Should swimsuit issue be put on the barbie?

adidas also has a version of the full-body swimsuit that has come into question by the Australian Olympic Committee  Credit: Courtesy of adidas
Technology for improving equipment in competitive sports is nothing new. Weve seen the wooden tennis racquet turn to graphite, golfers switch to titanium clubs and speed skaters use the clacker, a collapsible skate that allows skaters to extend their stride.

This week, the Australian Olympic Committee put into question FINAs approval of a new full-body swimsuit expected to shave crucial tenths of a second off swimmers' times.

The groundbreaking suit has been approved by FINA, the worlds governing body of swimming, for Olympic competition.

The AOC fears that if the legality of the suit is later overturned, athletes eventually could be stripped of their medals and file lawsuits. The AOC is asking FINA to make the rule absolutely clear that the suits developed by Speedo and adidas will not fall into question.

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

Adidas has had a version similar to Speedos called the Equipment Full-body on the market for two years. It was developed in Great Britain in 1995. Australian Ian Thorpe and Great Britains Paul Palmer are wearing adidas suit.

Just another example of progress through technology, according to both swimwear giants.

Speedo Vice President Stu Issac said it is highly unlikely anyone would protest FINAs approval of the suit before, during or after the Olympics, and hes not the least bit worried the suit would be banned.

None of us at Speedo see that happening, Isaac said. The AOC is just looking for clarification of the rule. They are just being very prudent and are worried that any protest would arise.

FINAs rule SW10.7 states: No swimmer shall be permitted to use or wear any device that may aid his speed, buoyancy or endurance during a competition (such as webbed gloves, flippers, fins, etc.). Goggles may be worn.

The full-body suits were approved by FINA last October after finding that it would not fall under the performance-enhancing category.

Theres been a lot of development in the evolution in swimming over the years with different fabric and different suit cuts, said Chris Duplanty, swim sales manager at the U.S. adidas headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. "All adidas wants to do is enhance an athletes performance.

Currently U.S. swimmers Lenny Krayzelburg, Amy Van Dyken and Jenny Thompson are testing the suit.

(Speedos) suit flattens down the body and makes it more streamlined, said U.S. Olympic coach Richard Quick. I think this is an astonishing accomplishment.

Perhaps the suit's advanced technology is what raises suspicion.

Obviously this is to a certain degree revolutionary, Duplanty said. "The fact of covering a swimmer, when weve been used to briefs for so long, may catch some peoples attention. The approach was to do whatever adidas could to optimize an athletes performance and fall within the guidelines of FINA.

On Tuesday, the Australian Olympic Committee announced that it was set to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to test the legality of the controversial bodysuits.

Speedo has agreed to supply all information the CAS needs to come to a conclusion, while adidas has not agreed to disclose information to the CAS. Duplanty said he was unable to comment on the court situation and referred all questions on that subject to adidas Germany.

Ninety percent of the swimming community is saying, Whats the problem? Isaac said. He added that the Australians are simply trying to protect their athletes in case someone were to appeal if a swimmer medals in one of Speedos suits.

I dont envision (a protest) happening, he said.

Speedo developed their technology with the help of multinational technology firms, according to marketing director Craig Brommers. The suit will not be marketed to the public until September.

The only issue with the suit that Isaac believes may come into question is its muscle-compression component, which reduces vibration a major loss of power and source of fatigue for swimmers.

Isaac said that if Australia is going to the CAS because they fear that not all countries will have access to the suit, they can put that one aside.

Speedo has offered to outfit any country with the suit, free of charge, he said. We tried to diffuse that fear by putting everyone on a level playing field. Every athlete at the Olympics will have access to the suit.

Charlie Snyder, director of communications for USA Swimming, feels the issue should have been put to rest when FINA approved the suit.

Thats the whole reason for going through the process with FINA, Snyder said. FINA approved the suit and were a member of FINA.

Snyder agreed with Isaac that technology is progress not cheating.

Theres always been steps of increasing the technology in sports, he said. Weve seen it in tennis racquets and the golf club.


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