FINA disagrees with critics that new suit gives swimmers edge

Updated: April 8, 2008, 2:19 PM ET
Associated Press

MANCHESTER, England -- If the current trend continues, world records could become the norm after the International Swimming Federation ruled Speedo's new high-tech LZR Racer suit is legal.

FINA delays new start platform debut

MANCHESTER, England -- The international swimming federation has delayed the introduction of new start platforms until after the Beijing Olympics.

The move was made at the FINA Congress before the short course world championships, which begin Wednesday.

Swimming authorities decided that it was too soon before the games to make changes.

The new high-tech start blocks allow swimmers to start as runners do in sprints, pushing off of an angled starting block.

Also Tuesday, FINA became the first international federation to incorporate the new version of WADA's World Anti-Doping Code into its own rules after a unanimous vote.

-- The Associated Press

The LZR has been worn for 18 of the 19 world records set since it was introduced in February. Critics have claimed the swimsuit makes competitors more buoyant, but FINA disagreed.

"There is no scientific proof that it helps somehow, to the best of FINA's knowledge," FINA told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

FINA is set to meet with swimsuit manufacturers at the short-course world championships this weekend in Manchester. Other companies are due to come out soon with suits to compete with the LZR.

"The meeting on Saturday is not because of this, it was already scheduled before. It's a coincidence that FINA will be meeting with all the manufacturers -- Speedo, Arena, Diana, Nike, Adidas," FINA said.

"They are going to revise the procedure for approval of swimsuits."

FINA said the present approval system is "very rigorous" and that the LZR passed a series of tests.

Italy head coach Alberto Castagnetti is one of the leading opponents of the new suits, which were banned at the Italian championships last week.

"This is going down a very dangerous road," Castagnetti told the AP. "It removes the purely competitive aspect of the sport and puts outside factors into play. Swimming has always been based on ability. Now, there are other aspects. It's like technological doping. It's not in the spirit of the sport.

The one world record set by a swimmer not wearing the LZR since mid-February was from Federica Pellegrini of Italy in the 400-meter freestyle at the European championships last month.

"It would be one thing if it was Michael Phelps setting all these records, but a lot of them have come from fifth- and sixth-ranked swimmers," Castagnetti said.

Italy is sponsored by Arena, which launched its new Powerskin R-evolution suit last month.

No Italian swimmers will wear the new suits at the short-course worlds, but the team will adapt before the Beijing Olympics in August.

"We certainly won't go to the Olympics at a disadvantage. That would be like conceding defeat," Castagnetti said. "We'll have to adapt."

American swimmers are free to choose their own swim wear and sponsors. Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming, sees no problem with the new suits.

"The fact that FINA reiterated support for their own policy is not surprising. I guess it's good news," Wielgus said. "This happens every four years when the manufacturers come out with new equipment. It's very similar to 2000 [when the first full body suits came out].

"We're trying to keep the focus on our athletes, training and preparation. It's similar to how when they flip-flopped the schedule for Beijing to morning finals. We don't want it to affect our approach."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press