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 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.”
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).