The Court of Arbitration For Sport (CAS) has dismissed an appeal by Italian swim federation president Paolo Barelli and ordered Barelli to pay the legal fees of FINA, his opponent in the case. That’s according to a CAS decision document obtained by SwimSwam this week.
The case itself is very wrapped up in the current political battle within FINA, the international governing body for aquatics. Barelli is running for FINA President, hoping to unseat incumbent Julio Maglione for that position. Maglione has served as president since 2009. Much of Barelli’s campaigning has revolved around criticism of Maglione’s administration as ‘unethical’.
But this particular case actually stretches back to Barelli’s prior election – for the presidency of LEN, the European Aquatics Federation. Barelli has been LEN president since 2000, and faced reelection in 2016. Barelli alleges that a FINA vice president approached a number of European federation presidents during the campaign, encouraging them to vote for Barelli’s opponent, Dutch swimming federation president Erik van Heijningen.
The FINA Vice President accused of that action is Husain Al Musallam. Barelli and Al Musallam have been at odds for much of this election. Al Musallam is connected to a wide range of sporting federations: he’s the First Vice President of FINA, as well as the President of Asia FINA and the Director of the Asian Olympic Committees. Originally from Kuwait, he’s also a key member of the Kuwait Football Association. InsideTheGames has reported that Al Musallam fit the description of “co-conspirator number three” in a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into corruption at FIFA, the international soccer federation. Al Musallam denied wrongdoing.
Barelli took aim at Al Musallam earlier this month, noting that Kuwait’s swimming federation is a suspended member of FINA and that Kuwait’s Olympic Committee is suspended by the IOC, and suggesting that members of suspended federations should not be allowed to run for FINA governing positions.
Though Barelli won the LEN election handily, he was still unhappy with Al Musallam’s behavior, which Barelli considered an ethics violation.
Barelli originally wrote to Maglione and FINA’s executive director, alleging that Al Musallam had committed ethics violations by campaigning for his opponent in the LEN race. According to the CAS decision, Maglione told Barelli he would discuss the issue at a FINA Executive meeting in Rio. But in November, three months after Rio, Barelli filed a complaint against Al Musallam with the FINA Ethics Panel.
In December of 2016, the FINA Ethics Panel ruled that there was “no structural or actual conflict of interest” in Al Musallam’s multiple roles. The panel also ruled that Al Musallam was allowed to express his opinion on the LEN election without committing an ethics violation.
Barelli also leveled ethics allegations against FINA Vice President Dale Neuberger, an American who works with TSE Consulting. TSE ran van Heijningen’s campaign for LEN President. Barelli says that Neuberger’s connection to TSE (which ran the van Heijningen campaign) counts as a conflict of interest with his role as FINA VP, which requires a fair election.
The FINA Ethics Panel bounced the complaint to FINA’s Executive Director, Cornel Marculescu, for him to evaluate the complaint and decide if it should be officially sent back to the Ethics Panel for review. Marculescu chose not to forward the matter to the Ethics Panel, and informed Barelli of this in December of 2016.
Barelli appealed both cases to CAS for further review, but his appeals were denied today. You can read the full CAS decision document here.