Governing high school officials decided Tuesday to ban all non-textile, long-length swimsuits from high school competition immediately, saying they were acting to preserve the “integrity, tradition and heritage of the sport.”
The National Federation of State High School Associations’s board of directors deliberated for less than an hour Tuesday before approving the ban, which is subject to approval by each state association.
The suit prohibition, which also bans the wearing of more than one suit at a time, is likely to rankle swimmers and parents who already purchased high-tech suits — the latest models can cost upwards of $500 each — after relying on a May 28 memorandom from NFHS that said the organization did not have enough information to regulate the new swimsuits.
The NFHS was forced to take action, however, after the world swimming governing body (FINA), USA Swimming and the NCAA announced plans in late July to prohibit long-length non-textile suits, NFHS assistant director Becky Oakes said.
“By the end of July, a lot of developments had taken place,” Oakes said.
The Virginia High School League will update its rule book immediately, according to Tom Dolan, the VHSL assistant director for athletics who is no relation to the Olympic champion swimmer with the same name. Officials at the District of Columbia Public Schools and Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association could not be reached after business hours on Tuesday.
“We … will be strongly in favor of Virginia moving in this direction,” Dolan said. “This matches us up with USA Swimming and puts us in line with what they are doing.”
An NFHS swimming and diving rules committee that considered the issue last week recommended that the board ban all impermeable suits, but gave it the option of postponing restrictions on length until next year. The board, however, decided only neck-to-knee swimsuits would be allowed for females and waist-to-knee suits, known as “jammers,” for males in 2009-2010.
“I was perfectly fine with wearing a jammer,” said former Georgetown Prep star Brady Fox, who will swim at Virginia in the fall. “I think it will bring back a lot of the natural talent in the sport. All of the time jumps in the last few years have just been unreal.”
Added Fox, “there’s no way people won’t get upset. People went out and bought all of these suits.”
Oakes said the board was sensitive to the 17 or 18 states whose high school swimming seasons already are underway or about to get underway, but had even greater concerns about those with winter or spring seasons. Manufacturers, she said, indicated that they were drastically cutting back on the supply of long-length, high-tech suits in response to the various bans, raising the possibility that athletes might have trouble obtaining them in the coming months.
“Even though we knew there was going to be some inconvenience for some fall schools, to really make this work, we felt like the best course was, ‘Let’s do it now, let’s get it in place,’” Oakes said. “What happened with these suits … the advances in technology just fundamentally altered the sport of swimming. What was once a piece of wearing apparel … became more of a piece of equipment.”
The rule as adopted by the NFHS board of directors reads as follows:
Suits worn by swimmers shall be limited to the following requirements:
a. only one swimsuit shall be permitted in competition. (A swimmer with special needs may request customization through his/her school to the state association.)
b. the swimsuit shall be:
1. constructed of a woven/knit textile material;
2. permeable (100 percent to air and water);
3. made so as not to aid in buoyancy and shall not be altered to aid in buoyancy;
4. made with no zippers or other fastening system other than a waist tie for a brief or jammer and elastic material within the casing/ribbing in the terminal ends (straps, leg openings, and waist openings); and
5. constructed so that the style/shape of the suit for males shall not extend above the waist nor below the top of the kneecap and for females shall not extend beyond the shoulders nor below the top of the kneecap, nor cover the neck.
Penalty (For ART. 2): When an official discovers a competitor wearing an illegal swimsuit by the wearing of two suits or a suit which is of an illegal construction, the official shall:
1. when reporting prior to the start of the heat, notify the competitor to make legal the swimsuit before becoming eligible to compete. If the competitor cannot comply without delaying the start of the heat, the competitor is disqualified from that event and shall not be eligible for further competition until in a legal swimsuit;
2. when the competitor has stepped up on the starting platform but prior to the starting device being activated, direct the competitor to “Step down,” disqualify the competitor from that event and he/she shall not be eligible for further competition until in a legal swimsuit;
3. when the starting device has been activated, disqualify the competitor at the completion of the heat; nullify the competitor’s performance time and he/she shall not be eligible for further competition until in a legal swimsuit.
Rationale: Technical swimsuits were introduced to the world of swimming approximately two years ago. The advanced technology fundamentally altered the sport, and swimwear became more of a piece of equipment as opposed to a uniform. The rules of swimming have always prohibited the wearing or use of an item that would aid in the swimmer’s speed or buoyancy. The technical suits have evolved with little or no regard for these basic rules. In order to preserve the integrity, tradition and heritage of the sport, as well as protect and enhance the interscholastic swimming program, the new requirements and restrictions on swimwear are necessary to promote the educational values of high school athletics by promoting fair play. The immediate implementation date will guarantee fairness in competition throughout the high school swimming seasons and allow the meet officials to fairly and consistently enforce the rule.