Leonard: USA FINA Bureau Rep Should Be ‘Intent On Change’

American Swimming Coaches Association Executive Director and outspoken FINA critic John Leonard penned a letter earlier this month laying out his suggested qualifications for USA Swimming’s new representative to the FINA Bureau – heading the list is a candidate “intent on change.”

The FINA Bureau position will be open in 2021 after news broke last month that current rep and FINA Vice President Dale Neuburger will be retiring.

Neuburger was the target of conflict of interest allegations last summer during the election for FINA’s President. 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. It’s no coincidence, then, that Leonard’s letter starts by calling for a candidate who is free of conflicts of interest.

Leonard goes on to list several more key qualifications, including being “intent on change,” consistent with Leonard’s regular criticism of FINA as a governing body for swimming. Leonard has also been outspoken in trying to spearhead the formation of the World Swimming Association as a rival to FINA as the international governing body for swimming.


Here is Leonard’s letter in its entirety:

The following is my incomplete list that should be considered in evaluating the person nominated by International Relations Committee for FINA Bureau position, which then goes to the USA-Swimming Board, then to the USAS Board. Then onward to the UANA Board for their support.

     Qualifications for Nomination for the FINA Representative from the Americas.

One of the most important positions in all of swimming comes up for nomination in the next few days: the USA-Swimming Nomination for USAS Nomination to UANA as the FINA rep on the FINA Bureau

(Due to Ron Van Pool on March 30.)  

Why is it important? Because this person represents the strongest and most influential swimming nation on earth. Arguably the ONLY Federation that could impose changes on FINA, if it chose to do so. FINA cannot possibly afford to have non-cooperation with the USA as the strongest team in its sales package to television and related media. This person “supposedly” represents FINA to the USA, but in fact, the relationship is reciprocal. They represent the USA on the Bureau and FINA to USA Swimming. In the real world, that’s the way it works. (or should.)

This person must be:


  • Free of conflicting interests from their gainful employment.
  • Financially secure enough to resist the FINA system of “gravy train” living and traveling.
  • Corruption free, both perceptually and in reality.
  • Intent on change. FINA has a deep need for change. “Go along to Get along” will not secure change, we have learned that over the past 25 years. This will make the person unpopular on the Bureau, as is another current Vice President there. If the USA leads, FINA will change.
  • Knowledgeable about international sport politics.
  • Supported by their employee for travel, time away from work, etc. .
  • Widely respected within the sport, WORLDWIDE. Name recognition counts with both Bureau and Media.
  • Willing to recognize that FINA exists to serve the athlete. Not the reverse.
  • Willing to move FINA to a system where the athlete is the entity financially rewarded, Not the FINA bank account.
  • Will to move FINA to a cooperative and supportive community for world aquatics, rather than a parochial and restrictive entity.

I have put what I consider to be the three most critical items in bold print.

This position is critical because any effective work in international sport requires multiple decades of work and commitment. The person we nominate will likely be there for two decades. We need to chose wisely.  Age is a consideration as they will need to serve for a considerable period of time to be effective. It would also be effective to consider diversity in gender considering the dearth of ladies in room with FINA’s mostly male leaders. Ignoring gender at this point in time, will place us on the wrong side of history. We need great leadership from both genders in all of our human activities.

John Leonard, Executive Director, American Swimming Coaches Association.

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John Leonard is the absolute worst. I hate FINA too, but this guy is a sucubus on the sport


Whether you like the guy or not you have to agree that FINA needs to lift its game and that USA Swimming is the only national federation with enough weight to bring about meaningful change.


The good news is, he just ruled himself through this list of “qualifications.”

By the way, starting any letter by saying it’s “incomplete” is just weird.


John Leonard talking about corruption free… makes me laugh.

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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