Athletes Do The Right Thing By Craig Lord
Craig Lord‘s most recent hard-hitting article is a must-read here (Athletes Do The Right Thing: Boycott FINA, Say No To Money Soaked In Sorrow Of Fran).
Back in July 23rd 2011, I wrote this article on FINA’s decisions and actions at the 2011 FINA World Championships: Commentary on the 25 km FINA World Championships that was published in Swimming World Magazine with the support of its publisher Brent Rutemiller.
At the time of writing the article, I was in Shanghai at the 2011 FINA World Championships serving as a FINA official.
On the shores of Shanghai before, during and after the 25 km marathon swim race, I strongly disagreed with the decisions of Cornel Marculescu of the FINA Bureau, FINA Medical Delegate Dr. David Gerrard and the FINA Safety Delegate Sam Greetham.
It was shocking and extremely disappointing to me as a member of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee (TOWSC) that the 25 km marathon race would be held in the horrifically hot and humid conditions in Shanghai – especially less than a year after the death of Fran Crippen.
I remember vividly pleading against the decisions of Dr. David Gerrard and TOWSC leading member Flavio Bomio to hold the event. We held these discussions in both the climate-controlled hotel and air-conditioned tent right next to the open water swimming venue – while the athletes were drenched in sweat outside preparing for their race.
It was unconscionable to me – and most of the athletes – that the race would go on. Defending world champions Alex Meyer, Linsy Heister and Thomas Lurz pulled out of the race before it started and many athletes pulled out throughout the race.
My complaints and pleas fell on deaf ears at the FINA level behind closed doors, at the open water venue, and during the race via radio that were only heard by FINA race officials. I recall vividly athletes and coaches asking me questions before and during the race: “How can the race go on?”, “How can people compete in conditions like this?”, “What are you going to do?“, “Aren’t we stopping the race when the water hits 31°C?“
But because the decisions of Marculescu of the FINA Bureau, FINA Medical Delegate Dr. Gerrard and the FINA Safety Delegate Greetham were final, the race went on and numerous athletes did not finish, a few were hospitalized, one collapsed in the water, and less than half the athletes finished.
After the race where the water temperature rose above 31°C and the air temperature was higher, Bomio and Dr. Gerrard pointed out that because some athletes finished, this was evidence that the race was held within the bounds of safety. In contrast, all the athletes and I instinctively knew the race was not and should have either been cancelled or called short.
I felt I had to raise my concerns via the written word.
As a result, the decision of FINA was swift and quiet. I was quickly removed from all FINA official’s lists and asked by FINA to resign. I was similarly removed from USA Swimming coaches and officials lists and became a persona non grata.
When asked if I want to quietly resign or be disciplined by FINA for speaking out, my decision was equally as swift as FINA’s reaction. I resigned.
I could not morally follow FINA’s decisions – not when athletes’ lives are at stake.
FINA quickly filled my position and later added to the insult to the sport by inviting Ayman Saad to join the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee – the same man who organized the FINA race where Fran Crippen tragically passed away.
Dial forward nearly 4 years and the uproar against FINA’s decisions in the open water are gaining global momentum and attention. While ESPN’s Bonnie Ford has frequently written commentary and observations of FINA’s actions in the open water, now influential voices like Craig Lord and John Leonard are calling increasing attention to decisions made by FINA’s Marculescu. Their public statements and articles mirror the support that ESPN’s Ford and Swimming World Magazine‘s Rutemiller have long provided to the sport and athletes of the open water.
Lord’s most recent hard-hitting article is here (Athletes Do The Right Thing: Boycott FINA, Say No To Money Soaked In Sorrow Of Fran).
Photo shows the back of Trent Grimsey at the 2011 FINA World Swimming Championships where the FINA Medical Delegate and the FINA Safety Delegate allowed the 25 km FINA race to continue as the water temperature exceeded 31°C. Other articles on this subject are posted below:
*FINA Taking It To The Edge – Part 1 is here
* FINA Taking It To The Edge – Part 2 is here
* FINA Taking It To The Edge – Part 3 is here
* Why 31°C FINA? – Part 4
* USA Triathlon Fatality Incidents Study is here
* New FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee Announced
* UAE Bid Draws Criticism In Wake Of Fran Crippen Tragedy
* The Importance Of Symbolism In The Open Water
* FINA Proposes Return Of World Cup To UAE
* Open Water Swimming Epicenter Shifts To Egypt
* The Race Goes On
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