New swimsuits banned at U.S. Olympic trials

The new neck-to-ankle swimsuits will not be allowed at the August U.S. Olympic swimming trials  Credit: Adam Pretty/Allsport
The controversy continues.

The bodysuits that have been helping swimmers to smash world records at a rapid rate have now been banned from the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

USA Swimmings board of directors voted Thursday to ban the use of the bodysuits because they are not easily available to all swimmers. In a conference call, the panel voted 16-3 to disallow the suits in an effort to keep the playing field level.

The Olympic Trials are the most important competition in the United States every four years, said Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimmings Executive Director in a prepared release. The issue of fairness to all participants was of paramount importance to the board. The board had a real concern that the suit would not be readily available to all Trials swimmers in a reasonable amount of time prior to the event.

The board was convinced that not all of the 1,200 entrants in the trials would have adequate access to the suits before the Aug. 9 - 16 event, which will be held in Indianapolis.

According to the boards ruling, American swimmers who qualify for the Olympics will be allowed to wear the bodysuits in Sydney. FINA, swimmings international governing body, ruled last year that the body suits would be allowed in the Sydney Olympics this September.

In essence, USA Swimming was not condemning the bodysuit — the ruling was made because many of the swimmers who are planning to participate in August did not have access to the gear.

Top-flight U.S. swimmers such as Lenny Krayzelburg and Jenny Thompson have contracts with major outfitters like Speedo and have spent considerable time being fit for the suits. However, many of the other athletes coming to the trials have had a difficult time acquiring the expensive gear. The suits are pricey — they can run up to $200 each. In addition, manufacturers like Speedo, Nike, adidas and Tyr have had a tough time keeping up with the demand.

FINAs decision in October of 1999 to allow the use of this new technology and the Court of Arbitration for Sports advisory opinion that reaffirmed FINAs decision were premised on the availability of the suits to all competitors, Wielgus said.

The reaction from the swimming community has been varied, but no one appears to be upset with the logic of USA Swimming. The trials could have been a coming-out party for the bodysuits in the United States, but manufacturers are going to have to wait until September to show off their new technology to the masses.

Obviously were disappointed with the decision, said Craig Brommers, director of sports marketing for Speedo. What well do now is continue to work to provide all Olympic hopefuls with the [bodysuit]. Were right with USA Swimming in wanting to make a level playing field at the Trials.

Krayzelburg agreed that fairness was the most important thing.

If everyone had a fair opportunity to wear the suits, then it would have been OK, Krayzelburg told the Associated Press. But if some of us got an advantage over the other swimmers, then I dont think its fair.

Brommers also said that Speedo is awaiting an announcement from USA Swimming by the end of next week further defining the parameters of the bodysuit. The full bodysuit has been banned, however, and there is the possibility that USA Swimming could allow that same new material that makes up the suits to be used in a three-quarter-type of suit, Brommers said.

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