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Olympic, world champion swimmers sue FINA

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Three Olympic and world champion swimmers filed an antitrust suit in California challenging governing body FINA’s control of organizing competitions.

The legal action by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Americans Tom Shields and Michael Andrew follows Switzerland-based FINA shutting down an independent meet in Italy with threats to ban competitors.

The planned event in Turin involved organizers of a proposed International Swimming League (ISL), which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

Lawyers in San Francisco say the swimmers “believe a professional league that will compensate its best athletes and better reward them for a lifetime’s worth of hard training and sacrifice is long overdue.”

The lawyers say ISL organizers filed a separate and simultaneous suit against FINA for “anticompetitive conduct.”

It’s the latest challenge to Olympic sports bodies by athletes seeking greater prize money and a voice in running their sport.

In a similar case last year, Dutch speed skaters won a European Union ruling against the Swiss-based International Skating Union.

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Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Caeleb Dressel, Sarah Sjöström take FINA Swimmer of the Year honors

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One more honor for Caeleb Dressel to cap a breakout 2017 — FINA Male Swimmer of the Year.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström won Female Swimmer of the Year.

Dressel won seven gold medals at the world championships in July, matching Michael Phelps‘ record, though Dressel had the benefit of mixed-gender relays that weren’t around in the Phelps era.

Dressel’s performances at worlds also led him to win USA Swimming’s Male Athlete of the Year award and be a finalist for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s annual male athlete honor. Kyle Snyder won the latter.

The 21-year-old Dressel took the FINA honor via the swimming body’s points formula that could use a little more detailed explanation.

The other top swimmers this year were Brit Adam Peaty (world’s top breaststroker), Chinese Sun Yang (world champion in 200m and 400m freestyles) and American Chase Kalisz (swept individual medleys at worlds).

Dressel joins Ryan LochteMissy FranklinKatie Ledecky, Phelps and Jordan Wilimovsky (open water) as the only Americans to take home FINA Swimmer of the Year honors. They have been handed out since 2010.

Sjöström, 24, won the 50m and 100m butterflies and the 50m freestyle at worlds. She also broke the 50m and 100m free world records.

Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, who swept the individual medleys at worlds for a third straight time, won the last three FINA Female Swimmer of the Year awards.

Katie Ledecky, who had her best medal haul at a major meet ever (five golds, one silver), won the FINA award once in 2013. Ledecky would score higher in FINA’s rankings system if she competed in World Cups, which the majority of the top Americans skip.

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