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July 3: A Return To Textile-Only Suits?

Jun 5, 2009  - Craig Lord

Sources close to FINA's executive have let it be known that the ruling body has almost made up its mind: the fast suits, the non-permeables, the non-textiles must go. From January 1, 2010, there will be a return to textile-only suits depending on the votes of the 22 members of the FINA Bureau now being asked for the views to be returned to HQ by July 3. 

The FINA suits commission is to meet in mid-June, to coincide with the June 19 deadline for resubmission for independent testing of suits modified since failing the first round of checks. The commission will not only look at the rest of 2009 but will consider where the line should be drawn from January 1, 2010.

The new mindset of the FINA executive is not hard to follow: we asked suit makers in good faith to work with us to reduce and weed out performance enhancement; some did, others took our invitation as a cue to press ahead with further development of devices aimed at enhancing performance beyond the natural capacity of the swimmer; we cannot control that world, not with science and not with clever wording of rules; time to return to textiles as soon as possible and then frame that world within the new suit approvals regime that means what it says when it comes to claiming that suits will be tested for compliance.

Once the views of the Bureau are known, FINA will be in a position to let suit makers know what they must set their production lines to for 2010. 

Meantime, John Leonard, the head of ASCA and member of the FINA coaches commission, has given the following useful analysis of where the sport is on the suits issue and where it is going:

  • FINA has published its initial list of “approved suits” based on the Phase One Criteria. The list can be found on FINA’s website. These are suits approved for use in Rome and this summer.
  • On or about June 19, FINA will publish a list of any supplemental suits that will be allowed for this summer. (this list would come from suits rejected in round one, and given a chance to come back with a re-engineered suit.) Indications are that not many if any suits will be on this list.
  • FINA will check all suits for exact compliance for use in Rome. Any suits used for records outside of Rome will also be checked.
  • In later summer, FINA will publish the rules that will be in place for Jan. 1, 2010. Indications are that this list of rules for suits will include a clause that eliminates all non-permeable materials from all suits. No rubber, no plastic, nothing by fabric. This will place us “back in time” around 2007. Future suits will have a “chip” imbedded at creation to prove compliance to the rules that can be checked in the ready room with a hand held device. (like your I phone.)
  • In late summer, but before Sept. 1, 2009, we expect the NCAA Rules committee to indicate the rules for the use of suits in NCAA competition for the 09-10 season including all qualifying and championship competition. Likely that they will follow the FINA lead.
  • During 2010, debate will take place on further rules. Recommendations from coaches world-wide are very similar...no zippers, no outside fasteners. (climb into your suit) and for me, Knees to Navel coverage only and for women, hips to shoulder straps only. Limiting coverage limits the ability to “engineer” suits.

That latter point is key to the next stage of the decision-making process. It is possible to engineer textile suits in a way that is problematic in terms of providing stimulus to the central nervous system. As Leonard suggests, that can be dealt with by limiting coverage of material.