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Swim icon Buhain hails FINA order; PSI board of trustees seeks appeal

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SWIMMING icon Eric Buhain described the turn of events as “answered prayer,” Chloe Isleta’s mom thought Christmas came early and a head of an active member club of the Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) saw a silver lining.

This as the members of the PSI board of trustees bared in a statement on Monday that they will appeal FINA’s decision to no longer recognize them and be “given access to the complaints that were filed and be given the opportunity to respond to the same in accordance with the FINA Constitution.”

“The decision of FINA to withdraw recognition [of PSI board] is a welcome development for Philippine swimming,” said Buhain—a Barcelona Olympian, owner of 15 Southeast Asian Games gold medals and now a congressman representing the First District of Batangas—on Monday.

“FINA’s decision is an answered prayer by the Philippine swimming community,” said Buhain, also a founding member of the Congress of Philippine Aquatics Inc. or COPA, a swimming organization that has a membership of 174 clubs from all over the country.” FINA is our hero and angel.”

The FINA withdrew its recognition of the PSI’s board of trustees and created a stabilization committee that will run the association’s day-to-day operations, amend its by-laws and conducting new elections.

The memo, which the FINA stressed as “effective immediately,” was dated December 3 and signed by FINA executive director Brent Nowicki was sent to the PSI through its president Ma. Lailani “Lani” Velasco. Copies of the FINA directive were also e-mailed to the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and Philippine Sports Commission.

“I thank the POC for keeping the peace within the sport, which allowed FINA to conduct an unbiased and independent assessment of the whole situation,” Buhain said. “Thus resulting in their decision of withdrawal of recognition.”

Cecille Doromal Waller, mother of Isleta who won the country’s lone swimming gold medal at the Hanoi Southeast Asian Games last May, was as elated.

“Christmas came so early to the Philippine swimming community. Let’s rejoice,” said Doromal, who complained to the PSI on her daughter’s exclusion from the Philippine team to the world championships in Budapest last June.

“I don’t have any idea who will be the next leader but what’s important is there’s a new hope that will be established from a new leadership,” she added.

Dr. Ireneo Bautista, team manager of the Alabang-based Wahoo Aquatic Club, said they welcome FINA’s decision and are hoping for “a former swimmer to lead the country’s aquatics association.”

“Let’s move on and elect a president who is an ex-swimmer that represented the country in international competitions,” Bautista said. “One who has the heart to serve the swimmers.”

Buhain said the development is a relief for Philippine swimming.

“It has been a 20-year struggle for swimming and more importantly, the swimmers themselves, since the time [the late] Mark Joseph led and without due notice to Fina, ‘changed’ the FINA rules on unauthorized relations,” Buhain said.

Those “rules,” according Buhain, were fabricated by the then PSI leadership and the Philippine swimming community was made to believe that it was official for 20 years.

Buhain said that for the longest time, the PSI was an “exclusive organization” that charged “exhorbitant fee” for a club to become a member.

“Now is a chance for true inclusivity for swimmers who were cast aside because of exorbitant fees imposed to become member of PSI,” Buhain said. “Now swimmers without that kind of spending power may have a chance under the spirit of sports for all.”

He added: “Perhaps, in the new PSI administration, public school swimmers could now be part of the PSI…that is my hope and I urge the new administration to do so.”

The PSI board, meanwhile, said it its statement that “it views with grave concern the manner and conduct of the said investigation made by FINA. Requirements of due process, fairness, and equity demand that, at the very least, PSI, through the Board of Trustees, should have first been informed of the nature and cause of complaints against it, and be given the opportunity to respond to the charges lodged before FINA.”

The PSI furthered: “We understand that the FINA Bureau has the power to determine whether or not there is basis to warrant the appointment of a stabilization committee. However, in light of the manner by which the supposed investigation was conducted, we believe that the report presented to FINA was not an accurate picture of the true state of Philippine swimming.”

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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