Today, FINA has sent out a response to the heated criticism that they have been receiving over their investigation into the death of Fran Crippen. Specifically, they wished to respond to the heated near-accusations that USA-Swimming’s separate Open Water Safety Committee shot at them, stating that FINA was not being open and forthcoming with their information, which prevented USA Swimming from doing as thorough of research as they might have liked.
The answer is basically a non-response, saying that they are still working through the process of formulating their own conclusions, but that they feel as though many of USA Swimming’s proposed regulations are already addressed in the existing FINA rules, located on their website, that include locating a “Stationary safety boat” every 400m, and a maximum water temperature of 31 degrees Celsius.
Again, everyone’s going to be quick to jump on FINA, because this sounds like a calculated, political response. But the rules already in place on their website are quite similar to the recommendations of the USA Swimming Open Water Safety Committee. Where FINA has failed, and what their conclusions need to address, is the enforcement of these rules, and why they failed to protect athletes in the UAE at that ill-fated race. They likely need to create a position (as USA Swimming has) or entire office strictly in charge of enforcing these safety rules.
The conclusion is that FINA cares just as much about Open Water Safety as USA Swimming does but seem less interested in assigning blame for Crippen’s death specifically (which probably means that most of that blame would fall back on them). I think it’s important to separate the two ideas. This will perhaps prevent us from demonizing the FINA directors as totally without concern for the life of their members, and instead paint a picture of directors with a duty to legally protect their organization (which, if they were at fault for not enforcing the rules, they should feel the full force of the law upon them).
For the full FINA rules, see here.
Here is FINA’s response to the accusations:
FINA’s first thoughts on this matter go to the Fran Crippen family and the terrible moments of grief and difficult times they are passing following the tragic loss of their beloved one on October 23, 2010, during the last leg of the FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup series in Fujairah (UAE).
FINA has received the first conclusions of the US Open Water Review Commission, which should be commended for its most useful contribution.
The FINA’s own Task Force, led by Gunnar Werner, Vice Chairman of CAS and FINA Honorary Member, is composed of five persons including two representatives appointed by US Aquatics/USA Swimming with the mission to investigate all issues related with the tragedy occurred in Fujairah (UAE). It is empowered to exchange all information with the US Open Water Review Commission.
As soon as the FINA’s Task Force’s report will be available, it will be considered by the Bureau as to the necessary steps to be taken. In the meantime, FINA has already held a meeting of the Technical Open Water Swimming Committee (TOWSC) formed by some of the best experts of the open water swimming worldwide and one member of the USA Swimming in order to review the Rules & Regulations of the FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup 2011.
The existing Rules & Regulations were confirmed and reinforced, in particular in the areas of swimmers’ escorts and safety monitoring and FINA Bureau approved those rules few days ago by mail vote. Details have been forwarded to all FINA National Federations and all organizers of FINA Open Water Swimming events; they are available on the FINA website. In case of non compliance, the FINA Technical Delegate, together with the FINA Safety Delegate, will have the power to cancel the event.
Furthermore the FINA Sports Medicine Committee recommended a maximum water temperature of 31 °C.
FINA reiterates its appreciation of USA Swimming’s support to Open Water Swimming and the reinforcement of this discipline’s department within its structure.