FINA Bureau Passes New Bylaw to Rule on Participation, Opposes Ban of Russians

Lane Lines and stumbling blocks - Photo Courtesy: Becca Weyant

FINA Bureau Passes New Bylaw to Rule on Participation, Opposes Ban of Russians

At a virtual meeting of the FINA Bureau Tuesday, swimming’s governing body passed a bylaw allowing it to, “review the participation of athletes and officials at FINA events on a case-by-case basis in emergency situations.”

The meeting was a crisis response to the military invasion of Ukraine by Russia. FINA reiterated Tuesday, in consultation with its Athletes Commission, that it does not support a total ban on athletes from Russia and Belarus. The bylaw allows FINA to determine eligibility case by case, and FINA did reinforce that any Russian or Belarusian athletes “should only participate in FINA events in a neutral capacity.”

FINA again denounced the invasion of Ukraine. It has removed the World Junior Championships, slated for this summer, from Kazan, though it has not yet ruled on the fate of the 2022 Short-Course World Championships that Kazan is also due to host. FINA has sanctioned Russian head of state Vladimir Putin, though those actions remain purely symbolic.

Tuesday’s decision paints the new bylaw as giving FINA the power to ban athletes from belligerent nations if it so chooses. Though the converse is also true, as it rejects a blanket ban, as has been enacted by entities like the International Paralympic Committee and suggested by the International Olympic Committee.

It also turns Russian and Belarusian athletes into possible victims, stating that it “could potentially prevent athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus from attending any upcoming FINA event if their attendance threatens the safety and wellbeing of athletes or places the conduct of competition at risk.”

“FINA will now carefully review all events on the calendar before making any decisions to suspend athletes or teams from those events,” the statement said. “These reviews will respect all athletes and their rights, and ensure the safe implementation of FINA events.”

At the meeting, FINA also committed to increased collaboration with the International Testing Agency to ensure doping testing continues in the countries at war. A steering committee to support the Ukrainian aquatics community has been impaneled, with European Aquatics (LEN) president Antonio da Silva in charge. (LEN has put a full stop on Russian and Belarusian participation for the time being.) FINA promised “joint financial assistance” through that committee, in partnership with LEN and alongside fellow national swimming federations and Olympic committees.