Olympian Janet Evans has pulled her name from the pool nominated to represent the Americas on the FINA Bureau, she confirmed to SwimSwam in June, and current representative Dale Neuburger is expected to seek the FINA presidency, multiple sources say.
Neuburger has served on the USA Swimming Board of Directors since 1990, and has held his current FINA role as a vice president since 2000. In USA Swimming’s Board of Directors meeting notes from February 2018, it was revealed that he was expected to retire in 2021.
Evans was nominated by USA Swimming in June 2018 to represent the Americas on the FINA Bureau, with her expected term running 2021-2015. In May, she was nominated to specifically serve in the position of treasurer. She had the backing of the necessary organizations to pursue the position, but Neuburger’s plans appear to have disrupted her own.
“After careful consideration, I have decided to withdraw my nomination for a FINA Bureau position,” Evans told SwimSwam in a statement. “I would like to thank those from the aquatics community who offered me their support, and I look forward to continuing to support aquatic sports in America and around the world.”
Both FINA and USA Swimming did not respond to requests for comment on the situation. Neuburger said in June he was too busy to speak on the matter.
“When the present occupant of that post [Neuburger] announced he would not seek reelection, it was, I think, an occasion for a fresh, clean start for the United States in the FINA ranks,” American Swimming Coaches Association CEO John Leonard, a noted FINA critic, said. “Coaches had considerable enthusiasm on the idea of Janet filling that post, because I think coaches all over the United States understand that Janet has always been very forthright about supporting athletes and making sure that A) athletes voices were heard and B) that there were significant financial opportunities for professional athletes, and C) that below the professional athlete ranks, the sport should be run for the benefit of the athletes.”
Coaches across the nation supported Evans with “rare and unanimous enthusiasm and excitement,” Leonard added.
Neuburger was the target of conflict of interest allegations in 2017 during FINA’s last presidential election, which resulted in another term for now 83-year-old Julio Maglione. Challenger Paolo Barelli contended that Neuburger’s work with TSE Consulting constituted a conflict of interest with his position in FINA, though the Court of Arbitration for Sport ultimately dismissed Barelli’s case.
Neuburger initially pledged publicly to be highly supportive of Evans’ candidacy, Leonard said. However, recent changes to FINA‘s financial landscape have opened up Neuburger’s potential path to the presidency.
Until recently, it was expected that FINA‘s current First Vice President Husain Al Musallam, also secretary general of the recently unsuspended Kuwait Olympic Committee would gain power with the financial backing of Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, to whom he is a longtime aide.
Sheikh Ahmad has been president of the Olympic Council of Asia since 1991 and has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1992 – he’s a close ally of IOC President Thomas Bach –but stepped away from the IOC late last year after being indicted on charges of forgery in Geneva, Switzerland, limiting his power within FINA. Shiekh Ahmad also reportedly opted not to seek re-election to his role as president of the Association of National Olympic Committees at Bach’s request, but maintains his innocence in the investigation.
He is separately being investigated by the Olympic ethics panel on allegations of bribery relating to international soccer relations – specifically, payments from the Olympic Council of Asia to “win influence with soccer officials” – the Associated Press reported (clear here to learn more).