South African Olympic champion Chad Le Clos has become the latest high-profile athlete to give his backing to the International Swimming League (ISL) on the eve of the International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Short Course Championships in China.
In a statement posted on Twitter the day before the event gets underway, Le Clos, who is due to compete in Hangzhou, said he is “disappointed” that FINA are “not open to change”.
The sport’s governing body has come under significant criticism in recent weeks for refusing to sanction an ISL event which was due to be held in Italy this month before it was cancelled following pressure from FINA.
The new concept, which Is considered a rival to FINA’s World Cup series, was set to launch on December 20 and 21 featuring eight international clubs each made up of 12 male and 12 female swimmers.
They were due to compete over two days of races across all swimming events in a short course pool, where the four teams which gained the most points would progress to a grand final over the following two days.
It was cancelled when FINA warned any swimmers who took part would face bans.
British breaststroke world record holder Adam Peaty said he was “incredibly disappointed” the event had been cancelled and blamed politics for a decision which he said was a mistake.
On top of Peaty’s comments, three other swimmers including Hungary’s Katinka Hosszú have filed lawsuits against FINA for blocking them from competing in the event.
ISL chief executive Ali Khan warned in an interview with insidethegames that it was too late for “out of touch” FINA to appease swimmers, with Le Clos’ comments now likely to add fuel to the fire.
Le Clos, a butterfly specialist who won gold in the 200 metres event at the London 2012 Olympic Games, said he was “worried about the future” of swimming.
“Outside of the Olympics and World Championships - and a few good regional/national events - swimming needs innovation,” he said.
“We need to create different media and commercial opportunities.
“How many new global partners invested in our great sport in 2017 or 2018?
“This is why I will support the International Swimming League in 2019 and beyond.”
Going against FINA’s stance, the 26-year-old said the event would benefit swimming “with a new dynamic approach”.
“Why should athletes not shape their own series like so many other Olympic sports?” He asked.
“This will not damage the best of the current competitions which are Federation run.
“Everyone in swimming should consider the future.”
In response to Khan's comments and the growing backlash from athletes towards FINA, President Julio Maglione said the body was “ready to consider proposals for commercial partnerships” but that they must always be in compliance with their rules.
"It is very important for FINA that the sport, its athletes and coaches, and their respective National Federations take the necessary benefit for their effort, thus developing even further our aquatic disciplines," he said.
Maglione officially inaugurated the pool in Hangzhou set to be used for this week’s World Championships earlier today.
The competition at the Hangzhou Olympic and International Expo Centre starts tomorrow with heats in various events including the men’s 400m freestyle, women’s 50m breaststroke and women’s 400m individual medley.