FINA Denies That It Threatened Bans, Solicited Money From ISL

On the heels of the International Swimming League (ISL) Summit, FINA has released a statement correcting what it calls “inaccuracies” – chief among them, FINA denies that it threatened athletes with competition bans and that it requested $50 million from the ISL to approve their meet.

“Following meetings in London this week involving the International Swimming League (ISL), FINA is pleased to correct a number of inaccuracies and to clarify its position in several key areas,” the press release reads.

Most notably, FINA addresses “alleged athlete bans,” denying that the organization threatened bans: “FINA merely stated that results achieved in competitions for which approval and sanction were not duly sought and obtained would not be recognised,” FINA says.

According to our reporting, that could technically be true – but an October 30 email from FINA to national federations at least implied bans were a possibility by referencing a FINA general rule that calls for bans connected to unapproved competitions or bodies.

USA Swimming told us that FINA sent a letter on October 30 informing USA Swimming that the Energy for Swim 2018 meet was not approved. In the letter, USA Swimming said, FINA referenced two specific pieces of its rulebook: BL 12.3, which governs the concept of FINA approval, and GR 4.5, which spells out the specific sanctions for competing in an unauthorized meet. The sanction is a ban of one to two years.

The second big note in the FINA statement is a denial that FINA requested $50 million from the ISL. Three athletes filed a lawsuit against FINA based on the rules that could ban athletes for competing in unrecognized competition, and the press release announcing the suit claimed that FINA “demanded” a payment of $50 million to approve the ISL events. FINA, in its release, claims that the ISL were the ones to offer $50 million.

We’ve reached out to FINA for clarification on the Oct. 30 email and on the $50 million fee/offer, but haven’t yet received a response. The full FINA press release is below, followed by some further context on the FINA-ISL dispute:

Following meetings in London this week involving the International Swimming League (ISL), FINA is pleased to correct a number of inaccuracies and to clarify its position in several key areas:

FINA welcomes comments by all athletes with regard to the constant improvement in the quality of FINA events, notably our World Championships. FINA is at the service of all aquatics competitors and such comments are a source of motivation for which we are grateful.

There is always scope for improvement in FINA’s engagement with athletes; for instance the proposals to change the FINA Constitution at the first available opportunity (the 2019 FINA General Congress in Gwangju, Korea) will include the direct election of the Athletes Committee, by the athletes participating in FINA events. The chair of the Athletes Committee is already a member of the FINA Bureau. He or she will become a voting member. Furthermore, Athletes Committee members will have voting rights at the General Congress.

“Supporting swimmers has been my life’s work,” said FINA President Dr Julio C. Maglione. “Fortunately, besides my personal contacts with our Stars, we also have formal mechanisms for incorporating athlete feedback. And we will look for new ways to make even further improvements, because this is our way”.

The allegation that FINA would have requested a $50 million fee from the ISL is incorrect. This was the ISL’s initial proposal.

FINA’s careful financial management has already seen it ensure a winning model for the future of aquatics that includes massively increased prize purses for athletes, up more than 500% in ten years. FINA’s approach has demonstrated prudence, including the establishment of necessary reserves to withstand the unforeseen cancellation of a major event, thus guaranteeing sustainability.

FINA’s approach has also demonstrated a substantial ambition, with significant increases in development funds now available: FINA aims to increase the number of member federations having athletes qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (with either an A or a B standard time). This initiative notably includes direct financial support to promising swimmers, in order that they may benefit from scholarship programmes.

As to the issue of alleged athlete bans resulting from participation in unsanctioned events, FINA merely stated that results achieved in competitions for which approval and sanction were not duly sought and obtained would not be recognised. No approval was duly sought for the event announced in Turin. The decision to cancel it was made by the Italian Swimming Federation and ISL, which was presented merely as a sponsor.


The statement comes in a year that has been marked with back and forth maneuvering and posturing between the two entities. FINA, the international governing body for swimming, has made clear it does not recognize the ISL, a new body with a vision for a swimming series centered on athlete compensation and spectator enjoyment. The ISL says it spent more than a year trying to get its meet approved, but FINA wouldn’t recognize it. ISL officials then created their own meet (not attached in name to the ISL, but hosted by the Italian Swimming Federation) that would follow the same format, but a late FINA rule interpretation essentially outlawed the meet. Three professional swimmers have since filed a lawsuit against FINA, seeking to overturn the federation’s rules that disallow athletes from competing in unapproved competitions.

You can check out the following links for further context:

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4 years ago

Me just sitting over here just waiting until the ISL can replace FINA entirely.

Reply to  50free
4 years ago

The ISL says they don’t want to replace FINA. Up to you if you want to take them at their word.

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

FIBA and NBA coexist just fine… Olympic basketball is fun to watch, but the money and real entertainment is in the NBA… would be great if a similar dynamic was set up here. (Not in any way suggesting ISL would ever be as popular as NBA)

This is a really exciting time to be a swimming fan, and swimswam’s reporting on all of this has been exceptional. Thanks team!

Mr O
4 years ago

Why can’t the just work together?
Why can’t it be like this:
Long Course World Championship in August every second year and Short Course Worlds in December every second year and ISL the rest of the year.
World Cup and FINA’s new competition isn’t needed if is a year-round league.

FINA can use all their money on World Championships and make it an even better competition.

ISL will make swimming a more interesting sport for those who’s not jet interested in swimming, which means that even more people will watch Worlds.
It’s a Win-Win-Win situation for FINA, ISL and the swimmers.

Mr O
Reply to  Mr O
4 years ago


Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Mr O
4 years ago

Follow the money…. that’s why. I did upvote your comment, though.

4 years ago

USASwimming is partially to blame. As a powerful organization, they are remaining quiet and in hiding, instead of supporting the athletes. I also think USA needs to break away from FINA. Who needs them!? Can you participate in the Olympics (and other international competitions) without being a FINA member?

Mr O
Reply to  StuartC
4 years ago

I agree

4 years ago


4 years ago

Ah, so this is what happens when threats don’t work and athletes stand their ground. FINA epitomise cowardice, bullying & corruption.

He said what?
4 years ago

I really detest FINA. They are NOT the organization I remember when Dr. Hal Henning was President. Once upon a time, FINA was honorable. That was before the cockroaches crawled out and took over.

Jambo Sana
4 years ago

FINA, which has lobbyist Dale Neuberger as a VP, is corrupt? These FINA clowns are corrupt idiots. FINA needs to assist the swimmers, not the other way around.

Swimming Fan
4 years ago

Good reporting, Jared. I wouldn’t be surprised if ISL offered $50M, but only after FINA demanded $75M….

Reply to  Swimming Fan
4 years ago

No way ISL offered 50m and FINA said no.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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