Friday, May 24, 2024

War of words escalates between synchronized swimmers and government

A dispute between the Mexican government and the national women’s artistic swimming team has deepened after the head of the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport (Conade) lashed out at the team for allegations of lack of state support.

Despite winning four medals (three gold, one bronze) at the Artistic Swimming World Cup in Egypt earlier this week, the athletes said they struggled to fund their success because the government had failed to provide financial support for their trip. 

The team says they have been forced to sell towels and swimwear online to pay for the cost of their trip to Egypt. The government denies this, and says the team owe around US$ 2.3 million to Conade. (Twitter)

Conade chief Ana Gabriela Guevara has firmly denied this accusation, and instead claims that the team has misused public funds.

“Let them sell underwear, bathing suits, Avon or Tupperware, but they and their trainers are indebted,” she said in an interview on Wednesday with W Radio, alluding to the athletes’ attempts to raise money for their trip by selling swimsuits.

“We have given them 40 million pesos [US $ 2.3 million] and they have not accounted for [all] of it. The artistic swimming team, the athletes, owe Conade 2 million pesos from the 2016-2018 financial years that they have not been able to account for.”

Guevara called the swimmers “liars” and suggested it was “treacherous” for them to claim they’ve received no financial support from Conade. 

 

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters at the Thursday press conference that his government has robustly supported Mexican athletes, and defended Guevara’s comments about the team, noting that Guevara had herself won Olympic medals without any government funding.

He also criticized Carlos Slim’s son-in-law, Arturo Elías Ayub, for funding the team’s trip to the world cup without seeking government support first: “If they weren’t given support, then that was bad, but if they had told us they needed that [support], how could we not do it? … even if the artistic swimming competitors were not supported, and even if Slim has decided to help them (…) [the team] has made a whole scandal, but people know, and we will continue to inform them, that athletes have never been so well supported,” he said.

The president also said that Conade provides around 500 million pesos of funding to high-performance athletes every year.

The Mexican Swimming Federation (FMN) has had historic issues with misappropriation of funds, with former head Kiril Todorov recently charged with embezzlement.

Ana Guevara, head of Conade
Ana Guevara, head of the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport (Conade), called the artistic swimming team “liars” in an interview. (Ana Guevara/Twitter)

The Olympic diving team, who won three medals in the last three Olympic games, have said they are considering selling their medals to fund their bid to compete in Paris in 2024 because they lack financial support from the government. Mexican high divers recently campaigned on social media to travel to the World Aquatics High Diving World Cup in Florida after the FMN withdrew financial support.

The artistic swimming team consists of 11 swimmers, two coaches and a team doctor. The team was able to complete their stay in Egypt by selling commemorative towels and swimsuits online.

Six of the athletes are members of the military, and therefore receive funding from the Defense Ministry, said Defense Minister Luis Sandoval at Thursday’s morning press conference, though he noted that the army has limited funding for international travel expenses.

With reports from El Pais, Infobae, Reforma and La Lista

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