Olympic champion Adam Peaty defies Fina to become ambassador of 'revolutionary' swimming super league

Five-time world champion Adam Peaty is backing the International Swimming League
Five-time world champion Adam Peaty is backing the International Swimming League

Olympic and five-time world champion British swimmer Adam Peaty continued his defiance of his sport’s governing body yesterday by becoming an ambassador for a rival super league which is likely to shake up swimming.

Peaty, world record-holder in the 50-metre and 100m breaststroke, will compete in the International Swimming League, a new format so staunchly opposed by Fina that in December it threatened any athlete involved with a two-year ban from the sport.

Fina has since backed down, following legal action from the creator of the ISL, Russian billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin, but has also set up its own world league, the Champion Series.

The ISL will run from October to December this year, to avoid clashes with the Fina World Championships in the summer, including a London leg in November.

The league will comprise eight teams, each made up of 32 athletes, competing in six matches or meets globally, culminating in the two top teams from Europe and the US reaching the final in Las Vegas.

Peaty won gold for Team GB in the 100m breaststroke at the 2016 Rio Olympics Credit: Getty Images

Peaty, who compared the format to the Davis Cup, minus the national allegiance, or road cycling and F1, has joined Team London alongside British team-mate James Guy, as well as Australian world champions Kyle Chalmers, Emma McKeon, and Cate and Bronte Campbell.

He was never fazed by the prospect of a ban by Fina, and even goaded the federation to fulfil their threat in January. “I knew they couldn’t, so I was poking the fire a bit,” he said. “But that’s me in a nutshell really, I’m not really scared of anyone.

“I [didn’t turn down] the Champion Series because I hate Fina or they hate me, because I’ll still go to World Championships and do Europeans. But I just prefer this [ISL] format because it’s something different.

“The sport hasn’t been growing under Fina for the last 20 years because of greed, corruption, doping, and athletes aren’t getting much for what their value is. [With the ISL] we are respected and that’s the biggest thing for me: value, respect and having a voice.”

Having a say in proceedings is Peaty’s main incentive for joining the ISL, but it goes hand-in-hand with a financial one.

Grigorishin has committed $20 million (£15.2 m) to the league this season, and up to $7m in prize money (compared to Fina’s Champion Series’ $4 m). The revenue will be split 50-50 between the athletes and the league, something Peaty described as revolutionary.

Peaty celebrates setting a new world record at the 2018 European Championships Credit: AP

“To get paid by a team who will eventually pay your pension, healthcare, flights, travel, is unheard of. You’ll get kids at school who will be saying I want to be a professional swimmer and the more talent that comes through, the world will only get faster.”

Unlike Fina, which extended invites for its new series to athletes who have served drug bans, the ISL operates a zero-tolerance doping policy. Peaty, who recently tweeted in support of making doping an illegal offence worldwide, said this showed athletes were “being listened to”.

Grigorishin’s aim is to create swimming superstars by bringing them to a worldwide audience regularly, not just at the Olympics.

“If you ask somebody to name five top swimmers, 90 per cent can’t answer. This is something we have to change. If you only saw Lionel Messi every four years, who would know him?”

Peaty’s achievements in the sport have earned him superstar status in swimming, but for an athlete who has won every accolade, the ISL offers a fresh challenge during the monotonous training months.

“I’ve never been one to have no motivation, because I know to get my 11th world record or 12th or 13th I’ve got to be better than that guy that’s next to me every single day.

“But I’ve been doing the same format for the last six years, going to the same competitions, winning the same medals, the same world records, which is obviously great and I don’t take it for granted, but it gets a bit tedious. I need a different motivation to keep winning.”