ISL Statement Decries ‘Bullying’ By National Federations Amid Pandemic

The International Swimming League released a statement today criticizing what the league called “bullying” by national federations.

Though the statement doesn’t mention any specific federations, it comes just a week after news that the majority of Australia’s swimmers will not participate in the ISL this season. SwimSwam has learned that in at least one case, Swimming Australia denied an athlete an exemption to the nation’s international travel ban, in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The full ISL statement is below:

The current health crisis should not be used to entrench existing vested interests.

It is unacceptable that some national swimming federation’s leaders, knowingly and cynically use the pandemic to intimidate athletes who wish to participate in other competitions.

Athletes must be protected not only in their physical integrity but also in their economic and social integrity. They need to compete or risk imperilling their livelihoods.

ISL stands for the right of all athletes to freely live their swimming life, believes it is time to put power back into their hands, to champion their right to make a living they deserve, and to have a greater say in the way their sport is run.

The recent bullying and pressure on some of the athletes who are already in a precarious position is a political manoeuvre and contrary to the very spirit of sport.”

#YesToCompetition #NoToBullying

ISL Bubble? Still Unclear

The ISL touted a “strict medical protocol” and a commitment to “offering a safe environment to all athletes and staff,” arguing that national federations are using the pandemic to intimidate athletes.

But the league has also not released the full details of its medical protocols, even with the season just over three weeks away. The five-week regular season will take place in Budapest, Hungary. Athletes, coaches and officials will be tested for COVID-19 twice before departing for Budapest, two more times within 48 hours of arrival, and then every five days during the season. Meets will be conducted without spectators.

But the league declined to answer our question on whether athletes and staff will be quaratined to hotels and training facilities while in Budapest. The NBA conducted its season in such a ‘bubble’, while other pro sports leagues like the NFL and MLB have not. We’ve followed up with the ISL about the potential for a quarantine, but the league only says that it will publish its protocol “soon.”

Australian Short Course Nationals Conflict

One potential conflict for Australian athletes has been the Australian Short Course Swimming Championships, which are scheduled for November 26. That would be about two weeks after the conclusion of the ISL‘s regular season.

Athletes competing in the postseason would see their ISL commitments continue into December, and the nation’s current restrictions on international travel might leave athletes unable to train or compete for some time after their trip to Budapest, if they are allowed to return to the country at all.

The ISL framed the conflict as national federations attacking athletes’ ability to earn money. But it’s also worth noting that Swimming Australia funds athletes through its Performance Pathway Program, and generally at a higher level ($15,000 to $40,000 a year, including coach and program costs) than ISL salaries (which hit $15,000 per athlete this year).

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Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
27 days ago

Why isn’t there someone who said the same when Australia pulled its whole National team out of the Olympics before it was officially cancelled? Shouldn’t athletes be allowed to freely choose whether to participate in the Games, according to the logic in this statement? 🙂

At that time, the major media praised Australia’s withdrawal from the Games as ‘a responsible move’, and now they are literally doing the same thing but are accused of bullying. It’s not like that the pandemic was suddenly over between August and October, so why the double standards?

Last edited 27 days ago by Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
27 days ago

For one when Australia pulled out of the Olympics there were no potential known safety precautions for the olympics and it was the early stages of the pandemic. Additionally, there was no clear vested interest in Australia wanted its athletes to miss the Olympics. It would possibly even hurt Australia to have their athletes miss the Olympics. In this situation, which I don’t know if everyone is accusing them of bullying other than the ISL, there’s murmurs of Australia’s swimming fed having a vested interest in not letting the swimmers participate as the ISL season would prevent their stars from competing in their SC nationals. However, there is an understandable public health reason to not allow the Australian swimmers to… Read more »

Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
27 days ago

Just let them qualify individually then. Why not. Golfers and tennis players don’t worry about this stuff.

Reply to  Taa
27 days ago

I don’t disagree with your comment about allowing them to qualify individually, but tennis players and golfers make a lot more money and are less reliant on their nations for financial support. it’s different when you’re part of a sport where even as one of the best, you’re still reliant on some degree to the support your governing body provides you.

I think it is likely that in the coming years (if ISL survives) we’ll begin to see tensions between national governing bodies and the ISL participating swimmers similar to what we saw with the AAU and athletes a few decades back.

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
27 days ago

And one question about ISL safety protocols: The rules say they will test swimmers every 5 days. What if one swimmer tests positive for covid-19? What measures are they going to take? Send the swimmer back home and continue, or stop the whole camp, or something else?

Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
27 days ago

We’ve asked that question and others, and so far ISL has not had answers to them.

Reply to  Braden Keith
27 days ago

I won’t be surprised if there will be 1. Delays in getting test results before traveling to Hungary. 2. Multiple athletes coaches getting positives during their stay.
It takes a couple of days to get results in the US if things run smoothly.

Last edited 27 days ago by Troy
27 days ago

Since the ISL is basically just trying to make the rich get richer with jackpot times, stealing points and rewarding the top 1% competing in the ISL instead of closing the gap between the top earners who have enough money anyway and the normal athletes, they shouldn’t really talk about bullying;) just my humble opinion

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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