A relevant article:
AUSTRALIAN coaches are considering banning the controversial swimsuits that contributed significantly to the rewriting of the record books before and during the Beijing Olympic Games.
The coaches have been in talks and are preparing to make a recommendation to Swimming Australia’s board on the suitability of the suits – the most contentious being the Speedo LZR Racer, which is expensive, lasts only a handful of swims and is difficult to source. There is a push by some coaches to follow the lead of the US coaches and ban the use of such high-tech suits by swimmers under 12. Other coaches want the swimsuit banned across the board.
Australian head coach Alan Thompson said a formal response had not yet been formulated. “We are having discussions about it and doing further investigations – looking at FINA’s approval, the rules in the rule book and the suits in general and canvassing the philosophies in swimming, whether it is good or bad,” Thompson said yesterday.
“Hopefully, we can come to some sort of position by the end of the year.”
The world governing body, FINA, faces elections next year, with long-standing president Mustapha Larfaoui of Algeria likely to be challenged by the FINA treasurer Julio Maglione of Uruguay. Both men are under increasing pressure to state their views about the future of the revolutionary swimsuits, which use compression and low-drag material more akin to plastics than fabrics to improve times, and have polarised the swimming community.
The clamour for the suit to be banned – and to allow the world records to stand but with an asterisk beside pre-February 2008 times – has come about after startling analysis of the times recorded at the Olympics in August.
Professor Joel Stager of Indiana University found that, mathematically, the 100 metres men’s freestyle times set in Beijing would not have been reached for another 16 years, if not for the suit. He also found 60 of the all-time top 100 times were swum this year since the Speedo suit became available.
Statistically, he found the improvement of times was between 1.3 to 2.6 per cent. Swimmers across the board, not just the swimmers who set 43 new world records between February and August – were improving their times by about 2 per cent. “The swimsuit no doubt helped people,” said Thompson, who claimed training methods and sports science had also contributed to the dramatic results.
FINA historian Craig Lord has called the results remarkable, and has lobbied for a return to skin. “The more of it the better,” Lord said. “Shorts for men and shorts up to shoulder straps should be the limit when it comes to allowable suit wear.”
Forbes Carlile, a pioneer in the sport, said FINA should introduce a standard racing costume for all. “The future harm which is being done by this suit – the prohibitive cost and exclusivity of use, even without addressing moral and ethical considerations, is great,” Carlile said.