Sun, Feb 22, 2009 - Page 19 News List

FINA proposes rules against high-tech suits


Swimming’s governing body moved a step closer on Friday to limiting the role of high-tech swim suits that helped produce more than 100 world records since their introduction a year ago.

At a meeting with 16 swimwear manufacturers in Lausanne, FINA proposed on Friday to place strict limits on how thick the suits can be and how much buoyancy they can have. The proposals also aim to limit their shape and “customization” in the hope of eliminating a suit’s ability to provide swimmers with an unfair advantage.

FINA said suits should end below the neck and before the shoulders and ankles. USA Swimming had petitioned FINA to request that suits not go past the knee.

They must be no thicker than 1mm; have no external influence on the swimmer in the form of pain reduction or electro-stimulation; and may not be customized.

The proposals will be discussed at FINA’s meeting from March 12 to March 14 in Dubai, when a ruling on the issue is expected.

The debate about changing the rules on swimwear resulted from the overwhelming effect that the introduction of high-tech suits such as Speedo’s LZR Racer have had on the sport.

There have been 108 world records since the Speedo suit became available to swimmers last February. The suits were designed and tested with help from NASA. Other manufacturers followed with their own high-tech suits.

Any rule change could be in place for the world championships in Rome from July 18 to Aug. 2.

FINA said swimwear makers would have until March 31 to submit their designs for approval.

FINA was criticized for upholding the suit designs for the Beijing Olympics and not providing a clear definition of what was an acceptable suit and what constituted a “device” that enhanced performance.

Opponents have said that the suits create changes in buoyancy levels and amount to “technological doping.”

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