U.S. and local swimming officials can’t tell you exactly what “textile” means, so they are not going to try — despite their decision Saturday to ban all non-textile suits that extend beyond the waist and knees for men, and neck and knees for women Oct. 1.
Their message to swimmers and parents trying to figure out the new USA Swimming standards as the fall club season approaches: If a suit looks legal, it probably is.
Suits will be only visually inspected at Potomac Valley Swimming meets. There will be no touching of suits or close scrutiny of materials.
Until the world governing body of swimming (FINA) develops a comprehensive banned-suit list — which is not expected before Jan. 1 — competition suits that appear to be within the guidelines will be allowed at age-group meets, officials say.
“We’re not going to be checking materials at this point,” said Marie Beth “Boots” Hall, the officials representative on the Potomac Valley Swimming board of directors. “At this point, any suits currently made that fit the size description will be passed.”
More specifically, USA Swimming President Jim Wood said, officials will be advised to make judgments in three areas: Is the suit the appropriate length? Is it free of zippers or fasteners, which are now banned? And is the material, whatever it is, the same throughout — in other words, no visible panels, such as those found on Speedo’s popular LZR?
The answer to all three questions must be yes.
“We don’t want to go around feeling materials, but those three [evaluations] are pretty easily made,” Wood said.
There is one notable difference between the rules adopted Saturday and international rules: small suits worn underneath outer suits for modesty reasons will be permitted at U.S. meets. In other words, men will be allowed to don briefs and women, sports bras. (Note: Art Davis, PVS Administrative Division Vice-Chair, contacted us to clarify that the modesty suits will be allowed only at age-group meets, those for athletes 18-and-under. At open meets, such as the Red & Black Meet at the University of Maryland next month, modesty suits will not be permitted.)
PVS officials and referees will be tutored on the new standards and how to administer them at the Oct. 3 PVS Swimposium at Georgetown Prep. A day later, the PVS season gets underway with the 2009 All-Freestyle Meet at the Fairland Aquatics Center.
Despite the haziness surrounding the new restrictions, officials say they hope the process doesn’t get bogged down with arguments or controversy. If a swimmer shows up in a suit in clear violation of the rules, an attempt will be made to address the problem before swimmers get to the starting blocks to avoid controversy or delays, Hall said.
“We will try to catch it early and have them go into the changing room and change into an appropriate suit,” she said. “You don’t want to wait until they get up on the blocks and swim, and have to disqualify them.”
FINA’s membership approved the new suit rules in July, and the organization’s Bureau set a Jan. 1 implementation date. USA Swimming’s membership almost unanimously approved moving up the date to Oct. 1.
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