As top-level swimmers around the world start to express their misgivings about FINA, the international governing body for aquatic sports, the federation’s Athlete’s Committee has written an open letter encouraging athletes to voice their opinions about decision-making within their sports.
U.S. Olympic champ and world record-holder Aaron Peirsol writes the letter on behalf of the 10-person Athletes Committee. FINA first formed the Athletes Committee in 1992, with 10 athletes serving four-year terms. The current Committee has been together since 2013, and includes:
- Chairman Jihong Zhou
- Vice-Chairman Thiago Pereira
- Honorary Secretary Penny Heyns
- Virginie Dedieu
- Malick Fall
- Aaron Feltham
- Martina Moravcova
- Patrick Murphy
- Aaron Peirsol
- Alexander Popov
- Camelia Potec
- Laura Aleida Sanchez Soto
- Petar Stoychev
- Miyako Tanaka-Oulevey
- Britta Kamrau – FINA events advisor
- Vladimir Salnikov – Bureau Liaison
The letter comes on the heels of Katinka Hosszu‘s call for professional swimmers to unionize to gain more decision-making power within the sport. Hosszu has publicly criticized some of FINA’s recent decisions, most notably the major changes to the World Cup format that will likely cost her significant prize money next year. A number of key athletes have already joined her movement, including world record-holding breaststroker Adam Peaty. You can read more about that here.
The Athletes Committee letter doesn’t specifically name Hosszu, but does allude to the unionizing movement, without explicitly endorsing or opposing it. The letter notes that the Athletes Committee is an “already established [group] that can be a powerful and effective conduit for our collective voice as well.” The Committee letter encourages athletes to contact the Committee to voice their concerns moving forward.
You can read the full letter below:
Dear Aquatic Athletes;
We write to you as fellow athletes who have now put in some years on another, lesser-known platform within our sports. Each of us have diverse experiences from the world of swimming, diving, water polo and synchro, and have been selected to represent you and our sports on our international governing body, FINA. Within FINA, we sit on the Athletes’ Committee. It seems a far cry from spending time in the pool, but it has become apparent it may be just as critical.
The most critical and pressing of our efforts is to organize and communicate. Recently there has been an energy within our sports for athletes to wrest more control of their sports which has permeated for years, if not decades. We, as an Athletes’ Committee within FINA, are proof that prior generations have been fighting for more representation for a long time. We encourage it. And we can use it. We want an open dialogue within and across each of our disciplines, especially when there is discontent, whether that be regarding transparency within FINA, how money is allocated at various levels, travel, lodging or location or timing of meets, outreach, support and inclusion of other regions, and any other number of important issues. And a recent push from one of our own athletes to the swimming community, with many of our best swimmers publicly acknowledging a need for change, has been a sharp and welcomed reminder that we, as a community of athletes, still have much work ahead of us. To be straightforward, we are proud and encouraged athletes are taking such initiative.
As a now experienced group of athletes in the realm of how our sports are being conducted from the top down, and coming from the various aquatic sports, we are a group, already established, that can be a powerful and effective conduit for our collective voice as well. Athletes in the aquatic world have traditionally been content in fulfilling their responsibilities in the physical realm; training and competing. Little emotional energy can be spared for much else. But we also have another responsibility that up until now has been difficult to fully manifest, and that is as an active and thoughtful participant through an open and honest discourse about what we want our environment to look like.
The aim of this letter is to reinforce the notion that athletes of any of our aquatic sports, from any region and of any age do have, as we have always had, the ultimate say in our own futures should we voice it. We are a world of aquatic sport that does not represent one region or one goal. We represent, as you all do, the multitudes that make us who we are. We possess all that is necessary to create and mould our own environments. But to do so, we must work together. And the Athletes’ Committee members, as representatives of our sports, wish to express a willingness to help lead the way and push to organize the voice of our athletes’ and our sports’ concerns at the highest level. The more numerous, organized and motivated we are – the more we can accomplish.
We write to encourage all athletes from all aquatic disciplines to share with us and amongst yourselves your thoughts and concerns. We encourage coaches and athletes to talk freely and openly. We also understand and do not expect all to agree on just how we move forward. Let us be very clear that the most important step at the moment in this action is our collective support in each others expressions. We will not all share the same specific views, nor the paths to have those views come to fruition. But we must all stand by each other in a collective understanding that we are stronger together than we are apart. We can support the collective organization of ourselves as a whole, with healthy and constructive discourse.
We, your FINA Athletes’ Committee, will be heading to Budapest this month for our World Championships, where we look forward to this added momentum in the push for athlete representation. The more we know of your concerns, the better we may assist. And we understand as well that the more you know of our efforts, the more faith you can have in those representing you. We do not expect to do this alone. We ask to do this with you. These are our sports, after all.