger is also a lobbyist for TSE Consulting. TSE Consulting gets FINA contracts. Barelli makes a good point in that FINA should not have tried to interfere with who runs different national swim federations. There is a bunch of… Read more »

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six with the Clay Center Tiger Sharks, a summer league team. At age 14 he began swimming club year-round with the Manhattan Marlins (Manhattan, KS), which took some convincing from his mother as he was very …

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