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Al Schoenfield Media Award

2008 Phil Whitten


PHIL WHITTEN was the face of swimming world magazine, as its Editor in Chief for over 15 years.


IN 1992, during his first year as Editor, Phil became convinced the Chinese were cheating with performance enhancing drugs as systematically as the East Germans had done in the 1970s and 1980s. Several others came to the same conclusion, but no one in a position of influence dared speak out.  Especially noteworthy by their silence were USA Swimming and FINA, both of which refused to utter a word.


Phil reported on the masculine features of the Chinese women, acne, deep voices, explosive power, poor technique, etc.  Still, not a peep from the official bodies.  He followed with a statistical analysis of their performances and came up with a ridiculous number - one in several trillion - that their performances were legit.


He formed a small information-sharing committee of like-minded journalists: Craig Lord (London Times), Wayne Smith (then at the Brisbane Courier), Nicole Jeffrey (The Australian) and Sylvie Josse (l'Equipe) plus a few others on occasion.   Gradually the mainstream news media began paying attention.


After the 1996 Olympic Games, Phil wrote a Swimming World article called “Why Is Everybody Saying All Those Nasty Things About a Nice Irish Girl Like Michelle Smith?”  She and her hubby threatened to sue him.  They did so a record 4 times.  Phil was instrumental in the surprise drug test in Jan 1998, where she tried to mask the steroids with whiskey- resulting in a FINA ban.


Under Phil’s leadership, SW was the first publication in the world to publish Stasi files proving almost all of the GDR's world-class athletes were being systematically doped.


For seven years He ran the content side of SwimInfo almost entirely by himself, writing over 1,000 articles and editing more than 7,000.  In 2005 and 06 SwimInfo was rated the top swimming web site in the world and one of the top 1,000 on any topic.


ISHOF is proud to present Phil Whitten, a profile in journalistic courage with the Al Schoenfield Award.


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