December 29, 2015
Dear U.S. Sailors,
This past week our sport was negatively affected by political actions taken by the Malaysian Sailing Association (MSA), a Member National Authority (MNA) of World Sailing (formerly ISAF). The net result was that the Israeli youth team had restrictions imposed upon it at the Youth Sailing World Championships that no other team had, creating an inferior condition for the Israeli competitors and preventing them from competing as equals on and off of the race course. The Israeli team elected not to compete because of the unequal conditions enforced upon them by the MSA.
We denounce these policies and actions of the MSA that are in direct contradiction to our bylaws and the International Olympic Committee Code of Ethics, which state: There shall be no discrimination between the participants on the basis of race, gender, ethnic origin, religion, philosophical or political opinion, marital status or other grounds.” It is the responsibility of World Sailing to ensure that these conditions are met at all sanctioned international competitions. World Sailing has allowed the regatta to start, without imposing conditions on the MSA, to our knowledge.
The Board of US Sailing provides the following as our opinion on the situation in Malaysia:
We have three concerns. The first is for our sport. US Sailing believes that sailors of all nations are entitled to equal opportunity to compete. This core value of our sport appears to have been violated by the conduct of the MSA, who are managing this event under the authority of World Sailing. Many people have contacted us asking “how can World Sailing allow this to happen?” The fact is that World Sailing may have been as surprised as we were as to the action taken by the MSA because they relied on their vetting process to expose these potential problems. World Sailing has recently (as of last month) changed venues because of concerns about a MNA’s ability to remain apolitical, which we fully supported at the time of the decision.
The problem is that many of the regatta venues were determined years ago, before current political agendas (and willingness to act on those agendas) of some MNAs were detectable (prior to the selection of the venue). World Sailing’s charter is to be inclusive and grow our sport, so they have tried very hard to offer significant regattas to MNAs in non-traditional areas. In the case of Malaysia, it obviously did not work.
Has World Sailing reacted appropriately, once the situation developed? Unfortunately, as of this writing, we do not have the answer for that one. The delegates to World Sailing from the U.S. are working diligently to make our position known, which is: World Sailing must enforce its constitutional charter upon the Malaysian Sailing Authority and all MNAs hosting regattas, and that World Sailing must ensure that similar MNA breakdowns do not occur for every event on the World Sailing schedule (regattas, conferences, meetings, etc.).
The next Youth World Sailing Championship regatta will be in Oman, followed by Israel in 2017. There is no doubt that a repeat of this breakdown would point to a systemic failure at World Sailing.
Our second concern is for all athletes. US Sailing feels strongly that sports and politics should not mix, and that athletes should not be used for political gain. Therefore, we will not discourage any sailor on the US Sailing Youth World Championship Team from competing in the regatta. US Sailing Board members were victims of the 1980 Olympic boycott and their firsthand experience demonstrates that there is no place in sport for politics. Nothing changed in the world after the boycott of 1980, save more medals for the countries that attended, and none for the countries that did not. We must keep the politics on the front page of the paper and our competitions in the sports section.
Our third concern is for regattas going forward, specifically the ones that our athletes will participate in and those we host in the U.S. World Sailing must ensure that similar MNA breakdowns will not occur for every scheduled event on the World Sailing schedule. Next month US Sailing will host Sailing World Cup Miami, and three World Championships this February in Clearwater. At both regatta venues US Sailing will ensure that athletes from all countries that qualify for the event compete on an even footing, in accordance with the IOC Code of Ethics, as stated above.
We ask that all of our US Sailing members and volunteers support the leadership of World Sailing and our U.S. delegates thereto. This is a very difficult time for all of them as they deal with MNAs who refuse to be bound by the ethical standards that the rest of the world accepts and lives by. Further, we ask that we have strong support in January and February, when we welcome all sailors and fans to watch the regattas in Miami and Clearwater. Please support our U.S. teams and join us in welcoming all of the international competitors who have traveled to sail in our waters.
From the US Sailing Board of Directors,
Bruce J. Burton
President of US Sailing