Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fina cracks down on hi-tech suits

World swimming governing body Fina has moved to limit the impact of the controversial hi-tech swimsuits.

Last year saw an astonishing 108 world records broken, 79 of them by swimmers wearing one suit, the Speedo LZR Racer.

But following a three-day meeting in Dubai, Fina has stipulated swimsuits should not cover the neck and must not extend past the shoulders and ankles.

The changes, which will be in place for July's world championships, also limit the suits' thickness and buoyancy.

"Fina wishes to recall the main and core principle is that swimming is a sport essentially based on the physical performance of the athlete," said a statement from swimming's world governing body.

The first swimsuit to combine stitch-free, ultrasonically welded seams, water-resistant fabric and strategically-placed polyurethane panels (designed by Nasa), the LZR took the swimming world by storm last year.

At the Olympics in Beijing, LZR swimmers, most notably Michael Phelps, won 94% of the golds on offer and broke 23 of the 25 records set in the Cube.

But opponents of the hi-tech suits argue the buoyancy they create amounts to "technological doping".

And matters came to a head in December when 17 world records tumbled at the European Short-Course Championships with the sight of swimmers squeezing into more than one suit in an attempt to compress their bodies and trap air for buoyancy dismaying many observers.

Fina also intends to limit the use of non-permeable materials in the suits and only recognize world records if approved has been used.

Suits to be used from 1 January 2010 will have to be put in for approval by 1 November.

And future submissions will have to be made 12 months in advance of a world championship or an Olympic Games, with the approved models to be available at least six months prior to the events.

Fina will also publish a list of approved models and these will be used in competitions starting 1 January 2010.


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