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FINA Opts to Ban All High-Tech Swimsuits

By Amy Shipley
Amanda Beard, left, Natalie Coughlin, right, and Michael Phelps introduced Speedo's LZR in Feb. 2008. Under the rules FINA passed on Friday, these suits will no longer be legal in competition in 2010. (Kathy Willens, Associated Press)

Amanda Beard, left, Natalie Coughlin, right, and Michael Phelps introduce Speedo's LZR in Feb. 2008. Under the rules FINA passed on Friday, these suits and all other long-length, high-tech swimsuits will no longer be legal in competition in 2010. (Kathy Willens, Associated Press)

FINA, swimming’s world governing body, finally figured out the way to determine which of the controversial long-length, high-tech swimsuits to restrict.

On Friday, it banned every last one.

With a nearly unanimous vote, FINA’s member nations accepted a proposal initiated by the United States to allow only waist-to-knee suits, known as “jammers,” for men, and shoulder-to-knee suits for women, beginning in competition next year.

The move was far more dramatic than expected and allowed the sport’s leaders largely to circumvent vexing questions of fabrics, impermeability and buoyancy by focusing on the length of the suits. Though FINA also noted that the suits must be “textile,” it did not immediately define the term, leaving that issue to be hashed out.

Though the changes won’t go into effect at the world championships that begin Sunday in Rome, they will hang over the competition, seemingly wagging a finger at every world-record setter wearing a suit that will never be allowed again in a major swimming championship.

“A lot of us are joking that this might be the fastest we ever go,” American backstroker Aaron Peirsol told the Associated Press in Rome. “We might as well enjoy this year.”

FINA also decided that the world records set by those wearing the long-length swimsuits would stand, which means the sport is likely facing several years largely bereft of record breaking. More than 130 world records have been broken in high-tech suits since last early year when Speedo launched its LZR, a suit worn by nearly every medal winner at the 2008 Summer Games and which set off the current technological arms race.

“Some of these records might not be broken for a long, long time,” Peirsol said.

Friday’s decision came from FINA’s congress, made up of the world’s 100-plus swimming nations, rather than FINA’s bureau, the executive arm of the organization that tried – but failed – to rein in the suits earlier this year.

FINA’s bureau said it would restrict suits this past spring in time for the world championships, but after a month-long review of 136 suits it gave up and let them all in, increasing to 400 the number of allowed suits at next week’s meet – and raising the ire of many member nations, particularly the United States and Australia.

Many coaches and officials have equated the suit issue with the doping problems that plagued the sport in decades past.

Friday’s decision will affect all of the suit makers. Speedo athletes have argued that the LZR is less offensive than the slew of 100-percent polyurethane suits, such as the Jaked01 and the Adidas Hydrofoil, that have been released in the last year, but no suit maker will be immune from the ban’s effects.

The change will trickle down to the amateur level and, likely, the collegiate level as well. USA Swimming abides by the international governing body rules, meaning all USA Swimming-sanctioned youth competitions will face the same restrictions next year. The NCAA is expected to adopt FINA’s policy since it has followed the international guidelines in the past.

Though USA Swimming banned long-length suits for children 12-and-under last fall, the suits have been increasingly prevalent at older age-group meets. Dozens of swimmers wore various varieties of the suits at the recent Potomac Valley Long-Course Senior Championships.

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44 Responses to “FINA Opts to Ban All High-Tech Swimsuits”

  1. Kyle D says:

    I wonder how many times they’ll change their minds on this issue.

    There are a lot of people making a lot of money on suits and ruining a sport in the process. I hope this is the end of that.

  2. Jim says:

    Perhaps swimming naked would be the real equalizer. But that’d offend too many folks and pull another thread from the swimsuit industry. So the FINA decision was positive. Hope they don’t back off it.

  3. Swim Mom says:

    Yay for FINA finally doing the right thing. I’ve heard a lot of these swimmers say that the suits should be banned, but as long as they are legal then the swimmers will wear them. Not allowing full leg suits may be a bit extreme for the guys – but at least the playing field is a whole lot more even.

