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The Silva farce: hypocrisy rules at European Aquatics

The disturbing decision by European Aquatics to waive an integrity check on President António Silva has triggered a campaign: 27 national federations are needed to force Silva out of office.

António da Silva. (Photo: Imago)

All is well and there is no need for an ethics inquiry into António Silva, the Portuguese president of European Aquatics, says the official statement. Back to business as usual. That's the predictable result of the emergency meeting called by Silva to save his skin on Wednesday after he was subject to an ethics complaint.

Or perhaps not this time. "We disagree", say nations campaigning for change on the way to a January 27 vote that raises serious questions about the entire reform process in aquatics, a promised commitment to transparency and integrity and the treatment of whistleblowers who raise a red flag with the name of a governor on it.

Some of the nations that see the clear threat to the entire reform process in aquatics and wanted Silva to face independent scrutiny before the election are now aiming to ensure that at least 27 nations in Europe vote for a postponement of elections on January 27 – or against Silva in numbers substantial enough to be decisive or highly embarrassing. Those nations include big players in sport that are not represented at the top table of European Aquatics.

Their logic is as clear as the reform pledge: transparency and integrity are the new weapons of good governance in Olympic sport. In practice, say senior figures including top-table decision-makers in swimming and sibling disciplines, it means: "As long as you don’t expect the leadership to face independent ethics checks in the same way as the rest of the membership of athletes, coaches and others".

Swimming’s jungle drum confirms that the phone calls from the president and his allies seeking support and reassurance began soon after an online emergency meeting of the European regulator formerly known as LEN ended with the threat to Silva’s throne still hanging heavy in the air.

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