USA Swimming, Open Water Commission Pound FINA in Teleconference Call

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, April 13. DURING a teleconference call with the media on Wednesday to discuss the release of the USA Swimming Open Water Commission recommendations released earlier in the day, Commission Chair Dick Pound voiced considerable frustration with FINA's delay and lack of cooperation regarding the investigation into Fran Crippen's death last year.

"Our Commission was really, really disappointed at the non-response from FINA," Pound said. "We wanted to get the report from the FINA official on the spot, and the meet director on the spot. It has simply been refused to us. Our investigators asked, USA Swimming asked, and our Commission asked, and we were turned down. The only thing they said is that a lot of things we were asking would appear in their report. It is incomprehensible to me. Oddly enough, they've asked us for information and we were happy to give it to them. It is very disappointing and inexplicable."

Pound continued to question FINA's cooperation later in the phone call.

"USA Swimming hired an experienced firm that has expertise in that part of the world to conduct an investigation," Pound said. "But, the responses they were able to get from the FINA delegate and the meet director were very fragmentary, incomplete and inconclusive. They spoke to people that were there at the time regarding medical supervision and inspection craft on the water. We have a sense of what they found, but nothing that we can use to cross check against the facts that may have been determined by FINA and the local organizers. Part of the difficulty is that the event had been moved on very short notice. Some of the swimmers hadn't realized that. They may not have had enough time to get a full safety apparatus. The proof in the pudding is that the supervision and safety precautions were not in place. It ought not to be possible for a swimmer to disappear. The responsible authority here would be FINA and its national federation in Dubai. A very frustrating part of our Commission is that we were unable to get an official review, and reports and documents. How it was that within 300 meters of the finish line, a swimmer can go under and nobody sees it."

USA Swimming president Bruce Stratton also weighed in with his disappointment in FINA.

"I don't know how to describe it other than extremely disappointed that we cannot get a response to these questions, even though we have asked them at several different levels," Stratton said. "I can't speak for everybody in USA Swimming, but from my perspective it is extremely disappointing."

USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus primarily focused on what his organization can do with the recommendations.

"The first thing we'll do is that these recommendations will come to the Board of Directors on May 7, and it is our intention to ask our Board to endorse all of these recommendations, and that would obligate us to begin the implementation of those," Wielgus said. "In terms of after that, we would certainly encourage FINA and all aquatic federations to endorse and accept these recommendations. But, we can only act on what happens in the U.S."

Wielgus further explained that USA Swimming can only act within its own sphere of influence, while FINA has to be the one to make a change globally.

"I think we are focused on what we can do," Wielgus said. "The old saying about worrying about the things you can do something about. When we created this Commission, we gave it full independence. We haven't had a conversation with Dick Pound since it first met back in November. We have looked to this commission for these recommendations for things we can do something about. Beyond that, we can only advance our recommendations to the rest of the world."

In another part of the call, Pound explained the reasoning behind selected 31 degrees Celsius (87 degrees Fahreinheit).

"We looked at a number of studies, and there is a study from New South Wales that came up with a maximum of 31," Pound said. "The FINA sports medicine committee also set a maximum of 31. We booted it back and forth whether it was too high or not. I don't know that there is any right number for this. It is a matter of judgment. We settled on not differing from those other two studies. The way our recommendations are setup, the safety officials will take into consideration temperatures. If the water is going to be 31 degrees, you would need more supervision than if it is 25 degrees. We didn't have any hard medical data that would tell us that 31 would be too high."

The Open Water Commission will remain intact until FINA releases full information regarding Crippen's death, when the U.S.-based Commission can then conclude a full investigation into his death.