  4. dorothy muilenburg says:

    WHY???? No reason given in article.

    Dorothy

  5. dorothy muilenburg says:

    WHY???

  6. Access To Everyone says:

    I don’t really see the problem with tech suits as long as everyone has equal access to them. Moreover, if your going to ban something that already being used in the industry, why would you not wipe out the records that were made while those suits were worn? That right there is more of an unfairness than anything.

  7. Jive Dadson says:

    Decades ago, high tech equipment pretty much ruined table tennis as a spectator sport. Just saying.

  8. SwimFan says:

    Wouldn’t swimming naked be a disadvantage for the better endowed swimmers :?

  9. Betty says:

    This will save me hundreds, but I do see all sides of the discussion.

  10. Swim Scientist says:

    Does this mean the miniature attachable turbine engines I have been spending years of my live developing for swimmers to smash all world records will no longer be acceptable??????

  11. John says:

    It seems that they’ve finally realized that artificially enhancing performance is wrong, whether it’s done by putting something ON your body, or IN your body. Both give a similarly skewed result.

  12. An Old Swimmer says:

    Great to see that FINA was able to make a difficult decision…and do it right! Now, I hope FINA is able to hold their ground and not have to back track – even a little. I mean, if we can’t and shouldn’t shove steroids and other performance enhancing ingredients into our bodies, how on earth did it become even close to appropriate to wrap them around our bodies? Never made a lick of sense to me.

    What I would like to see next is all of the artificial records set via these performance enhancing suits taken back off of the books. When runners or cyclists get nailed for the kind of performance enhancement taken internally, their results are taken away. And wind aided track records are so asterisked. I hardly see much difference here, myself – the results were not real.

  13. Lee says:

    This seems to be a good first step to taking the sport back to being about the ability of the athlete, not his or her equipment, in this case: swimsuit. But the fairness of the swimming gear won’t be resolved until the decision about what fabric to use for all swim wear in competition is resolved and also the style of the suits for each gender as different fabric and style still will affect the drag in the water. The entire playing field needs to be level with one type of fabric and one type of swimsuit style allowed for each gender with the only difference in the suits to be in the color scheme not the design or fabric used.

  14. Joel says:

    Lee provides the answer why, that the article didn’t address.

  15. george says:

    by all means lets return to bamboo poles for vaulting. they are, after all, a renewable and biodegradable resource. perhaps running shoes should also be only natureal materials as well.

  16. Daniel says:

    This may actually help the manufacturers by decreasing the price of these swimsuits, making them more affordable and thereby increasing sales volume. Thus, more sales of cheaper suits may mean more revenue.

  17. Mike says:

    @george: I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that suits be biodegradable. But the shoe analogy is good – the rules for running shoes ensure that new records are not driven by advances in shoe technology. Would this be a bad situation for swimming to be in?

  18. David says:

    Since a couple people have asked, the reason for the ban is that the suits effectively change the physics of the human body, giving swimmers an inhuman edge, the results of which make it hard to know whether humans have accomplished great feats (fast times) or whether it was humans aided by technology.

    The suits have microscopic protrusions that guide water across a surface, which creates a streamlining far and beyond what traditional swimsuits endow, which are mainly designed to keep parts from flopping around.

    We all suspected these swimsuits were going to get banned after we saw the times at the World Championships before the Olympics, and then at the Olympics.

    This is the right decision.

  19. Patty says:

    But what about all other sports where some athletes have much more advanced equipment? Cycling, kayaking, etc etc. Don’t high- tech advancements make big differences in times?

  20. Mike says:

    @Patty: Cycling has horrendously complex rules that constrain bike design and try to level the playing-field. The rules go as far as to say that no “technical innovation” is allowed until it’s been vetted by the governing body.

  21. jon says:

    They should not ban legskins in men.

    Women should be allowed to wear regular suits and kneesuits.
    Men should wear speedos, jammers, and legsuits.

