Report: Former FINA President Alleged as Leak in 2007 Ian Thorpe Scandal

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Ian Thorpe -- Photo Courtesy: David Gray

Report: Former FINA President Alleged as Leak in 2007 Ian Thorpe Scandal

Shortly after Australian great Ian Thorpe announced his retirement, French newspaper L’Equipe reported that an out-of-competition drug test in 2006 had produced elevated levels of a testostorone and another hormone. While Thorpe never officially tested positive, the Australian Anti-Doping Agency did briefly investigate, and the episode was still considered a stain on the reputation of the five-time Olympic gold medalist and a national hero in Australia.

Now, 14 years later, The Sunday Telegraph is reporting that the then-President of FINA was the source who leaked the confidential report to L’Equipe with eyes on discrediting Thorpe. Mustapha Larfaoui helmed FINA from 1988 to 2009, and when the now-88-year-old Algerian spoke to the Telegraph, he did not deny speaking with the L’Equipe reporter but claimed he did not remember specifics of that conversation

“Sorry – it was 14 years ago,” Larfaoui said, according to the Telegraph. “I don‘t remember well that situation and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. We are not as young as we were. But, to tell you the truth, I was very happy with my period in FINA, and I have good souvenirs and memories.”

Thorpe and FINA had already developed a contentious relationship regarding anti-doping testing. During the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Thorpe said it was “naive” to believe that the swimming competition at the Olympics was completely doping-free, and he has repeatedly criticized FINA’s drug testing procedures as “inadequate.” He spoke out in favor of blood testing before that was introduced as a regular means of testing for banned substances.

The Telegraph suggests that, perhaps as retribution for Thorpe’s criticism, “Swimming’s world governing body has long been suspected of trying to sabotage Thorpe’s career by leaking misinformation about his confidential test results in 2007 — then reneging on a promise to investigate the matter.” The Telegraph goes on to explain that Larfaoui’s revealing of this confidential information to a journalist was a significant break of FINA protocol.

“The Algerian has always denied deliberately trying to smear Thorpe’s reputation but if the allegations are true, the flippant manner in which world swimming’s most powerful figure inadvertently leaked the news reveals a callous disregard for the rules.

“It allegedly happened in 2006, at a WADA meeting in Montreal, Canada, witnesses have told The Sunday Telegraph.

“It‘s claimed that Larfaoui approached a renowned drug-busting journalist from L’Equipe at a reception and proceeded to tell him about a swimmer’s private test results.

“The unidentified swimmer had returned a sample showing elevated levels of testosterone, which were proved to have occurred naturally. That meant it was not a violation so the swimmer’s identity had to be kept secret. But the following year, during the world titles in Melbourne, Larfaoui allegedly confirmed to the same journalist that the swimmer involved was Thorpe – which became global front page news once L‘Equipe published its article.

“In an alleged clear violation of anti-doping protocols, Larfaoui later allegedly explained to his most trusted inner circle at FINA that he was unaware the man he had disclosed the information to was a journalist.

“Even if his account was true, that would not absolve Larfaoui of being at fault because telling anyone amounts to a serious breach of athlete privacy rules.”

FINA insisted it would find the source of the leak back in 2007, but no one was identified until this latest report. Additional reporting from the Telegraph further incriminates FINA’s actions against Thorpe in 2006 and 2007.

The Sunday Telegraph also unearthed a confidential report about how FINA pressured Australian doping investigators to charge Thorpe with a violation even when all the scientific evidence pointed to the fact he was innocent.

“It was revealed that FINA secretly ordered target tests on Thorpe while he was training in California even though his identity was still meant to be a secret.

“It was also revealed that FINA kept hounding Australian authorities about the case while it was still under investigation. (Then-FINA executive director Cornel) Marculescu even wrote to Australian doping officials asking that the case be treated as a positive test before scientists had finished their work.”

Meanwhile, recently-elected FINA President Husain Al Musallam has pledged support for an independent investigation to confirm the source of the leaks. “It is wrong for anyone to leak any records, that’s my principle,” he said, according to the Telegraph. “If there is any evidence accusing any person, including me, then they should be punished.”

Read the full report from The Daily Telegraph here.

10 comments

  1. avatar
    Jeff

    Can anyone explain how it is that the leaders of FINA are from places like Algeria, Romania or Egypt? How are they getting elected to run a body in which they have basically no athletes and no history and therefore no legitimate stake? This is like choosing a guy from Bangladesh to run the International Ski Federation. WTF?

    • avatar
      Dottore Battistello

      I am not the agent of any of these gentlemen, but I think that you have to improve your knowledge of international swimming… Romania has Olympic champions like Mocanu and Camélia Potec, the current president of the Romanian swimming federation…

    • avatar
      Pete the discrete

      It’s POLITICAL and politics is only about money and control of populations. I am a U.S. National and NOT a United States citizen. Put THAT in ur pipe and smoke it mate.

    • avatar
      Amina Kulshmanova

      The one of the mission of FINA is to popularize swimming, to make it attainable not only for swimmers from developed countries but for youth from least-developed countries, small island countries. To run a body like FINA the one doesn’t necessarily should be a swimmer, however, he/she does need to understand undermining problems that cause swimming to be unattainable luxury for youth.

  2. avatar
    Martin

    It’s all about money and reputations. One man with too much power and a highly questionable ethical perspective. Lile he said he’s 88 years old and can’t remember exactly how that went. How convenient.

  3. avatar
    Pedro Corrales

    Hi. I thing that Phelps whould not win all his medals if Thorpe still swimming at that time. For me Thorpe was better than him . Look The race of the Century. Thanks

    • avatar
      Alex Doms

      Would have, could have, never happened. Speculation wouldn’t change the recorded result and history. Look at the medal numbers and the smashed world records.

  4. avatar
    Ray

    Money… Loved his comment, “I have many great souvenirs…” dodgy /corrupt/#nothingschanged

  5. avatar
    Eric LAHMY

    I don’t think Mustafa Larfaoui was guilty. I remember very well this story, and I remember I was not totally convinced by the way the French journalist of L’Equipe (the name is Benoit Lallement) wrote this story, because I was myself a journalist from L’Equipe and worked many years on swimming for this newspaper. Lallement wanted a scoop, and he held on a big name. He presented Thorpe as a cheater, or at least he was not cautious. It was not a good move from Lallement, but many journalists could have faulted once or twice in their life, and sometimes I was not myself well inspired.

  6. avatar
    James Nickoloff

    The key sentence here reads: “The unidentified swimmer had returned a sample showing elevated levels of testosterone, which were proved to have occurred naturally.” If this is true, then both the head of FINA (Larfaoui) and the journalist from L’Equipe (Lallement) need to be called to account, no matter how old they are. According to this account, Thorpe himself called for stricter drug testing.

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