The tragic death of Audrey Mestre’ on October 12th prompted me to write an article asking what the real causes were that led to her death.
I ask many tough and probing questions regarding the accountablility of the IAFD in Audrey’s fatal record attempt. Were they responsible? – or was it a natural result of this extreme sport’s hazards?
But I now want to ask a question that may ruffle a few more feathers in the process – What part did Audrey play in the eventual fatal dive she made that day?
Being one who believes that one should take personal responsibility for their decisions and actions, I have to ask this very question regarding Audrey’s personal decision to make this record attempt.
The IAFD was, and still is, responsible for the safety of the attempt as the organizing entity, but the diver is ultimately responsible for deciding to actually make the dive. I don’t enjoy asking raising these issues, but the truth needs to be disclosed.
Audrey was quite familiar with the inner workings of the IAFD, since she worked closely with it’s founder and her husband, Pipin Ferarras, and its President, Carlos Serra. Acting within the confines of the organization, it can be speculated that she knew what was actually occurring regarding the support crew, emergency personnel, etc. surrounding her record attempt.
Knowing this, she trained as hard as anyone humanly could, and even succeeded in reaching 170 meters in a training dive days before her actual record attempt. She was physically, and psychologically capable of meeting her own expectations and those of whom she had around her.
But in this process, the difficult question needs to be asked: Was she influenced in some way, either subtly or outright, to make this record attempt, knowing the risks involved with the apparent current evidence showing a lack of safety protocols that needed to be in place to make this a safer and ultimately a successful record attempt?
No one will know, since the only person who can answer these questions fully is no longer with us.
The issue being raised here is how intimately involved should an athlete be with the sanctioning body sponsoring a record attempt like this? It has been heatedly discussed by the various organizations involved in freediving that judges, representitives and athletes need to be distanced from each other to an extent as to prevent undue influence in either the attempt, the confines or parameters by which to validate a record, or even in the influencing of attempting a record.
With Audrey being closely involved with the IAFD, it appears that she may have allowed herself to be unduly influenced by those whom she associated with daily, both personally and professionally. To the point of possibly clouding her judgement.
The sport is in dire need of sponsorship funding – without it, the sport will continue to languish in obscurity. This financial incentive, along with these other influences, may have contributed to a decision that was fatal.
So now the issue of true impartiality of the governing bodies and their athletes needs to be discussed. But until reform and standardized procedures for implementing them is established, there will be continued squabbling regarding whose record is considered "Valid"
My solution: A Unified Standard.
I originally addressed this topic in August of 2000 and received little, if any comment, on it. I think now is the time to re-evaluate this issue and begin the process of establishing some guidelines for future competitions.
And for healing to begin in all of us.
Doing so, may help to avert the undue influence that may have very well contributed to Audrey’s decision to dive on that fatal day.