FINA Welcomes CAS Rejection Of Uzbek Swim Fed Appeal On Olympic-Qualifier Manipulation
FINA, the international swimming federation, has welcomes the Court of Arbitration for Sport‘s rejection of an appeal from the Uzbekistan Swimming Federation against the global regulator’s decision to cancel results from the Uzbekistan Open Swimming Cup after accusations, backed by solid evidence, of manipulation.
Indian International Likith Selvaraj Prema showed the courage and integrity to expose clear evidence of manipulation of results at the Uzbek Open Swimming Championships in Tashkent, an Olympic qualifier approved by FINA.
When Prema staged a protest over the manipulation of results in races in which national records were being smashed in time just inside Olympic qualification target times, organisers sought to bribe and then to threaten him, according to the swimmer.
He, among others, including members of the Uzbek swim community, reported their evidence to the global regulator and S.O.S asked in an editorial: “Likith Selvaraj Prema & Every Athlete In The World Deserve An Answer FINA: What Are You Doing About The Blank Scoreboard At The Uzbek Open?”
In a break with decades of treating such questions as the work of critics who FINA paid money to “discredit”, the global regulator launched an investigation and acted by cancelling results at the heart of a controversy with video material among the evidence for manipulation.
Today, here is the sentence in a statement from the global regulator that declares a shift in culture and governance at the global regulator: “FINA would also like to thank the whistleblowers for their courage in reporting this nefarious behaviour.”
Today, the international federation issued a statement in which it sent a clear message that manipulation of results and bypassing of rules would not be tolerated:
It is imperative that FINA recognise aquatics competitions to ensure that the results are not manipulated, that the results are valid and reliable, and that the competitions comply with the standards set out in the FINA rules. FINA cannot accept a lessor standard. Any attempt to manipulate results will be punished according to the relevant FINA rules. Put simply, FINA will not stand for any forms of cheating or event manipulation.FINA
Prema posted some of his evidence in a YouTube video after he had staged a fitting protest: he took to his blocks for the 200m breaststroke in Tashkent but when the gun fired, he froze and stayed on his blocks for 2mins and 5sec before jumping in, hand on the timing pad so that the clock would stop precisely when he wanted it to, and then asking the officials: “So, was that a World record – did I break a World record?”
In his video he described a “heartbreaking” to see the manipulation unfolding:
Today, FINA issue the following statement:
FINA Media Statement – CAS award on UZB results
FINA acknowledges the award of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejecting the Uzbekistan Swimming Federation’s appeal against the FINA Executive’s decision not to recognise certain results from the Uzbekistan Open Swimming Cup, held between 24-29 November 2020 and the Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championships, held between 13-17 April 2021.
The FINA Executive’s decision was made after receiving evidence establishing that certain results from these two events had been manipulated by the Uzbekistan Swimming Federation in an attempt to qualify Uzbek swimmers for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Following this CAS award, the FINA Ethics Panel will now investigate whether further sanctions should be imposed on the Uzbekistan Swimming Federation and any other implicated party.
It is imperative that FINA recognise aquatics competitions to ensure that the results are not manipulated, that the results are valid and reliable, and that the competitions comply with the standards set out in the FINA rules. FINA cannot accept a lessor standard.
Any attempt to manipulate results will be punished according to the relevant FINA rules. Put simply, FINA will not stand for any forms of cheating or event manipulation.
FINA would also like to thank the whistleblowers for their courage in reporting this nefarious behaviour.
Commentary: credit where credit is due… “FINA would also like to thank the whistleblowers for their courage in reporting this nefarious behaviour” – Bravo!
The new FINA has a lot of work ahead of it on the way to building an organisation that gives priority to athlete welfare, fair play and adherence to rules designed to deliver just that. In contrast to events in 2014 when FINA bosses blatantly allowed the New Zealand swim federation to bypass Facilities Rules and minimum pool standards designed with athlete safety and welfare in mind, today’s announcement indicates that the new regime under Husain Al-Musallam intends to insist on integrity, even if that means punishing not the athletes caught in the crossfire but the federations who faulty to follow rules written specifically with athlete interest in mind.
As stated, a long way to go. Worth noting this day that the message from the top table is different, one that sets the federation on a different pathway. We should encourage more of the same, all the way to the establishment of an Integrity Unit and more.
A note to that leadership: well done on the message in the statement today and the backing of whistleblowers who want the best for the sport of swimming and have helped you root out what ought not to be.
When considering your next set of annual awards and honours, think not Putin and World leaders, think about what it took for Prema to find the courage you note and have the integrity to come forward and prevent manipulation of swim results. Honour him instead.
Then set up that Integrity Unit and get in place a Whistleblowing policy that allows those who want to bring forward wrongdoing and bad practice in aquatic sports to do so without fear of consequence through a process that leads them to independent authorities trained in handling such issues with care.