Brent Nowicki Begins New Era as FINA Executive Director

brent-nowicki
Photo Courtesy: FINA

Eight days into becoming FINA Executive Director, Brent Nowicki had to hit the ground running.

A global pandemic, a postponed Olympic year, postponed international events, plus perpetual issues like doping within the sport have plenty on Nowicki’s plate.

“I sat in my chair on June 8, in one year, on June 7, 2022, I will have taken over an office and gone through a COVID-19 pandemic Games and two World Championships. It doesn’t give me a lot of time to come up for air,” Nowicki told Swimming World. “It is all about setting goals and attaining them. The more goals I have, the stronger I get. That comes from wanting to make a team, wanting to get into law school. I am driven and that is the athlete in me.”

Nowicki’s appointment was confirmed on June 5, after the election of Husain Al-Musallam as FINA President in Qatar.

“When I took this job, it was a multi-faceted decision,” Nowicki said. “ I was really pushed and guided by our president. I believe he has a vision that mirrors mine (it’s about the athletes). As someone who has kept the mentality of an athlete, to hear someone who cared about those things was nice. That is what launched me into the idea that this is a guy I want to be led by. Being from a sport that has a nicer historical presence in my mind is what drove me to do this.

“My career started with swimming. I grew up in upstate New York and was involved with the Star Swimming Club. I had modest success at Zones. That is where my competitiveness started.”

Nowicki was an attorney with the law firm Hodgson Russ for seven years, then served as the head of the CAS Anti-Doping Division for the Olympic Games at both Rio 2016 and Pyeongchang 2018. He also played lacrosse at Fairfield University and on the national team in Switzerland.

His background with anti-doping will play a key role in his tenure, but Nowicki stressed that it isn’t the only role that has shaped him.

“My opinion isn’t based on one particular job at one particular point of my life. I have committed myself to sport for the better part of my entire professional career. My opinion is based on my time in the locker room, my time coaching, my time playing, being a lawyer sitting in a room with an athlete,” he said. “I have sat on the same side of the table with an athlete who has been accused of doping and represented them to the best of my ability, and I know what it is like for an athlete to get an email on the cusp of a major competition and that athlete not know where it came from. That is experience I lived through not just at the CAS, but part of the bigger picture of who I am.”

The pandemic has altered every aspect of life around the world, including drug testing, but Nowicki said that is going better than expected.

“We are testing athletes at every corner of the world,” he said. “We are doing it at a pace that surpasses that of our testing program in Rio, and we have done that in the face of COVID-19, and I have no doubt in my mind that we are going into the Games having done everything we can do to make sure the competition is clean. Athletes go into a fight knowing there can only be one winner. They can accept that, but they can’t accept that if it is not a fair fight. My firm belief is that we are giving them the fairest fight we can give them.”

Another fight that has gone on within the sport of swimming is between FINA and the International Swimming League (ISL). The upstart ISL has drawn professional swimmers to its ranks, but scheduling and other factors have put swimmers on one side or the other as the future of professional swimming continues to take shape.

“I came into this job forward thinking. I can’t waste time focused on what happened in the past,” Nowicki said. “Athletes who are concerned, they can contact me at any time. I made it clear my door is always open and I mean that. Athletes are our first agenda and we are doing everything for the betterment of our athletes. We are balancing the interests of athletes in every corner of the world, some with resources and some without. Our decisions might not be welcomed by athletes, but they are taken in the best interest of athletes. I am here to figure out how we can work together and I think we are going to do great things.”

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