Swim chiefs in hot water over cash splash
Three senior international swimming officials have been reported to European prosecutors over alleged financial irregularities that the sport's under-siege world governing body has still not investigated, a joint probe between The Sunday Telegraph and London's Sunday Times can reveal.
At a time when cash-strapped swimmers are demanding answers about how administrators spend the enormous fortune generated from the sport's broadcast rights, the revelations raise fresh questions when the same officials who were so quick to punish Mack Horton for his silent protest haven't investigated serious allegations against their own members.
The report, submitted to prosecutors in Switzerland and Italy - and seen by The Sunday Telegraph - reveals Paolo Barelli, David Sparkes and Tamas Gyarfas authorised six-figure payments to third-party companies over a period of five years.
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Barelli, an Italian senator, is head of the European Swimming League (LEN) and vice-president of FINA, which runs world aquatics.
Sparkes is the sport's most powerful figure in the UK, having led British Swimming for almost a quarter of a century before joining FINA.
Gyarfas is the former boss of Hungarian swimming and is under house arrest on suspicion he ordered the murder of a business rival in 1998.
Under Swiss and Italian law, prosecutors can decide whether to lay charges or ignore submitted reports. In this case, no decision has been reached either way.
The three men do not dispute signing documents authorising the third-party payments but deny any wrongdoing, saying the fees were legitimate because they related to "logistics services", "commercial assistance" and "identification and assistant activity".
The European Broadcasting Union said it was unaware about any third-party payments when it negotiated the television deals, while at least seven European swimming officials signed a petition asking for the matter to be investigated, with an attached warning that said: "We are very worried about the present state of affairs. Should this become public knowledge, it would have a dramatically negative effect on LEN."
In the report, FINA honorary secretary Bartolo Consolo also personally notified the global sport's president, Julio Maglione, on February 28 of the matter and was dismayed that it was not forwarded to FINA's Ethics Panel, which is authorised to independently investigate any alleged Code of Ethics violation.
"It is strange that they don't act immediately when confronted by something of a big and significant financial matter with a lot of implications for the governance of the aquatics sports," Consolo wrote.
FINA has not commented on the report but any suggestion it didn't ask the Ethics Panel to investigate accusations of financial irregularity by its own members will only add fuel to the criticism about the lack of transparency of how the sport is run.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt the vast majority of members support the introduction of major reforms but the small group of leaders who hold all the power won't budge, despite being slammed over the handling of Sun Yang's latest doping case.
Sun was initially cleared of wrongdoing by a FINA doping panel even though he breached the rules by destroying his own sample collection containers at a random drug test in late 2018. He was subsequently banned for eight years by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
FINA's decision to allow China's biggest sports star to compete at last year's world championships before the World Anti-Doping Agency's appeal was the tipping point for Horton's protest on the dias in South Korea. Horton was officially reprimanded.
Originally published as Swim chiefs in hot water over cash splash