Skip to content

Rebel swimming league blanket doping exclusion unfair: Thomas Fraser Holmes

by ZwemZa on January 7th, 2019

Thomas Fraser-Holmes won’t take legal action against the rebel swimming league

Thomas Fraser-Holmes believes the breakaway International Swimming League is unfair with its blanket exclusion of every swimmer ever banned for doping, but won’t bother suing the rebel organisation as he puts his heart and soul into winning Olympic gold for Australia in Tokyo next year.

What does concern him, however, is the impact that the war between the ISL and swimming’s world governing body, FINA, could have on the third golden wave of Australian swimming if FINA goes ahead with its threat to slap a two-year ban on anyone who defects to the unapproved league.

Australia’s first golden age was at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the second followed in the lead-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics and then through to the 2008 Beijing Games and the signs are that the Dolphins have now regrouped from the disappointment of the London and Rio Games.

It is still no more than exciting promise at this stage, 18 months out, but with a mix of experienced swimmers such as Cate and Bronte Campbell, Mack Horton, Kyle Chalmers, Emily Seebohm and Mitch Larkin and rising stars such as Ariarne Titmus, Jack Cartwright and Maddie Groves, Australia is poised to unleash a champion team on the Tokyo Games.

But that promise could evaporate entirely if FINA goes ahead and bans any rebel swimmers. Already Cate Campbell, Seebohm and Groves have come out in support of the ISL and the threat is that many of Australia’s top swimmers will join them.

Campbell said in The Weekend Australian she does not expect FINA to carry out its threat because of the backlash it would trigger, but if the governing body is pushed too far and ISL stages its planned but unsanctioned meets later this year, it might feel it has no option but to “go nuclear”.

Fraser-Holmes, who learned late last week that he would be banned from the ISL because of its all-encompassing exclusion of any swimmer handed a doping ban — he was suspended for 12 months last year because of three missed meetings with the drug-testers, not because of a positive test — said yesterday he would not attempt to force ISL to change its mind.

“It is what it is,” Fraser-Holmes told The Australian. “They came back and said to me that because the sport of swimming needs to be protected from doping, they had to take a stand.

“I get what ISL is about, but surely there has to be a distinction in a doping offence between a whereabouts violation and a positive test. They are not in the same basket. Each case on its merits. There have been those who have reoffended on multiple occasions and people like me who have had a mishap.”

It was a mishap that was to cost Fraser-Holmes, 27, dearly. A respected member of the Dolphins and one of the athletes Swimming Australia turned to in forming a new leadership group following all the London Olympic dramas, he fell from grace after missing a third drug test. He was banned from swimming for a year — effectively 16 months because he had to wait four months for his hearing — and, accordingly, missed the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Adding to his pain was that the pool where he should have defended his 200m freestyle title from the 2014 Glasgow Games was just 15 minutes from his home. When the Games were on, he tried to ease his pain by visiting his girlfriend in Sweden.

“I’m just a big believer that the Olympics is the pinnacle of the sport and if they are threatening bans that would cost a swimmer the Olympics, I don’t think that’s worth it,” he said. “I don’t think it (the ISL) is sustainable if that’s what it comes to.

“To me the most important thing is going to the Olympics and winning gold for my country. That is the ultimate. That is why I swam 12 months on my own. That is why I’m here today because I want to be able to swim for my country next year in Tokyo and try to win medals.

“This is where it becomes unsettling because if we don’t have our best people in Tokyo, how is that going to benefit Australia? That’s all I’m concerned with.”

Fraser-Holmes, who won silver in the 400m individual medley at the world shortcourse titles in China last month in his first international meet since the Rio Olympics, said his ideal solution would be for ISL to hold off until after Tokyo and then to reach a settlement with FINA that would allow the two organisations to merge. Presumably, if there was to be a union, then FINA rules would apply — which means he would be free to compete.

“There has to be a path to redemption,” he said.

Wayne Smith | The Australian

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: