Le Clos adds support to growing rebellion by top swimmers
GENEVA (AP) — Four-time Olympic medalist Chad le Clos threw his support Monday behind a planned new competition that is leading top swimmers to rebel against their own governing body.
The International Swimming League, which aims to launch next year, “will benefit swimming with a new dynamic approach,” Le Clos said.
The ISL is privately owned and outside the control of Switzerland-based governing body FINA. It also aims to pay higher prize money and involve athletes more in making decisions.
“Why should athletes not shape their own series like so many other Olympic sports?” the 2012 Olympic champion in 200-meter butterfly wrote on Twitter .
In an escalating dispute, ISL organizers canceled a swim meet this month in Turin, Italy, after FINA threatened to ban those taking part.
In response Friday, three swimmers — Hungarian great Katinka Hosszu, and American teammates Tom Shields and Michael Andrew — filed an antitrust suit against FINA in a California court.
FINA allegedly asked for $50 million over 10 years to let the ISL operate, before organizers called off talks.
Le Clos said he is “so disappointed that our sport is not open to change” and that it needs innovation.
“We need to create different media and commercial opportunities,” he said. “Everyone in swimming should consider the future.”
The South African star fueled the dispute ahead of competing in FINA’s short-course world championships in Hangzhou, China.
FINA said in a statement Sunday it was focused on its 25-meter pool event rather than the legal challenge.
“As always, FINA remains open to proposals that would genuinely enhance — rather than conflict with — the current and planned competition calendars,” the governing body said.
An unrelated European ruling last year shows swimmers have a case to challenge possible anti-competitive behavior. Dutch speedskaters won a European Commission decision in Brussels against the Swiss-based International Skating Union. They had been threatened with bans for wanting to compete in a South Korean-organized “Icederby” event in Dubai.