European Swim Bosses ‘To Impose Heavy-Handed Whole-Nation Suspensions’ On Portugal & Croatia Over Use Of LEN Logo In Exchanges Over Schism

2021-11-06 Reading Time: 4 minutes

The war at the top table of the European Swimming League intensified today when the LEN executive and its backers voted to suspend Portugal and Croatia at a meeting in Kazan, Russia.

Suspensions of one year for each nation is to be imposed over the use of the LEN logo in an exchange of swim bosses in the row over an inquiry into allegations of financial irregularities that have led to a vote of no confidence in the current executive and a request for new leadership elections next February.

Update: Joint response sent to LEN from Portuguese and Croatian swim federations… see foot of this article

The Kazan 2015 World Championships Pool – by Patrick B. Kraemer

There is a sense of deep irony in a vote that took place in Kazan. Imposing whole-nation suspensions is very rare at LEN, which did not suspend Russia at any time during the biggest doping crisis in swimming since the days of the GDR’s systematic doping State Research Plan 14:25, including the period leading up to 2015 World Championships in Kazan when 22 Russian aquatics athletes made their country top of the league of doping cases at the time.

Now, European swim bosses under pressure at a time when Swiss prosecutors have started to hear evidence from key witnesses in the inquiry over financial allegations have voted to suspend whole nations over the use of a LEN logo in a letter signed by two officials on behalf of the 25 federations who sought, successfully, to have the continental organisation hold an extraordinary Congress on February 5 next year. The purpose is to put to the test a majority vote of no confidence against the current leadership at standard Congress in late September.

To be effective at global level, the latest LEN decision must be approved by FINA, the chief international regulator for aquatics if Portuguese and Croatian swimmers are to be prevented from competing at the World short-course Championships in Abu Dhabi next month.

The LEN suspension was voted on with one day of racing remaining at the European s/c Championships in Kazan but it is understood that it will not bar Portugal and Croatia from completing their campaigns ahead of formal letters being sent to the federations of both countries next week.

All those involved are “LEN bosses”, as members of the ruling Bureau of the European Swimming League but the executive and those backing them escalated an acrimonious battle with 25 federations, including some of the top swim nations, such as the Nordic nations and Germany, calling for the current leadership to fall on their swords over allegations now under investigation by Swiss and Italian authorities, including state prosectors and Olympic ethics panels.

The Background & The Logo In A Swim Schism

LEN leaders have tried to stall the efforts of a group of nations working under the name Europe 4 All Aquatics and calling for the current leadership to resign. In a letter to federations, the group set out its position and provided information about the campaign to have an extraordinary Congress approved for next February. That letter used the LEN logo.

Yesterday, LEN bosses issued the following note stating that the use of the logo was unauthorised and was a “complete violation of the constitution”.

While the use of the logo in a letter signed by the president of the Portuguese federation Antonio Jose Silva, a member of the FINA Bureau, and Croatian delegate Josip Varvodic, might be described as clumsy mistake, whole-nation suspension has the feel of a leadership reaching for a sledgehammer to crack a nut, say critics.

One source told SOS: “You might expect them to apply a penalty to the individuals but to suspend whole nations, with potential impact on innocent athletes caught in the crossfire of an argument of Bureaucrats, is far too heavy handed.”

The LEN letter highlighting the European 4 All Aquatics is signed by David Sparkes, one of the executives at the heart of allegations over financial irregularities, his signature understood to be on an agreement with a third-party consultant related to broadcast rights that members of the LEN Bureau knew nothing about until it was revealed in the dossier now at the heart of investigations in Switzerland and Italy.

Swiss Inquiry Starts To Hear Evidence From Witnesses In European Swim Crisis

None of those involved in the Swiss inquiry, which has included documents and other materials being seized in a visit to the LEN headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, are at liberty to comment. However, sources close to the inquiry have confirmed to SOS that after a delay caused by the challenges of the pandemic, the first witnesses in the inquiry being conducted by Swiss prosecutors have recently given lengthy testimony. Some of the proceedings are understood to have been conducted in the presence of the president of LEN, Paolo Barelli and his legal representatives.

Portugal & Croatia Respond

In a response to the latest LEN action, Silva and Varvodic write:

Portuguese Swimming Federation and Croatian Swimming Federation write this letter as reaction to media titles on apparent LEN suspension of these two federations. Until now no official information from LEN was received.

Portuguese Swimming Federation and Croatian Swimming Federation are surprised and astonished about the unfair play behaviour of LEN President and some of LEN Bureau members whom are behind this un sport act. 

Both federations are committed to work hard to change the un sport behaviour (sic) and the culture to ensure democracy, transparency, and good governance prevail in LEN. 

The Unfair decision of LEN President and some of LEN Bureau members is contradict (sic) FINA, LEN Constitution and it was not followed by relevant principles of due process.

Portugal and Croatia Swimming Federations are confirming their support for the request of the 24 European Swimming federations dated 25 September to call for an extra ordinary General Assembly with Agenda Items to dismiss the current LEN bureau members and to elect a new Bureau due to the lack of good governance, transparency and accountability on LEN day to day work.

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