— Published 24 March 2022

FINA backs down

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) has changed direction. Meeting this week, its executive board took the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian swimmers from international competitions, including the World Championships scheduled for 18 June to 3 July 2022 in Budapest, Hungary. In itself, this is not very surprising, as the Olympic movement has overwhelmingly taken the same position. But FINA had initially decided that athletes from these two countries would be allowed in its competitions under cover of neutrality. This position shocked many in the swimming world. The Swiss federation, in particular, had officially announced that it would not take part in the Budapest World Championships if the Russians and Belarusians were present. The German federation followed suit. Faced with the threat of a partial boycott of its major event, FINA backed down. The body also withdrew Russia from hosting the competitions it was due to organise, including the World Small Pool Championships, scheduled for 17-22 December 2022 in Kazan. It also opened disciplinary proceedings against Russian swimmer Evgeny Rylov (photo above), Olympic champion in the 100 and 200m backstroke. He is accused of “allegedly taking part in a pro-war rally at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow”, organised at the end of last week. Evgeny Rylov, who was dropped by his supplier, Speedo, for supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was not the only Olympic medallist present. Figure skaters Victoria Sinitsina, Nikita Katsalapov, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov; cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov; and rhythmic gymnastics twin sisters Dina and Arina Averina were all seen at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium during the pro-Putin demonstration.