  22. cait says:

    the main issue that FINA has convienently overlooked is NOT the length of the suit rather it is the material. FINA has avoided the real issue at play, so you ban the legskin, but guess what I swim in a LZR kneeskin. and that doesnt seem to have been banned. so lets clear that up to. also the Fastkin PRO has a legskin design but doesnt contain polyurethane. whats gonna be the deal with that?

    also, the legskin differs from the kneeskin in that in extends from knees downward. this is where swimmers have the least fat and therefore would derive the least advantage. the problem lies in the compression in the torso. so lets propose this then, women (in order to avoid any such advantage from a suit) MUST swim in bikinis. or another alternative, why dont we all just swim naked.

    heres another thought: all US swimmers at last years trials were given the option to wear a LZR FREE OF CHARGE. this extends to all major national and international meets, ALL swimmers competing at the elite level have access to the best suits and it is up to them to chose. therefore, NO one is gaining an advantage when all competitors are wearing polyurethane suits. what the new suits have done is elevate the level of competition

    furthermore, if a fat non swimmer chooses to squeeze himself into a LZR and race against phelps (who is simply wearing a practice jammer) the result will always be the same: phelps will win. wearing the suit does not give you super human abilities. just this past weekend i wore a LZR for a meet, i swam both best and off best times. it is impossible to attribute years of training, conditioning, and mental preparation to a suit alone.

    if we turn our back on progress and improvement in equipment in swimming, shouldnt we extend this to ALL other sports? for example, let’s go back to running the marathon in keds or better yet barefoot. titanium clubs in pga and lpga give an added boost to a golfers swing. and the improvements in bats and balls in baseball means that all present records should be wiped out by the same reasoning that FINA has used.

    one more thing…compression attire is not unique to swimming: track, football, soccer, etc all use compressions shorts, etc, during competition.

  23. oldschoolfan says:

    The LZR is included in the ban because it contains a “non-permeable” material..
    I agree they should keep the legs..cuts down on shaving and the need for buying 20 disposable razors

  24. Peter says:

    I agree with the last post. Until the fabric and construction of the suits are addressed, FINA has done nothing. At an age group meet last year there was a 12 year old wearing a blue70 that he (or his parent or coach) had clearly cut off at the knee, thus meeting fully the USA swimming rule for 12 and under swimmers. Jammers adresses most of the problem for the men, no compression or streamlining in the torso. The womens arms race is still full speed ahead. There is a lot of room to turn a suit into a “device” when you have from the shoulders to the knees to work with.

    Here is a proposal, not sure how you test it, but I think it makes a good goal to shoot for: A swimmer should swim as fast in any suit, as they would swim with no suit; no faster, and no slower.

  25. Jake says:

    Ok, so is this just me or could this be construed as sexist? The biggest suit a guy can wear is a jammer but girls can still wear kneeskins that cover their torso and could potentially still have core stabalizer technology as seen in the LZR. This new FINA ruling doesnt seem to ban any kind of technology but instead just restricts length and material. I only bring this up becuase before now guys and girls could wear practically the same suit, the bodyskin, and some guys even wore girls suits because they had a tighter fit. But now its illegal for a guy to wear the same style of suit as girls are.

  26. bob says:

    but what i don’t get is that the girl swimmers are allowed to have a longer suits then the guys who will only have 1/3 of the suit as girls do. I understand the issue with the full body lzr racer but why cant the just ban that and not the legs kin because i see more people at swim meets with that on then any other suits but whatever goes ill go with and a question if anyone knows the answer can swimmers use the lzr jammer?

  27. M says:

    “if we turn our back on progress and improvement in equipment in swimming, shouldnt we extend this to ALL other sports?”

    Aerodynamic aids on bikes, hydrodynamic coatings on racing shells and springs in running shoes are all prohibited in their respective sports. Other sports have had this for YEARS – swimming is the laggard here.

  28. Peter says:

    The comparisons to the technology in other sports is apple to oranges. You can’t have golf without clubs, or tennis without racquets, or pole vaulting without poles. You can have swimming without suits.

