ISL Files Appeal to Revive Long-Running Antitrust Lawsuit Against World Aquatics

The International Swimming League and a trio of swimmers — Tom Shields, Michael Andrew, and Katinka Hosszu — filed a joint appeal on Wednesday requesting for the Ninth Circuit to reverse a lower court’s January ruling in favor of defendant World Aquatics, reviving a long-running antitrust lawsuit that dates back to 2018.

Five months ago, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco found that World Aquatics did not violate antitrust law when the global governing threatened to suspend swimmers for competing at the 2018 Energy for Swim competition. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 forbids organizations from engaging in anti-competitive behavior.

The district court sided with World Aquatics in part because they deemed the organization’s cooperation unnecessary for the ISL to host its own competitions. But the appellants argued that the policy still had an anti-competitive effect by limiting the ISL’s access to professional swimmers for its planned events in 2018. They noted how the rule had “actual detrimental effects” to the labor market, including $842,400 in prize money that would have been distributed to top swimmers at the league’s cancelled meet in Turin, Italy.

The appellants also pointed to past precedent in arguing that a refusal to deal can still be considered a group boycott if it impacts a rival’s ability to compete, even if a competitor was not totally isolated from the market. They claimed that World Aquatics’ decision to ban national federations from working with “unapproved” leagues has resulted in “lasting damage.”

“That erroneous decision threatens to undermine the application of the Sherman Act in the sports industry,” the opening brief says. You can read the full 59-page brief here.

Shields, Andrew, and Hosszu are represented by a team of attorneys from Winston & Strawn that includes Jeffrey Kessler, who has a litigated several high-profile antitrust cases for athletes (including Alston v. NCAA). World Aquatics is represented by Christopher Yates and Aaron Chiu from Latham & Watkins.

After World Aquatics’ legal victory in January, president Husain Al-Musallam released a statement calling the ruling “a good decision, not just for World Aquatics, but for the Olympic Movement and beyond.”

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nono Okok
1 month ago

why doesn’t swimming leave the concept of a league alone it’s an individual rooted sport I know this article is old but I sit right now before the Olympics and trials excited and find myself thinking if only this scale of some what of this scale could replicated on a regular season level such as a regulated tour based format the spands across the year let’s say just examples October-May with majors like golf or tennis and scoring systems by event? Swimming to reach a larger audience and I believe it can and has potential why not do the route that the sport began on, individuality.

1 year ago

Whenever the FINA President (Captain Corruption) calls something a “good decision” you know there is deviancy and dishonesty somewhere behind the scenes.

Reply to  Kvasha
1 year ago

FINA is a disgrace

1 year ago

When did it become necessary for competitive sports to have a boss, especially one that can pick the winners and losers ahead of time?

Seems a bit defeating to drag human excellence and achievement through the senseless drama for a mere piece of the pie. You can find a master in any field of endeavor, if that is your desire. There was a natural beauty in the self-fulfilling concept of “individual” sport. Kind of difficult to build any monopolies or animosities in a world where personal excellence is a self-directed purpose.

Does anyone remember the big record labels from the 1960’s-70’s? Competitors used to leave it all in the water.

James Beam
1 year ago

So if the ISL is filing an appeal, does that mean they are still in business? Does anyone know if they ever paid swimmers the money they were owed?

Reply to  James Beam
1 year ago

Swimmers were never paid.

1 year ago

I am not a lawyer, but I am a swim fan who loves MORE competition, particularly at the international level where some of the best will always be there. So, I hope the suit is successful for the FREEDOM of swimmers to act without FINA/World Aquatics being the only “boss” in town. A monopoly in swimming does no one any good!

1 year ago

This appeal isn’t what you are talking about. It was an opportunity to get some money and these three headed by experienced in suing matter Hosszu were just up for money. Interesting if they paid anything in this case or it was all by Grigorishin.

1 year ago

AKA: We are out of money and need a settlement.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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