FINA re-elects top 2 officials despite critics

BY AP • July 22, 2017

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Despite fresh bribery allegations on top of long-standing accusations of wrongdoing, Kuwaiti official Husain al-Musallam was re-elected for another term as senior vice-president of FINA on Saturday.

''Nothing happened against FINA rules. It's very difficult to do anything. We're monitoring the situation but we have no proof of anything,'' the swimming body's executive director, Cornel Marculescu, told The Associated Press.

FINA delegates also re-elected the 81-year-old Julio Maglione of Uruguay for a third term as president, two years after the organization changed its rules to remove its age limit.

''The decision of the assembly of FINA was to decide we don't have age limits,'' said Maglione, who defeated the president of European aquatics federation LEN, Paolo Barelli, for an expected victory at FINA's election congress on the sidelines of the world championships in Budapest.

Barelli complained that he wasn't allowed to speak to the bureau before the vote. He said that essentially ended any hopes he had of persuading the governing body to make a change at the top.

''There is a lack of good governance. We need transparency,'' Barelli told the AP in an interview before the vote was even completed. ''Where it needed to be shown is during the congress. It is not easy for anybody to understand why the candidate cannot speak. This is unbelievable.''

Maglione has been in charge since 2009.

''You must be crazy,'' he answered when asked if he planned on stepping down mid-term so al-Musallam could take over the top position. ''I was elected for four years.''

Al-Musallam ran unopposed after FINA cleared the Kuwaiti official on Wednesday for re-election despite fresh allegations made by British daily The Times and German magazine Der Spiegel that he sought payoffs from sponsorship deals through the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) in 2012.

''This is only allegations. I am a sportsman. The OCA and the committee of FINA, the committee that investigates, they did an investigation and there was no wrongdoing on anything,'' al-Musallam told the AP.

''People think I am bad. People think I am good. This is normal. We are humans at the end of the day. Let's enjoy the championships now.''

Al-Musallam is next in line to take over should Maglione be unable to fulfill his duties.

''We witnessed a very transparent election. We witnessed very transparent amendments to the constitution. We witnessed a very transparent debate,'' al-Musallam said. ''Everybody had a chance to say his opinion, express his opinion about what we want to do for each item. This is really great for us, especially as FINA.''

Al-Musallam was previously identified in United States federal documents as ''co-conspirator (hash)3'' in a FIFA bribery case, when FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai of Guam told Brooklyn federal court that he was paid six-figure bribes through the OCA to advance the soccer interests of Kuwaiti officials.

''Not a single objection. The people decide,'' al-Musallam said of his re-election.

The 57-year-old Kuwaiti said there was no rift with LEN, despite Barelli's frustration that he had been allowed to run unopposed amid the allegations.

''At the end of the day, this is all a family,'' al-Musallam said.

Barelli said the Kuwaiti should have been sidelined until after the vote.

''You cannot permit the infection to enter inside the organization. FINA doesn't have any (mechanism) to protect themselves from the possibility that something really happened,'' Barelli said.

Al-Musallam was also allowed to go for re-election despite the Kuwaiti swimming federation being suspended since October 2015. That was because of government interference in the independent running of sports bodies.

''We are monitoring everything. For the moment, there are no violations,'' Marculescu said.