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Guam Swimming Federation sued over sanctioning young swimmers for joining Philippine competition

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Parents of young swimmers have sued the Guam Swimming Federation for sanctioning their children over their participation in the Summer Swim Splash swim meet in the Philippines on April 1.

In a lawsuit filed in the District Court of Guam, the parents alleged that the sanctions were imposed on their children without prior notice.

The children, as young as 8 years old, returned from the event with 56 event medals and numerous personal records.

The complaint alleges that the sanctions are just one example of GSF’s exploitation of its monopoly power over the Guam-swimming market.

The lawsuit describes GSF’s ongoing pattern of unlawfully limiting Guam’s swimmers’ access to competition and training opportunities.

When the swimmers returned from the Summer Swim Splash, GSF determined that its approval should have been sought before participating in the event.

The parents, however, argued that the competition did not fall under the banner of GSF or any of its affiliated organizations and that the children did not attend on behalf of GSF.

Citing the World Aquatics rule, GSF said its approval was required before any swimmer could travel and swim in any off-island competition and threatened additional sanctions against any swimmer who disobeys GSF.

Therefore, GSF sanctioned the children for their participation and threatened further sanctions, including expulsion from GSF, should the children participate or attend any other swim meets without approval.

Additionally, GSF adopted a rule change that prohibits swimmers from registering with GSF and any other on-island team, even though there is no pool on island that meets regulatory standards, and GSF has failed to provide adequate opportunities for training and competition.

This rule change resulted in the children being forced off their GSF team in order to seek preferable training and competition opportunities.

As a result, GSF refused to approve the participation of four of Guam’s fastest swimmers in the upcoming Pacific Games, even though these swimmers were previously nominated by GSF to participate.

The families pointed out that GSF did not hold any qualifying meets or announce any minimum qualifying standards for the Pacific Games.

The civil complaint alleges that GSF has engaged in actions that violate the Sherman Act on Antitrust and seeks to enjoin such illegal action from GSF.

The complaint also alleges that GSF has violated its own bylaws and code of conduct in issuing sanctions to the children when it issued sanctions without any due process and seeks a declaratory judgment to void the sanctions and force GSF to comply with its own rules.

“Our complaint lays out how GSF has unlawfully maintained its power and intimidated and bullied anyone threatening its complete control over national federation resources and who gets to represent Guam,” said Régine Biscoe Lee, one of the parents and a former senator.

“We seek immediate relief, as GSF nominated four local swimmers to represent Guam in the upcoming Pacific Games, then subsequently blocked them from competition without explanation in yet another episode of this ongoing GSF saga," she added.

The families allege that, for decades, GSF and its board members have taken measures to manipulate who represents Guam at major international competitions such as the Pacific Games and the Olympics.

“How many children have had their hopes and dreams of representing their home in swimming dashed because a few individuals have decided that their control over swimming is more important than our swimming community?” said swim parent, Amanda Sanchez Wooley. “Enough is enough.”

The families allege GSF’s anticompetitive conduct violates Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and are seeking injunctive relief and declaratory judgment in federal court.

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