Controversial neck-to-ankle swimsuit is back in the pool

When money is no object, the creme de la creme of swim gifts is the high-tech speed suit that debuted in Sydney  Credit: Courtesy Speedo
The full-body swimsuit is full-speed ahead for now, at least.

The bodysuit, which raised eyebrows as it lowered swim times, cleared a legal hurdle and will be available to Olympic swimmers in Sydney, barring any further appeals.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport decided not to hand down an opinion on FINAs rule allowing the use of full-body swimsuits for Olympic competition, stating that FINA has autonomy to rule on the issue.

FINA, the worlds governing body for swimming, ruled last October that the use of the swimsuits produced by Speedo and adidas does not constitute a violation of the bureaus rules.

For several months, the Australian Olympic Committee has been trying to get a more specific ruling to make sure the suits do not fall into FINAs Rule SW 10.7, which bans "devices" and technical equipment.

The swimsuit, made of material similar to the skin of a shark, can enhance the swimmers speed by reducing drag and pushing water away from the swimmer.

"FINA, or any international federation, is free to develop its own autonomy and form of self-government and take responsibility for its decisions," Prof. Richard H. McLaren, Barrister, (Canada), said in a written statement. "FINA in this matter will be required to take the responsibility for the decision of the bureau on the bodysuits."

The AOC requested the CAS to determine whether the bodysuits comply with FINA rules because it could impact a swimmers right to participate in the Olympic Games. The AOC also feared that if a lawsuit were brought up after the games to contest the swimsuit, an athlete could be stripped of medals if the case found the FINA ruling to be invalid and the swimsuit to be a performance-enhancing device.

The AOC wanted to know whether the bodysuits in question should be considered a "device" and whether FINA had given a valid approval allowing their use.

Several U.S. swimmers, including Jenny Thompson and Lenny Krayzelburg, have praised the swimsuits after seeing results.

"It is definitely the fastest suit I have ever put on and tried swimming in," Krayzelburg said. "It will definitely improve performances during competition."

Said Thompson: "I could really feel a difference while wearing the Speedo Fastkin. It was really interesting to see in the pool where the resistance or lack of resistance was. Where I was used to feeling resistance, I didnt realize it was there."

The CAS generally is known to act as a tribunal with the aim of settling sports-related disputes through arbitration. In addition to its judicial function, the CAS also can render advisory opinions if requested by certain sports entities, such as with the swimsuit case. CAS opinions, however, are not binding.

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