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European Coaches Urge Blueseventy Ban

Nov 30, 2008  - Craig Lord

European coaches have urged FINA and LEN to investigate the Blueseventy bodysuit worn by swimmers on their way to six world short-course records in the past month, with a view to banning it. The coaches want the suit removed in time for the European short-course Championships in Rijeka the week after next, according to exchanges seen by SwimNews. There is, of course, little prospect of that happening in the slow-moving world of a fast-moving sport.

Amid exchanges between concerned coaches - including the man who in January will be head coach to Russia, Dr Andrei Vorontsov - in the past few weeks is an example of two young breaststroke specialists who wiped more than a second off their best times over 50m in a Blueseventy and were then put to the test in a “standard suit” a week later. Both were a second slower. "We did not expected [sic] such results. Normally, they should be maybe 0.2-0.3 seconds faster than [previous best] .. what happened was beyond our expectations,” wrote one coach.

The suits were bought for the swimmers to use just an hour or so before they wore them in a race (and at all) for the first time. In the coaches' exchange, the swimmers are quoted as saying that the Blueseventy “changed our body position and significantly increased buoyancy. It was just different swimming, different swimming technique...". One expert told SwimNews that coaches are claiming that the Blueseventy requires a change in technique because of its "wetsuit" build. A coaching nightmare and an issue that is contributing a sense of chaos that carries risks of serious financial damage to swimming.

Complaints against the Blueseventy, a suit born in the triathlon pool, are also being voiced by rival suit makers. One source told SwimNews: "This is scary, dangerous stuff. The likes of Speedo, adidas, Arena and others have been working on products that support the body’s core strength, that support the athlete. The Blueseventy works in another way. It’s a flotation aid, in our opinion.”

Blueseventy may or may not beg to differ. Looking at their claims for the suit on their own website indicates that it is a "device" that, without a shadow of a doubt, aids speed. It is hard to fathom how at least some swimmers would not also benefit from the effects of what some leading coaches and sports scientists, among others, are openly calling buoyancy. In the absence of independent laboratory testing - which does not form party of FINA's approvals regime - it is impossible to say for sure whether buoyancy is an issue or not. 

Here is the letter, copied exactly, that has now been sent to LEN on behalf of a body of concerned coaches in Europe:

Dear Sir or Madam,

We are addressing to you with a request for an urgent response and clarification due to oncoming very soon the final major swimming even of the 2008 - the European Short Course Championships. It will be in our mutual interests to protect the Championships (and other events in the nearest future) from any doubts concerning the fair play principle and reliability of swimming achievements. 

Reflecting the views of a number of leading European coaches:

Swimming as a sport, was always full of objectivity and responsibility towards fair play. The outcomes of the last sporting events and information on progress in swimsuits technology, speak for themselves. Interference of that technology creates a real danger of losing credibility not only to the world swimming movement, but also FINA and LEN authority.   

During the World Swimming Cups 2008 series a few World, European and many dozens of national records were broken by athletes who used the NERO COMP “Blueseventy” swimsuit. Our personal experience showed that the personal lifetime best performances in 50m breaststroke can be easily improved by 0,6-1.0 second with the NERO COMP Blueseventy swimsuit. The mentioned improvement was achieved at official swimming competitions. It should be stressed that our swimmers bought “Blueseventy” suits just within 1 hour before the race and had no time to test them. They had a lot of experience and a long swimming career and were shocked and shaken by own “progress” in performance. After the race they came to unanimous conclusion that this model of swimsuit significantly improved their buoyancy and changed the body position in the water.

The facts mentioned above as well as opinion on recent situation with swimming suits expressed by many other swimming coaches and swimmers, lead us to the questioning of the legitimacy of the usage of NERO COMP “Blueseventy” swimsuit at official swimming (pool) competitions. The results of the research can be found in the following letter (THE BLUE SEVENTY SWIMSUIT IS USING NEOPRENE WHICH IS NOT ALLOWED IN OLYMPIC SWIMMING). 

From available information the following conclusions can be made: 

1. NERO COMP swimsuit IS NOT in any aspect (external or internal – regarding the composition) different from the triathlon NERO 10K swimsuit from the same company – Blueseventy.

2. Yamamoto SCS fabric is the key ingredient of both swimsuits. This material is a modified neoprene material. Neoprene is known as the material, which isolates the body from the water, keeps the body temperature and improves the body buoyancy in the water. This is why neoprene is widely used in triathlon, scuba diving, and other marine sports.

3. The Blueseventy company proves the legal usage of the NERO COMP swimsuit with the Application for Swimwear Approval – Date of application 30 September 2007 which was issued by FINA. But what is very surprisingly, that the SAME Application for Swimwear Approval – Date of application 30 September 2007, was issued for the legal usage of the triathlon Nero 10K swimsuit.

Considering the mentioned above facts and in search of the Fair Play, we would like to ask following questions to the members of the FINA and LEN offices: 

1. Does the Blueseventy or any other swim wear company need any official approval for the usage of neoprene material or its modification in the swimsuits for swimming (pool) official competitions?

2. Why does not FINA’s Application for Swimwear Approval – Date of application 30 September 2007 include the specific name of the swimsuit model for which it is issued?

3. Since Neoprene and NERO COMP swimsuit give unquestionable advantage to swimmers using it by improving the buoyancy, is it reasonable and responsible to give those swimmers that advantage? 

4. If FINA and LEN can clarify the questions regarding the legal usage of this swimsuit? 


With the best regards, Dimitrij Mancevic, PhD

End of letter.

Comment: The sport of swimming sits on a knife's edge. It needs a decision. Now that the WFSGI report and response from suit makers is in the hands of FINA, the international federation must now set a date for the Think Tank muted by director Cornel Marculescu and ensure, without failure, that as March dawns next year, a new framework for the sport is in place and ready for Bureau approval. This crisis will not go away - in fact, it will only get worse - until that position is reached to the satisfaction of those who spend their lives preparing athletes for success and preparing the environment in which those athletes can achieve their full potential without the help of a suit that takes the human body well beyond its natural limits and opens the gateway to future products that carry serious risk of being harmful to health but would not be kept at bay under the current rules and approvals regime.