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Head of Canadian Swimming Resigns -- May 20, 2003

OTTAWA, Canada, May 20. KAREN Spierkel, the CEO of Swimming Canada, resigned her post Friday after a tumultuous year on the job.

Spierkel, who specializes in marketing, communications and business planning, was appointed CEO on April 8, 2002. During her tenure, the federation was involved in two major disputes with its athletes. Most recently, an independent panel appointed by Swimming Canada reprimanded but stopped short of firing national swim coach Dave Johnson for criticizing Jennifer Carroll for holding up a Quebec flag while receiving her medal on the podium at the Commonwealth Games.

Johnson's comments touched off a storm of controversy across the country, most notably in Quebec where then-premier Bernard Landry condemned Johnson and his organization.

"We did not feel the comments were appropriate," Spierkel said at the time.

The swimming federation was ordered to conduct an inquiry after the federal government threatened to withhold $CAN1.78 million in annual funding unless the coach's conduct was independently investigated.

The selection of the Commonwealth Games team became bogged down in appeals and nearly went to court when Quebec swimmer Nadine Rolland claimed she'd been unfairly left off the team.

The issue became politically charged when the Quebec government pledging $10,000 to $12,000 to help in her legal battle. Rolland was eventually named to the team.

Swimming Canada revamped its athlete protocol and examined its team selection process and the appeals process in the wake of the incidents.

"I have accomplished the goals that the board had prioritized for me," Spierkel said in a statement. "My expertise in administration, financial management and communications have contributed to a new business model for Swimming Canada that is focused on strategic planning, fiscal responsibility and program delivery.

"I believe that these programs are now in place and the focus should be on developing a prosperous future for our sport, under the leadership of an individual with a strong vision for swimming in Canada."

A senior management team will look after finance and administration, high performance, marketing and technical operations and will report to president Rob Colburn, Swimming Canada said in a statement.