Buhain says FINA decision an ‘answered prayer’

Published December 5, 2022, 3:21 PM

by Manila Bulletin Sports

Swimming icon Eric Buhain described as “answered prayer” the FINA’s decision to withdraw recognition of the board of trustees of the Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI).

Eric Buhain

“The decision of FINA to withdraw recognition is a welcome development for Philippine swimming,” said the Barcelona Games veteran who owns 13 Southeast Asian Games gold medals and now a congressman representing the First District of Batangas on Monday, Dec. 5.

“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 officers and board members of the PSI and instructed the 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 emailed to the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and Philippine Sports Commission.

“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 …rhat is my hope and I urge the new administration to do so.”

Buhain thanked the POC for its relentless effort in helping not only national sports associations, but especially the athletes.

“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.”