Ous Mellouli on Surprise Retirement: “I Feel Betrayed”

In a conversation with SwimSwam on Monday, 5-time Olympian Ous Mellouli explained the reasoning behind his surprise retirement earlier today.

The 37-year old announced in an Instagram post that he is retiring from international competition and he will not be competing at the Tokyo Olympics that are set to begin in less than a week.

Mellouli and his mother are in the midst of a legal battle with the Tunisian Swimming Federation. In 2017, the federation filed a complaint against his mother, Khadija Mellouli, and in 2018 they sued the athlete for forgery.

Mellouli told SwimSwam that the federation gave him three different reasons as to why he would not receive the second portion of his contract. They initially claimed that the swimmer was being dishonest about an injury and therefore would not be paid. They altered that response, later claiming that his absence from the 2017 World Championships was the reason for the lack of payment. Mellouli says that they returned with claims that a nutritionist from 2012 had still not been paid. It is not clear, what the lawsuit is officially referring to.

To put things into perspective, Mellouli stated that “of the 1900 athletes qualified to these games, I am the only one that’s been dragging in courts and probably will be dragged for years to come still.” He went on to claim that “the Ministry of Sports is covering the missteps of the federation”.

While this was taking place, Tunisia was in the midst of some political changes that left the governing bodies unstable. Mellouli asserts that the federation seized the opportunity to convince the incoming officials that Mellouli’s finances were unclear. Mellouli refuses these claims, insisting that it was in fact more costly for him to live and train in the United States due to medical bills and travel expenses. His living expenses were covered by his contract.

Over a two-year period, Mellouli said the federation withheld approximately 600,000 dinars, which is around $215,000 USD. He has been in battle with the Ministry of Sports since 2018, which is the last time he received any financial compensation from them. In an unprecedented move, the federation sued Mellouli and his mother directly.

According to the contract, the normal protocol would be to write a report against the swimmer, which would then be reviewed by the ministry.

Mellouli went on to explain that during a phone conversation, the minister of sports promised to aid him since “the arbitration in athlete-federation fall within her jurisdiction.” Despite her promises, no advances have been made in the last month to help his case move forward.

He declared that he has felt “betrayed by [his] people” despite what he has done to represent Tunisia. Additionally, he voiced that he is disheartened that the Olympic Committee has not reached out.

I feel helpless and alone. Instead of staying focused on training and excited about competing, I am fighting for justice and to clear my name from any and all false allegations…

As an Olympian and a competitor, the Olympics is a dream of mine. I sacrificed so much to earn a spot in that Olympic final. I want to competed with the best in the world. I am still hopeful that the politicians in my country will listen and give me justice before it’s too late…”

When prompted to clarify, Mellouli did not rule out a last-minute intervention in the situation from changing his mind about the Tokyo Olympics. “If the minister of sports moves in the right direction, I will not miss out on a chance to competed in Tokyo.”

Despite the ordeal, Mellouli was able to qualify for his 6th Olympic team. He is the only swimmer to have won Olympic gold medals in both the pool and open water swimming. He picked up a gold medal in the 1500 at the 2008 Olympics and he claimed another in the open water 10k race in 2012. In addition to winning a gold medal in London, he won a bronze medal in the 1500 free.

Mellouli was scheduled to race just open water at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The men’s open water 10km event is scheduled for August 5 – after pool swimming is concluded.

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Sam B
1 year ago

so he is basically using his Olympic participation as a bargaining chip?
For such a legend, I think if he’s not in a financial jam, he should go to Tokyo, no one will remember his fight with his Government but his participation

1 year ago

If they “withheld” USD $215,000 over 2 years, how much have they paid Mellouli over the years and what/how much is the Federation suing over?

1 year ago

I’m on Ous’s side and don’t really care about details. Where in Canada can I buy a Mellouli jersey?

Definitely Not Sun Yang
1 year ago

He betrayed the sport of swimming by doping in 2008 and depriving Kieran Perkins the men’s first three peat

JP input is too short
Reply to  Definitely Not Sun Yang
1 year ago

(Grant Hackett)

The unoriginal Tim
1 year ago

Well if they want him to swim for their country they need to drop/settle the charges. They probably don’t care though given his age?

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
1 year ago

Age not so relevant – after all, he qualified for the 10K at age 37. How many of us could do that? Hope Tunisia works something out.

Last edited 1 year ago by Coach Mike 1952