Katinka Hosszu, Michael Andrew, Tom Shields File Lawsuit Against FINA

Represented by California law firms Farella Braun & Martel; and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein; 3 swimmers have filed a proposed class action lawsuit against FINA for violating U.S. antitrust laws. Stars Katinka HosszuMichael Andrew, and Tom Shields are the lead plaintiffs in the case. The International Swimming League (ISL) have filed a separate lawsuit, on the same theories.

Hosszu and Andrew are expected to swim at the FINA-hosted Short Course World Championships next week in Hangzhou, China.

The lawsuits involve FINA’s moves to block the 2018 Energy for Swim meet that was supposed to be hosted in Italy later this month. The lawsuit hearkens to one filed against the International Skating Union in 2017, where a judge ruled that their moves to block skaters from competing in non-authorized competitions were in breach of European Union antitrust laws, except that this one is being filed in the United States.

Further context:

The lawsuit claims violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which forbids organizations from engaging in anti-competitive behavior. The Sherman Act resulted in the breakup of Standard Oil and AT&T, among other organizations. Attorneys for the plaintiffs also claim tortious interference with contractual relations or prospective economic relations, for collusion to unreasonably restrict competition, and for monopoly. The lawsuits seek injunctive relief and monetary damages for the named plaintiffs and for all class members, which could include dozens of pro swimmers from around the world who signed contract. The class, if accepted, would not be limited to just Americans, even though the suit is filed in the United States.

According to the release, the suit was only undertaken after FINA demanded a $50 million fee to approve ISL events.

“Very few select swimmers make a living swimming, while FINA is making a killing,” said Andrew, who in 2013 became the youngest swimmer to go pro. “FINA’s main consideration is not for swimmers. FINA set our sport back into the dark ages by blocking ISL’s request. They can co-exist.”

Andrew is the defending World Champion in the 100 IM and won a gold medal in the 50 free at the 2018 Pan Pac Championships.

Shields, an Olympic gold medalist, is a lead plaintiff and the named plaintiff in the proposed class-action lawsuit. He says that he has dreamed for years of seeing the sport expand to include a professional league. “We are closer now than ever before to making that dream come true,” he said. “But that dream is being blocked by FINA.”

The lead plaintiff with the biggest resume is Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, who won 3 individual golds and an individual silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. That goes with 20 World Championships, and 82 total major international medals.

“My passion has always been to push swimming in the direction where swimmers are partners of the governing body, not just muppets,” she said. “ISL takes swimmers seriously, not like FINA.”

Hosszu is also the dominant figure in the last decade of the FINA World Cup Series, which recently made changes that limited her earnings potential.

The class-action lawsuit is Shields, et al. v. FINA, Case No. 18-cv-07393. ISL’s lawsuit is International Swimming League, Ltd. v. FINA, Case No. 18-cv07394. Both suits are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

SwimSwam has reached out to FINA for comment, but they have not responded.

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John Smith
4 years ago

There is an important accuracy error in your article. No judge has ruled on whether the International Skating Union (ISU) conduct was in breach of EU antitrust rules. The European Commission (the EU equivalent to the FCC) concluded that their behaviour was illegal. The ISU has now appealed that decision before the European Court of Justice (Case T-93/18). This means that is not certain that the conduct of the ISU is illegal or not until the judge has given its final ruling.

4 years ago

Is there something wrong with my computer? This story has been on my swimswam start up page for a week?

4 years ago

Thank you for challenging this. You are helping our sport and every future athlete. Good luck.

4 years ago

I hope they win.

Brent Scaife
5 years ago

FINA says water is our world, then treat the swimers that swim in the water with respect then. Once again money not about swimming. You want set an example to next generation of swimers but tearing down events because of sanctions that don’t make any sense.

5 years ago

Finally swimmers with guts! The lawsuit hits legitimate issues raised and won throughout the agrs! If they win swimming wins and swim stop losing swimmers before their full potential! I long for the day when swimmers can join their triathlon, golf, tennis counterparts! Wearing logos of companies that now only support FINA executive salaries and agenda’s!

Siphiwe Baleka
5 years ago

Raymond Arsenault’s new book Arthur Aseh: A Life details the various struggles that tennis went through to become a sport with Open events and big time money. Ashe was one of the first tennis millionaires…. There were lots of competing federations/associations and lawsuits. There was no opportunity to become a professional swimmer or make money swimming when I was a kid. Heck, as the fastest 47 year old swimmer in the world, I still have hopes of winning prize money in Masters swimming somehow. LOL

SUM Ting Wong
5 years ago

It cheers me up to see the Russia love finally being displayed on SWSW. Only ex Communist Yozhik is holding out . Energy Standard & the ISL are Russian . It is a genius move by VVP to get a other swimming medal to go with the FINA ‘s on his mantelpiece . Money talks .And to use the US courts to achieve this is the stuff of dreams .

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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