FINA re-elects top two of­fi­cials de­spite crit­ics

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BRITISH OPEN -

BU­DAPEST, Hun­gary — 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 #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.

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