FINA has said it will mount “a robust” defense against the legal challenges. The governing body will make clear that competitions outside its auspices create what it has called integrity issues. The federation argues that its presence is required to ensure proper drug testing and certified timing standards, for example.
The crisis has shined a spotlight on FINA’s governance. Julio Maglione, an International Olympic Committee member from Uruguay, is in his 80s and has run the organization for a decade. His most senior vice president is Husain al-Musallam, a Kuwaiti official who was identified last year as an unindicted co-conspirator in a United States Department of Justice sports corruption case. He has denied any wrongdoing.
In July, the organization moved into plush new headquarters in Lausanne. Adam Peaty, an Olympic gold medalist who holds two breaststroke world records, accused swimming’s leaders of being more preoccupied with their privileged lifestyles than with developing the sport. He joined Andrew in saying he was prepared to be barred to compete in commercial events. He said many top swimmers were forced to do other work to finance their careers.
“Why do FINA spend millions on a headquarters and an athlete has to have a second job?” he said.
Peaty, who rose to stardom in Britain thanks to gold medal success at the Rio Olympics, added that his six-figure income was well below what athletes of a similar standard in other sports could earn. “I’ve got bills to pay,” he said. “I’ve got a family to sustain in the future.”
The International Swimming League has pledged to split its take from its prospective competition with the athletes, promising appearance fees and prize money to participants. There have yet to be meaningful contacts with broadcast or sponsorship partners.
Grigorishin, like many others who have profited from the collapse of the former Soviet Union, has a colorful business history and a career littered with legal battles. He was arrested in early 2002 by Ukrainian authorities for possession of drugs and a firearm, but later cleared his name. He said the charges were created by “some dirty businessmen trying to get some part of my business.”
After years of planning, he said, he was willing to spend $7 million on legal fees to begin the swimming league.
While organizing the league remains a work in progress, he has pledged as much as $19 million for events next year. That has won over several stars of the sport. Ryan Murphy, an American who has won three Olympic golds, and Federica Pellegrini, an Italian who has won one, also attended Wednesday’s meetings in London.