FINA Provides Clarification on Athlete Participation in International Competitions

Photo Courtesy: M. Lapham

After meeting with many national swimming federations, FINA has provided a clarification on their rules regarding athlete participation in international and non-FINA approved swim meets.

In 2017, Ali Khan founded the International Swimming League (ISL). According to the ISL, their mission is to create opportunities for swimmers and the sport including sponsorships, entertainment value, media relations and more. Many swimmers supported the league including big names Adam Peaty and Cate Campbell.

In early December, professional swimmers Michael Andrew, Katinka Hosszu and Tom Shields sued FINA for anti-trust violations after multiple swimmers were threatened to be banned by FINA competition if they participated in the scheduled ISL meets.

In the lawsuit, “the plaintiffs charge FINA with unlawfully restraining competition in the market for top-tier international swimming competitions.” The San Francisco-based law firms Farella Braun + Martel LLP and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP filed the suit. Simultaneously, the two firms filed a separate suit on behalf of the International Swim League, alleging anticompetitive conduct.

FINA quickly responded to the lawsuit. Many elite swimmers then gathered in London to hear experts in law, labor relations, and business development lay out the steps to convert swimming into a more professional sport that would pay them competitive wages, unlock their market value, and enhance their rights.

FINA has now provided a clarification on their stance:

FINA’s approach to and interpretation of its rules regarding swimmers and their participation in international competitions was discussed today, at a meeting of FINA’s leadership and a representative selection of national federations, present either in person in Lausanne (SUI) or by videoconference.

“FINA’s principal concern remains the development of all the aquatics disciplines and the support and wellbeing of all our athletes”, said FINA President Dr. Julio C. Maglione. “While FINA is bound to respect its rules, there is some scope for interpretation and application of those rules and it was a pleasure to be able to provide clarifications today.”
FINA acknowledges that swimmers are free to participate in competitions or events staged by independent organisers, namely entities which are neither members of FINA nor related to it in any way.

Any independent organisers which intend to have the results and records of any competitions or events duly registered with and acknowledged by FINA shall cooperate with or seek approval from FINA or from any relevant member federation, as the case may be, the approval procedure shall be set out in FINA By-laws BL 12, which will be entirely applicable.

If an independent organiser does not obtain or does not request the above-mentioned approval, all results or records of such unapproved competition or event will be deemed null and void and ignored by FINA and shall not be taken into account for any purpose whatsoever by FINA. However, such participation shall not be characterised as unauthorised relations in application of FINA General Rules GR4, and shall not give rise to sanctions by FINA.

FINA Legal Counsel François Carrard, present at the meeting, clarified FINA’s position: “FINA recognises the right of athletes to participate in any swimming event. However, this participation should respect the frame of sport structure. FINA’s business is not to punish athletes, although if the FINA rules are not met, the results of the competition will not be recognised by FINA”.

“British Swimming was pleased to have been part of today’s meeting and we welcome the clarifications that were given by FINA,” said British Swimming Chairman Maurice Watkins CBE. “Our swimmers currently live, train and compete in the context of support systems that are focused on success at FINA’s flagship competitions: the swimming events at the Olympic Games, the World Swimming Championships, and our Continental Championships. Careful coordination will be required to ensure that any changes or additions to the competition calendar are complementary to preparation for those flagship events, so we can best support our athletes moving forward.”

“We work hard to make sure that swimmers are at the heart of everything we do at USA Swimming,” said USA Swimming President and CEO Tim Hinchey. “Our athletes are extremely dedicated to our sport and deserve every opportunity to reap the rewards of their hard work. It’s been great to work with FINA to learn more about the new opportunities that will be provided thanks to the FINA Champions Swim Series. With around USD $ 4 million in prize money and appearance fees, the Series is a great addition and we look forward to U.S. swimmers prospering at each of the three legs.”

“FINA today is in an exceptional position at every level, thanks to many years of hard work and support from our 209 National Federations,” continued President Maglione. “At the highest level, aquatics athletes have more medal opportunities at the Olympic Games than for every sport and record prize money at our events. But FINA is just as proud of the way it now supports every single federation around with development funds, aimed at achieving our vision of ensuring the whole world knows how to swim. We are proud to support all our athletes, from Olympic champions to families swimming for fun, and we will continue to work as hard as we can to improve opportunities for all.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu presented the new FINA event for 2019, the “Champions Swim Series”, to all attending National Federations. The reaction to this competition was very positive, with FINA members underlining the importance of having additional opportunities for the stars of swimming to compete at the highest level.

— The above press release was posted by Swimming World in conjunction with FINA. For press releases and advertising inquiries please contact

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