In news that will surely thrill swim fans across the globe in the name of justice, Venezuelan swimmer Albert Subirats’ suspension has been lifted. The news was first leaked by release of Venezuela’s Pan Am Games roster, that includes Subirats, and confirmed by South American swim-blogger Alex Pussieldi. The official announcement is expected to come from FINA later today, but for now the president of the Venezuelan Swimming Federation, Lourdes Goncalves, has told local media of the reprieve.
Subirats was the swimmer who was suspended for one year in June after failing to properly notify FINA of his whereabouts three times, which mandates a minimum one-year suspension. Subirats told FINA that he had notified his own federation, with the expectation that his federation would notify FINA, but that final connection was apparently not happening. The rules specifically state that relying on a third-party is not a valid excuse for missing whereabouts filings, and thus the initial ban was handed down. As a part of that ban, he missed the World Championships in Shanghai that took place earlier this month.
The general view by most, though not all, observers was that this was an unfair suspension, though the justification for the rule is simple and clear enough – it would be quite easy for an athlete, especially from a smaller federation, to collude with the national body to “forget” to forward whereabouts filings to the proper authorities.
More details will be released tomorrow by FINA, and it will be interesting to see the circumstances and reasoning behind FINA changing their ruling. The immediate information does not seem to indicate that any appeal was made to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that usually has the final word in these cases. This implies that FINA reversed its own decision, which would typically only happen if there were new evidence, information, or a new argument brought forward by Subirats, his attorney, or his federation. Clarification on the issue came Friday morning, when the CAS confirmed that Subirats and his attorneys appealed to them, not FINA, as originally reported. This makes much more sense in the case, as the CAS is the official arbitrators of these type of issues.
Subirats was a three-time NCAA Champion with the Arizona Wildcats from 2004-2007. His biggest international success came at the 2007 World Championships, where he took bronze in the 100 fly. More recently at the 2010 Short Course World Championships, he otok gold in the 50 fly and silver in the 100, and was seeing a big resurgence in his career when he was handed the devastating news. Recently, he was back in the United States training with Tucson Ford after spending some time in his home country of Venezuela.
Subirats will be a part of Venezuela’s Pan American Games lineup. That meet will take place the third week of October in Mexico.
Special thanks to Brazilian correspondent D’Artagnan Dias for contributing to this report.