Tunisian Swimming Federation Board Dissolved, Officials Arrested Over WADA Dispute

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Reports: Tunisian Swimming Federation Board Dissolved Over WADA Dispute

The president of Tunisia has dissolved the board of the Tunisian Swimming Federation after its dispute with the World Anti-Doping Agency, Agence France Presse reports.

The immediate precipitating event occurred Friday, when a red cloth was used to cover the Tunisian flag at the Tunisian Open Masters championship at the Rades Olympic pool in Tunis. That was received as “an act of aggression” by Tunisian President Kais Saied.

In a cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Ahmed Hachani, Saied ordered via a youth and sports ministry statement that the board of the Federation Tunisienne de Natation (FTN) be dismissed. He also dismissed the head of the Tunisian Anti-Doping Organization (ANAD) and fired another sports official in Tunis.

Seven sports officials were arrested on Monday, the BBC reports.

The longer-term tension is due to Tunisia’s noncompliance with WADA. The anti-doping agency’s independent Compliance Review Committee alleged that ANAD was non-compliant in implementing the 2021 updates to the World Anti-Doping Code. WADA’s Executive Committee endorsed that finding in November, and after a requisite four-month watchlist period for ANAD to respond and remediate, WADA found it officially noncompliant in a communique on April 8. Noncompliant status took effect April 29.

Among the consequences laid out by WADA are Tunisia being unable to host certain athletic events and that, as was the point of contention, “Tunisia’s flag will not be flown at regional, continental or world championships, as well as other events organized by Major Event Organizations (including the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) until the ANAD is reinstated.” (Crucially, ANAD’s noncompliance does not automatically bar Tunisian athletes from competing at such events.)

Saied didn’t take kindly to the directive, stating that, “Tunisia comes before the Olympic Committee and before any other committees.”

The news comes against the backdrop of ostensibly unrelated and bigger news for each entity.

WADA’s statement on Tunisia came barely a week before the all-consuming news of 23 doping positives in China that were found by WADA to be a case of no-fault environmental contamination.

The FTN is dealing with news that its biggest star, reigning men’s 400 freestyle Olympic champion Ahmed Hafnaoui, may miss the Paris Olympics due to an undisclosed injury. Hafnaoui won one of two medals for the country and the lone gold (with Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi’s silver in taekwondo) at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. The lack of symbolic representation for Tunisia at the 2024 Olympics could be particularly fraught given its former status as a French protectorate.

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