The International Swimming League (ISL) has released a statement in response to FINA’s loosening of its rules, saying FINA’s move should be considered an “implicit admission of guilt” about FINA rules, and blasting FINA for “empty threats” and for copying the ISL format with the FINA Champions Series.
FINA released a statement yesterday announcing that it would not sanction athletes for competing in events “staged by independent organisers.” The statement came after FINA first e-mailed federations to announce that the loosely-ISL-related Energy for Swim event in December was not FINA approved, and in the same e-mail implied that two-year bans could be on the table by referencing FINA rules that specifically spelled out competition bans for athletes who compete in unapproved meets.
FINA later denied that it had ever threatened bans, though that was well after organizers canceled the Energy for Swim event. FINA also doubled its prize money for Short Course Worlds (which was roughly in competition with the Energy for Swim meet, at least from a calendar perspective) and created a new Champions Series that roughly mirrors the proposed ISL format.
The ISL statement pulls no punches, saying FINA “illegally forced the cancellation” of the Energy for Swim event, and alleging that FINA “then blatantly copied the ISL model in an obvious attempt to win over the elite swimming community FINA has long been exploiting.”
You can read the full ISL statement below, followed by further context on this ongoing story:
The world’s elite swimmers finally won yesterday the right to compete in non-FINA events, such as the team swimming events organized by competing league ISL (International Swimming League) for August.
“This is a step in the right direction to free swimmers to compete more and earn more,” said Andrea di Nino, Managing Director of the ISL. “FINA’s capitulation comes in reaction to ISL’s and elite swimmers antitrust lawsuits that exposed FINA’s illegal threatened ban of swimmers who participate in ISL’s events”
FINA’s announcement today also proves the falsity of FINA’s prior denials that it had made such threats to the world’s elite swimmers and the national federations.
“We welcome FINA’s belated admission as well as FINA’s promised assurance that it will now cease such obviously unlawful conduct that hurts the very swimmers that FINA claims to represent,” said Konstantin Grigorishin, Head of Advisory Board and Financier of the ISL.
Yesterday’s implicit admission of guilt comes only after FINA illegally forced the cancellation of ISL’s Turin Event and after FINA then blatantly copied the ISL model in an obvious attempt to win over the elite swimming community FINA has long been exploiting.
“We look forward to FINA memorializing its newfound deference to the laws of the United States and of the European Union—and to the rights of the world’s swimmers and ISL—into an enforceable agreement. We are reaching out to FINA now to enter into such a binding agreement. If FINA truly means what it said, then FINA will readily cooperate,” said Konstantin Grigorishin.
Finally, FINA’s supposed change of heart still does not address the real financial harm FINA caused to swimmers and the ISL by forcing the cancellation of the Turin Event, and then copying the ISL’s team competition model in a further FINA effort to quash competition that benefits swimmers and fans alike.
Regardless of yesterday’s promise that it will behave correctly and legally in the future, FINA must agree to legally enforceable terms that assure a level competitive playing field and that atone for the wrongs FINA already committed.
The ISL had organized a December 2018 meet centered around prize money for athletes and spectator appeal. But FINA re-interpreted one of its rules, classifying the meet as an international competition requiring FINA approval. Without the necessary six months to gain approval, the meet was essentially outlawed, and a FINA e-mail to federations specifically referenced rules that could ban athletes for up to two years for competing in an unapproved meet. The meet was ultimately canceled, but three top athletes filed an anti-trust lawsuit against FINA, similar to the suit that struck down similar rules by the International Skating Union.