Masters Moves Closer To Same Suit Ban As Elites

Masters Moves Closer To Same Suit Ban As Elites

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FINA's masters technical committee wants masters swimming to face the same suit restrictions as elites face. (Photo courtesy of Cokie Lepinski)
FINA's masters technical committee wants masters swimming to face the same suit restrictions as elites. (Photo courtesy of Cokie Lepinski)

Masters swimming took the first step  Saturday toward implementing the same ban on full-length, high-tech suits as at virtually every other level of the sport, but the issue remained far from resolved at the close of a meeting of the masters technical committee for the sport’s world governing body (FINA).

The committee decided during two days of meetings in Sweden to “recommend to the FINA Bureau that it approve the FINA swimsuit rule … for masters competition,” said Nancy Ridout, the only U.S. member of FINA’s masters technical commission, in an e-mail.

The FINA Bureau next meets in mid-January.

In August, FINA had told its member nations that its decision to ban non-textile, waist-to-knee suits for men and neck-to-knee suits for women as of Jan. 1, 2010, did not apply to masters competition. At the time, however, FINA had not received a formal recommendation from its masters technical committee.

The decision Saturday by the FINA masters committee to send the issue back to the FINA Bureau hardly clarified the matter for U.S. Masters Swimming officials, who had said they expected a concrete directive from the committee itself and were prepared to take action based on that ruling.

“We expect them to issue a ruling,” USMS Executive Director Rob Butcher said last week. “What it is going to be is anybody’s guess.”

U.S. Masters Swimming President Jeff Moxie also said last week USMS’s board of directors likely would adopt FINA’s decision regarding the suits, but it’s unclear whether USMS is in position to take any action at this point. FINA’s Bureau is not obligated to act on recommendations from its committees. Moxie did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The USMS House of Delegates voted last week to put it in place whatever ban is eventually instituted sooner rather than later, approving an Oct. 1 implementation date rather than a July 1, 2010, date.

The USMS technical committee had recommended to FINA a ban substantially different than that adopted in elite swimming. The USMS committee recommended that men’s and women’s suits be equal in shape (neck-to-knee) and that zippers and fasteners be allowed.

Many masters swimmers, who are non-elite adults, have argued that they benefit from long suits for reasons other than speed and should not be subjected to the same restrictions as younger and elite swimmers.

Ridout communicated via a brief e-mail Saturday night and could not immediately be reached for elaboration on the recommendation.

Further updates will be provided when available.


  1. I am a male US Masters swimmer and I definitely prefer wearing a competition swimsuit that covers me from neck to knee. I would like to see the equality between male and female swimmers in the swimsuits we are allowed to wear in Masters competitions. It’s not just a performance issue. A swimsuit that covers from neck to knee gives a greater psychological comfort for male swimmers.

    In fact, my neck-to-knee Fastskin II is several years old and it does not give much competitive advantage over my newer square suit or jammer. But I still wear my Fastskin II in competitions because of the coverage of my upper body that makes me look better.

    I hope that FINA allows that men’s and women’s swimsuits are equal in shape and that it allows zippers and fasteners in swimsuits. If FINA decides to allow only jammers or less for male swimmers in Masters competitions, I think an alternative the US Masters Swimming can take is allow the records of swimmers wearing FINA-approved swimsuits stand for the FINA record and allow the records of swimmers wearing non-FINA-approved swimsuits stand only for the US Masters Swimming record. This way, those US Masters swimmers who care for the FINA record can follow the FINA regulations on swimsuits and those US Masters swimmers who prefer swimsuits that cover their body more than the FINA regulations allow can compete in US Masters competitions with their records recognized by US Masters Swimming but not by FINA. I am sure some of the US Masters swimmers would prefer the latter.

  2. I am a female master swimmer who needs a zipper suit to compete. The material of which a suit is made does not matter to me. It does not stop a swimmer from competing. I have a disability which requires equal pressure across my shoulders, I train in a water polo suit. A ban on zippers would actually prevent me from competing. And I don’t think that is anyones intent. There does not seem to be alot of thinking about the swimmers over 50, and their physical restrictions. Is masters competition only for the elite? Will I be banned from competing because I need a zipper. I am currently a national champion in my age group despite by disability. And I do not intend to stop competing. So I will wear a zipper shortjohn. And If I set any records, THEY WILL COUNT.

