FINA wants to examine slick new swimsuit after wave of world records

Updated: March 24, 2008, 8:19 PM ET
Associated Press

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands -- The slick new swimsuit that has led to 12 world records already this year will be examined by swimming's governing body amid debate about the quest for speed in the pool.

[+] EnlargeAlain Bernard
JohnThys/AFP/Getty ImagesFrenchman Alain Bernard wore the LZR suit when he broke three world records in three nights at the European championships.

"There are concerns about suits being like triathlon suits, which are thicker," FINA executive director Cornel Marculsecu told SwimNews.com on Monday. "There are buoyancy issues. We have to review this."

There have been 13 world records set since mid-February, 12 in the LZR Racer, a full-length body swimsuit made by Speedo.

Federica Pellegrini of Italy ended the one-brand exclusivity Monday night, lowering the record for the 400-meter freestyle in a new Arena outfit.

Marculsecu said the suit would be discussed at the world short-course championships next month in Manchester, England.

France's Alain Bernard was wearing the LZR suit when he broke three world records in three nights at the European championships -- twice in the 100 freestyle and also the 50 freestyle.

FINA approved the $550 suit, which is made of extremely lightweight, water repellant fabric -- electronically bonded rather than sewn together -- with special panels to reduce drag.

Bernard has an individual deal with Speedo but his French team is linked to a rival swimwear company and has called for an inquiry into the suit.

"I think it deserves a real debate. It's even worth being analyzed by an ethical committee," French swimming federation technical director Claude Fauquet said.

Speedo also launched a new suit before the world championships in Australia last year.

"At the Melbourne world championships, 11 records fell in four days and there was no call for that suit to be banned," Rob Davies, general manager of Speedo Australia, said Monday by telephone. "It is FINA approved. It is available to everyone."

The increasing use of such suits has led some swimmers to question the growing importance of technology in competition.

"It is going to be a technological battle come the Olympics," South African swimmer Roland Schoeman said at the launch of the Powerskin R-evolution suit by Speedo's rival Arena -- and worn Monday night by Pellegrini.

"It would be great to see the final of the Olympics just be basically people and their talent, like Popov when he was just swimming in his briefs," said Schoeman, the world 50-meter butterfly champion. "That is true testament to an individual's work ethic and ability -- more than the suit to help correct any imperfections."

Alexander Popov swam in traditional briefs. The Russian's long-standing 50-meter freestyle world record was broken in February by Eamon Sullivan of Australia, who was wearing the Speedo suit. Bernard lowered it again on Sunday night.

But Schoeman acknowledged a change was unlikely.

"It would be like Tiger Woods going to Nike and saying, 'I want to go back to a wooden driver,'" Schoeman said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press