Fran Crippen: Swimmer’s death still controversial

Nearly six months after a world-class swimmer with local ties died during a race off the coast of Dubai, a USA Swimming committee announced yesterday recommendations to make open-water swimming competitions safer. They did so without cooperation from FINA, an international-swimming federation that withheld information necessary to determine the circumstances leading to 26-year-old Fran Crippen’s Oct. 23 death.

Former International Committee vice president Dick Pound, who chaired he committee, labeled FINA’s stonewalling “very disappointing and inexplicable … It’s kind of incomprehensible to me.” The report was released anyway because the “improvements must be considered whatever the circumstances of Fran Crippen’s death may have been.”

Crippen, who attended and later volunteered as an assistant swimming coach at Germantown Academy, apparently died of heat exhaustion in waters that competitors complained was too hot. He had expressed race-safety concerns before his death, which his Germantown coach, Richard Shoulberg, learned of when someone called him from the race.

“I’m glad they’ve made some headway, but USA Swimming is not doing enough to hold FINA accountable,” said Shoulberg, who has sent countless letters and calls to both agencies. “They should be beating the drum every day to find the answers, and I don’t think they are. How sad.”

USA Swimming’s board of directors will consider endorsing the recommendations, which would not apply to international events, at a May meeting.

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