Tunisian Swimming Chief, Anti-Doping Head Arrested for Following WADA Protocols

Tunisian president Kais Saied‘s recent streak of arresting people he doesn’t like seems to have extended into the swimming world.

Last week, Saied reportedly dissolved the board of the Tunisian Swimming Federation (FTN) and fired the head of the nation’s anti-doping agency (ANAD) as punishment for the Tunisian flag being covered with a red cloth at the Tunisian Open Masters Championship. On Monday, Agence France Presse reported that Saied went a step further and arrested the leaders of the FTN and ANAD for hiding the flag — a move intended to comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

See video of the covered flag here:

Last month, the WADA announced sanctions on ANAD that included banning the flag from flying at regional, continental or world championships. However, Saied interpreted covering the flag as an “an act of aggression.” Soon after the incident, he personally visited the pool to raise the flag and sing the national anthem.

“Tunisia comes before the Olympic Committee and before any other committees,” said Saied, who ordered “immediate measures” to be taken.

Nine people in total are facing prosecution for charges including “attack on the flag of Tunisia,” “formation of an organized group to commit attacks and cause disorder,” and “plot against the internal security” of the state.

Human rights groups claim that Tunisia has descended into a dictatorship since Saied took over in a 2021 coup. Last year, Tunisia’s main opposition leader was arrested and imprisoned.

A more recent wave of arrests aimed at journalists, lawyers, and activists sparked protests in Tunis on Sunday calling for the government to set a date for the next presidential election. On Saturday, outspoken attorney Sonia Dahmani and two journalists were arrested. One of the main opposition candidates has been imprisoned for months while another announced his candidacy from France out of fear he would be arrested in Tunisia.

Tunisian authorities have reportedly introduced reforms meant to bring the country back into compliance with global anti-doping regulations, but WADA has yet to lift its sanctions. ANAD was publicly warned late last year with its addition to WADA’s compliance watchlist “due to a failure to appropriately implement the WADA Code into its national legal framework.”

On Monday night, WADA released a statement calling for the immediate release of the ANAD director general and the dropping of all his charges.

“Since the non-conformity in Tunisia was established, WADA has been working closely with the authorities to ensure the matter could be dealt with as quickly as possible,” WADA said. “Indeed, excellent progress has been made in that regard, making this latest development all the more unfortunate and untimely. WADA remains confident that the matter will be resolved in the very near future.”

It’s been a tough week for Tunisian swimming as reigning 400 freestyle Olympic champion Ahmed Hafnaoui revealed he might miss the Paris Olympics this summer due to an unspecified injury.

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1 month ago

Thank goodness I live in a country that isn’t this restrictive.

hin qaiyang
1 month ago

bro needs to chill 🚭

1 month ago

What does this mean for Tunisian’s Olympic team? Say Hafnaoui hadn’t been having health issues, would he have been banned from Paris because of the Tunisian dictator?

Reply to  Andy
1 month ago

Injury? Perhaps the “president” had Hafnaoui arrested and beaten for his performance at Doha.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pescatarian

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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