  3. I too am a masters swimmer in the middle age category. I enjoy attending the meets and striving for new personal goals year after year. My 2 cents…It’s about time they even out the playing field again. They never should have allowed these things to begin with.

    Being more of a purist, wearing a full suit has never appealed to me. Personally, I look just fine in a pair of jammers. And secondly, the cost always seemed prohibitive. Many of us are working hard to send kids through school. Come on, $400 for a suit that lasts only a year?! …if that.

    The biggest gripe amongst those who are against them is that the suits are proven to allow swimmers to go faster. Yes, even in masters swimming (not just FINA competitions). Beyond the suit being a basic cover-up (most people use this as the reason for wearing one)…these things are allowing time drops in the seconds, yes seconds, off of 100’s and 200’s. Where’s the fairness in that?!

    I really don’t care either way. But for those who whine about not being able to wear them any longer…get yourself a pair of diapers. The last time I checked, they make water proof ones these days.

  4. I hear all sides of this issues and I am firmly planted in the “who cares what we old fat folks wear? side of the issue”. If the issue is speed, then we all must go back to swimming in wool suits with skirts. And, we must outlaw all the “fast pools” with infinity edges. Lets be honest, the same folks are breaking the records, with or without suits. Strokes change and training changes every year. This is a money issue. If a master swimmer wants this suit, they will find a way to buy it.

  5. I’ve never worn more than briefs until I bought jammers a weeks ago, and I tend to agree with SDS.

  6. SDS, if you like diapers get yourself a diaper. Swimmers who express their preference for high-tech suits are serious swimmers and they are not whiners like you say. And nobody is forcing you to wear any particular suit so you should respect their opinions even if you disagree. If you like diapers you can have a diaper and just play in a kiddy pool in your own backyard!

  7. Swimmer…

    To each his own. My sympathies to the swimmer who relies on the suit for her ability to compete. Yes we are not in the same category as far as world class swimmers, but it is competition all the same.

    I’ve met people who have personally said they can’t believe these things are legal after dropping significant time with little changes in their training. College swimming last year showed us some very lack luster tapers at the end of the NCAA’s….why one might ask?…because they were banging out super fast results with tech suits very early in the year.

    As far as the whining…take a visit to the usms discussions forum. It seems that the suits have become a somewhat of necessity for those who are relying on them for good results, and even newly found status in the top ten category. I am a top ten swimmer and I never once raised an eyebrow at a suit assisted swim. To each his own.

    Gimme a diaper any day.

  8. They should not allow masters to keep the fast suits, but also let us use fins and and paddles. Why stop progress?

    /sarcasm off

  9. I am a female masters swimmer in the 40+age group who also swims open competition at international level. I have worn a knee length streamline suit for the past couple of years and only went into an FS II last season for a couple of meets. I dropped over 40 seconds off my 800 time and 6 seconds off my 100 fly time. It was not so much the streamline effect as the core stability provided in the full suit.

    Interestingly enough in returning to the kneelength suit (our open competition rules have already changed) I am pulling the same times. It would appear the psychological advantage of “knowing” i can swim that fast has been the greatest advantage.

    The return to knee suits will only alter times slightly, the outcome of who wins or comes second will still rely on the hard work and ability.

    Oh and my final 2cents…its a lot nicer knowing that I am not going to put some poor timekeeper off their lunch when I am crouched on the block in the longer suit be it knee or anlke length.

  10. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what everyone thinks or wants. Manufacturer’s are not making the suits for any other reason than for their bottom line. If the masses cannot wear them, they will not make them. They will not make these suits for one group.

  11. We are suffering the same effects of indecision in GB Masters, and opinions are mixed, much as shown on this forum. If an exeption is made for Masters, I wonder what the situation would be for 18-24yrs Seniors who swim in Masters competition. Would two sets of rules apply in a Masters meet, or would Seniors have to comply with Masters rules in that context? Messy?

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