Friday, November 27, 2020

World Record Holder Resigns from AIDA

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“World Record holder, Eric Fattah has resigned as Vice President of the The Canadian Freedive Association (CAFA), which also removes him from being on the assembly of AIDA, one of the formal record certification organizations.

The following letter expresses many concerns that he has about the sport of freediving.

“”Recent communications I have had with Sebastien Nagel, and other members of the AIDA organization, have made me realize that my vision of what AIDA should be is so different from the other members that there is no point in my continuing to work with AIDA. After I nearly died during my training for the constant weight record, I developed a new respect for safety in freediving. I think that the number one priority of any freediving organization should be safety. Once full safety has been assured, then money can be spent on anti-doping and other less important concerns. Unfortunately the other members of the AIDA organization do not agree with my opinions on safety. In some ways I think it is unfortunate that AIDA is a democratic organization, because there is no room for democracy when it comes to safety issues. Safety issues cannot be voted upon, they must be decided upon by those few individuals who are qualified to decide what the safety measures should be.

I am currently the Vice President of the Canadian Association of
Freediving and Apnea (CAFA), but, because CAFA is an AIDA affiliate, and my views are so obviously opposite from AIDA, I feel that someone else could much better fulfill the duties of VP of CAFA. So, I resign from my position as VP of CAFA (and lose my spot on the AIDA assembly), and I’m sure another Canadian can be elected who will do a good job.

When I nearly died during my training for the constant weight record, I became paralyzed during the ascent at 53m. The paralysis lasted so long that I started sinking again, unable to move. We still have not been able to explain what happened. Perhaps it was the freezing cold, or the extreme blood shift, or the narcosis, or all of these. Perhaps this paralysis is what killed Cyril Isoardi when he descended to 130m and never returned. Whatever the reason, if it can happen to one diver, it can happen to another, and this problem happens DEEP, and if it happens, only SCUBA divers can help. I am truly afraid that someone will die in Ibiza, or the next AIDA competition, where divers are allowed and encouraged to dive extremely deep, with no scuba divers, and being forced to use a mask, which is even more dangerous. I do not want to be a part of any competition where fatalities occur, especially when they can be prevented. So, regretfully, I defer my position on the Canadian freediving team to the 1st (primary) alternate, Peter Scott, who is an excellent diver, and by obligation I also hand him my two custom wetsuits that were made by our sponsor (Picasso). Peter is my size, he fits the suits well, and I’m sure he’ll make Canada proud. I still owe a great debt to all my friends who helped me with my world record attempt, and I will continue to offer whatever services they request of me, even if their opinions are different from mine.

As I mentioned above, safety issues cannot and should not be voted upon. They must be decided upon by those few individuals who are qualified to decide. AIDA allows safety issues to be voted upon, even by people who are not qualified to vote. Take, for example, the World Cup in Switzerland. The extreme blackness of Lake Geneva made constant ballast diving dangerous–it was very easy to lose the line. This was the first international competition I ever attended. During the training day, I managed to reach 60m in this lake, which was the limit for the competition–however, on this dive, I lost the line at the bottom. I made it to the surface far away from the safety freediver. I was lucky that I made it. Then, I tried diving with the ‘longe/lanyard’ or clip, that attaches the diver to the line. I found it extremely difficult to use, and I could make only 45m. Later, at the event committee meeting, we were allowed to VOTE on whether or not the clip should be used in the competition. From my bad experience, it was obvious that it was essential, otherwise a diver might die. I decided to vote for the clip, even though I knew that my own performance would be very poor, using the clip. However, how is it possible that I was allowed to vote? I was just a ‘nobody’ from Canada, with very little experience, and I could have been selfish and just voted not to use the clip. How can an organization allow people to vote on the safety rules?

I remember in Nice 2000, when my friend Stig Severinson from Denmark, refused to try for a personal best on the 2nd training day, because there were no scuba divers. He felt it was just not safe. Other divers felt the same way. The organizers told us that there was just not enough money to have scuba divers for all the freedivers. Well, if that is the case, then maybe our sport is too young to have such huge competitions. The way I see it, a freediving organization has two choices:

  • 1. Hold a BIG ‘friendly’ gathering of freedivers, with so many freedivers that full scuba support is impossible–in this case the depth limit must be shallow (50m), with good visibility–there would be no world records and there would be no point to do anti-doping, and no one would ever be allowed to go over 50m.
  • 2. Hold a small competition (20-30 divers), with FULL safety on every dive, allowing any depth to be reached, and allowing each diver to use the equipment which he finds the safest (mask/goggles/lenses/wrist weights)–this type of competition would have ‘record conditions’ and certain minimums would be required–new world records could be achieved–and this could be called the ‘world championship’–anti-doping could be done.

    Instead, AIDA tries to do both. It holds a huge competition, there is not enough money for full safety, and money which could be spent on safety is spent on anti-doping. Despite the lack of safety, divers are forced to use masks and are allowed to dive to any depth. It is called a ‘world championship’, but, at the same time, it is called a ‘friendly competition’, and despite the fact that it is ‘friendly’ competition, great amounts of money are spent on anti-doping to ensure no athletes cheat.

    Several months ago I made a public statement, and I asked the members of AIDA, how is it possible that a new, young organization, F.R.E.E., can have better rules (especially for safety), when AIDA is a huge democratic organization? I received no satisfactory response. But, I still had hope for AIDA, because it was the biggest organization. I have spent the past months trying to push for new rules, and trying to make people realize the problems (and dangers) with current rules (for example the possibility of doing a no-limits record with NO scuba divers at the bottom). But, no one seemed to listen to my suggestions, and no one seems to care, so why should I continue to try?

    I will not.

    Instead, I will work with the F.R.E.E., an organization which will NEVER allow a freediver to dive without scuba divers, and an organization which will NEVER allow a no-limits record without a scuba diver at the bottom. Some members of AIDA complain that F.R.E.E. allows sambas. It is true that they have a different definition of samba. But, allowing a small samba is MUCH better than allowing a freediver to dive deep without scuba divers. At least the F.R.E.E. diver (who has a small samba) will SURVIVE, whereas the diver in the AIDA competition could DIE.

    I have always written stories about my freediving experiences. I also wrote a comprehensive document on equalizing and distributed this document to everyone in the world for free. I invented fluid goggles, lost tons of money, sold the goggles for less than they cost me to make, and I was planning on giving a free pair of goggles to EVERY country in Ibiza, only because I want all divers to know the pleasure (and safety) of diving with goggles. But unfortunately this will no longer happen. But I will give free goggles to divers who come to F.R.E.E. competitions in 2002.

    I still hope, that somehow, AIDA will change, but I will make no more efforts to change it. Perhaps someday, in the distant future, AIDA will change, and if it happens, perhaps I will attend an AIDA competition, when proper safety is in place.””

    Eric Fattah
    BC, Canada”

  • World Record Holder Resigns from AIDA 3
    Cliff Etzel
    Cliff is the former Freediving editor of DeeperBlue.com. He is now a freelance journalist and film-maker.

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