  29. Jamie says:

    I just bought a $250 legskin a couple of months ago and have worn it in 3 meets. are you telling me i cant wear it because FINA doesnt like technology? as long as the suits dont add bouyancy it should be allowed to be used

  30. fel says:

    to peter: i think the comparison between swimming and other sports was misunderstoood

    titanium clubs in golf are a new invention, as are the various improvements to tennis racquets…i dont understand what you mean by “You can have swimming without suits” are you suggesting we all swim naked. please clarify

  31. Dustyn says:

    Swim scientist; as long as you attach the turbines above the knee it should be allowed lol

  32. someone says:

    “high tech equipment pretty much ruined table tennis as a spectator sport”

    Actually after the 2000 Olympics, they had increased the ball size to slow it down to make it more spectator friendly. Although it did not faze China’s dominance.

    I think swimsuits should not add buoyancy. But men should not have to shave their whole body nor should either men or women worry about their stuff flopping about. I think everything was fine until manufacturers decided they want people to have skin like sharks.

  33. Current Male College Swimmer says:

    This ruling is absolutely ridiculous. The fact that men cannot wear legskins of any style sets swim suit technology back 20 years. I can see why a ban on blue 70 suits was made, because they add buoyancy. Also, LZR racers because of the special material used. However, banning all legskins such as FSII and FS Pro for men was not the right move. And keeping the records of swimmers who wore a tech suit is even more asinine than the banning. How is anyone supposed to break a record set by someone wearing a faster suit? Its really sad to see that the hierarchy of the sport of swimming is this retarded. Thanks for taking away my chances of any records next year you assholes.

  34. Debra Fichtner says:

    at least now we will see the ability of the athlete and all the training, not the ability of the suit

  35. HC says:

    Funny how the U.S. and Australia weren’t complaining when their atheletes wore the Speed LZR suits and won medals at Beijing, but now that the other athletes and nations have better suits, it’s Michael Phelps and the U.S. and Australia crying foul since the Speedo is now outdated.

    Hypocrisy at it’s best by the arrogant americans again. It’s fine if your suit is the best there huh? But when other people wear better suits than yours it should be banned?

  36. Dan says:

    Im fine with them banning full body suits but what is so wrong with having full legskins, getting rid of the upper body parts of mens suits surely is more important!!!
    KEEP LEGSKINS FOR MEN!!
    Suits like the FSII should not be rid of, this is such a joke!

  37. Ell says:

    this is an utter joke, why do they decide to ban them now, u cant just ban virtually every swimsuit possible for the men, think of the companies that make them, they will make less profit and those companies will go bankrupt eventually, causing loss of job and not at least thanking the governmet enough for wat they did but dont add more to the finicial crisis, and if it was decided in USA leave the ban in the US but leave the other countries alone, we were happy with the way it was before, ban the LZR sure but everything below the knee and above waist is just stupid. Not all of these suits will have hydrophobic layers just because there is more , surface area on the suit, what about these suits that dont have the technology to do that, just banning those is out of order.
    Plz hust consider this cause im pretty annoyed cause i bought some just last night and was told the next day i could use the for 1 month and they are fs2 indents, thats £90 down the drain thank you very much America

  38. jeb says:

    why doesn’t pina just give us all the same suit to ware in meets?

  39. Brendan says:

    Three words FINA : wooden golf clubs.

  40. Sarah says:

    The playing field will never be level, no matter what. And a technology such as this one will never be equally available to all unless they start shipping them out for free. It’s hypocritical to bring to light drug use and the technology of the swimsuit, when technology is in every aspect of every sport. Training programs which have been deemed most effective in research studies are a product of scientific investigation, nutrition supplements. The athlete, team, or country with the most money will always have the best coaching and funding, and will always take home the most wins.

  41. Jake says:

    this is a great thing for them to do but havving thies tectnologicly advanced suits shout be banned for compitions but i do not thing swimmers who used them to get a world record should be stripped of there tital because its a world record not a compition so it shouldnt matter in a world record. however i do belive it is unfair for swimmers who compeat should use them because it does give them an unfair advantage in the race.

  42. matty ice says:

    i got a suit last summer then they got banned with no reason

  43. Andy Ayres says:

    This is annoying. I want to buy a legskin because they look cool and nowhere makes them anymore :-(

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