FINA responds to criticism

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Swimming's governing body responded to criticism that it refused to help a USA Swimming panel that was investigating Fran Crippen's death in an open-water race in the United Arab Emirates.

FINA's action Thursday came 24 hours after the American probe was published and report leader Dick Pound attacked the Swiss-based organization for its "inexplicable" lack of cooperation.

FINA insisted that its five-member investigating task force did have authority to share details about the death of the 26-year-old Crippen last October.

"It is empowered to exchange all information with the U.S. open-water review commission," FINA said in a statement without clarifying whether any information was shared.

FINA pointed out that USA Swimming chose two of the panel's five members: Australian open-water coach Greg Towle and American doctor Tobie Smith, a former open-water world champion.

"As soon as FINA's task force's report will be available, it will be considered by the bureau as to the necessary steps to be taken," swimming's world governing body said, though it did not commit to an expected July delivery at the world championships in Shanghai.

The official report already has been the subject of speculation regarding disagreements between FINA leaders and its task force.

The website Swimnews.com, written by a member of FINA's media arm, reported last week that a first draft was returned to be rewritten because its recommendations were too strong.

FINA said Thursday that it had already improved open-water safety with new rules similar to recommendations made by Pound's team, including a maximum water temperature of 88 degrees.

Crippen died after suffering from heat exhaustion near the finish of a 10-kilometer race, and it took about two hours to find his body. Some swimmers complained that the water was too hot and organizers didn't have enough safety workers or equipment.

FINA said it received the first recommendations from the American panel, whose work will continue, and that it "should be commended for its most useful contribution."

The governing body paid tribute to the American swimmer.

"FINA's first thoughts on this matter go to the Fran Crippen family and the terrible moments of grief and difficult times they are passing following the tragic loss of their beloved one," FINA said.