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FINA Federations Add Swimsuit To Rule SW10.7

Jul 23, 2009  - Craig Lord

The final deed is not quite done, the nail not yet in the coffin, but today is a great day for swimming: the FINA executive now has no choice (and we understand that the incoming regime wants no choice) but to rid the waters of the shiny suits that have plunged the sport of swimming ever deeper into crisis since February  2008: 103 nations have unanimously voted (one source suggested that there was one dissenting vote) for a change to Rule SW10.7.

The FINA Technical Congress in Rome today agreed the recommendation of the FINA Technical Swimming Committee, proposed by the USA and seconded by Australia:

Rule SW10.7 now reads:

  • No swimmer shall be permitted to use or wear any device or swimsuit that may aid his/her speed, buoyancy or endurance during a competition (such as webbed gloves, flippers, fins, etc.).  Goggles may be worn. Any kind of tape on the body is not permitted. 

That means this: all use of non-textile fabrics ought to be barred from 2010. It is undeniable that suits using non-textile fabrics, from the Speedo LZR to the Jaked01 aid speed and  buoyancy, with endurance as a consequence. Up to FINA and its review board of fabric experts to draw a line that meets Rule SW10.7:

  • Define textile.
  • Define profile of suit. 

FINA Congress tomorrow is expected to rubber stamp the Technical Congress decision, as is customary. Flip-flopping would be ill-advised. Fantastic news. It is tragic that "device" was not interpreted as it ought to have been in 2008. Now, well down the road and on the cusp of a circus that will be agonising for swimmers and coaches forced to make decision on suits just to remain competitive, the international federation representatives have shown its executive that if it lacks guts then they will step in and show the courage needed.

Let the FINA executive know today: you face a revolt, you face total loss of control, you face ruination if you do not listen to the views of 103 nations. Let there be no mistake: your backs are up against the wall. Time to choose: the interests of swimmers and swimming or the interests of johnny-come-lately commercial enterprises.

When SwimNews delivered the news to Alan Thompson at the Australian team press conference, he said: "It's great". 

Wonderful news for Forbes Carlile, the veterns Aussie coach who has drummed the drum of opposition to enhancement suits from  day one. Thompson said that Carlile was "the only man" who had raised an eyebrow and put in a call of protest on the very day when Eamon Sullivan donned a new Speedo LZR and knocked back the world 50m freestyle record that had been held by Alex Popov since 2000.

In a statement from USA Swimming, Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, said: "Today’s decision at the Technical Swimming Congress was a strong indication of how FINA’s member federations feel about the swimsuit issue. We will all be very interested to see what happens at the FINA General Congress tomorrow."

Indeed it will. USA Swimming has proposed legislation that would limit the amount of the body that could be covered by a swimsuit, an issue that will be addressed at the General Congress tomorrow.    

"We felt like that was a good victory," said Mark Schubert, head coach and general manager of the US national team. "It's still a bit unclear on how it will affect the swimsuit issue, because we still need to define what the rules are going to be. We still have some work to do but it was something in the right direction."

SwimNews understands that Jacques Rogge, IOC President, has been in touch with FINA to ask what steps the federation was taking on restoring credibility to one of the biggest of Olympic sports. We also understand that Mustapha Larfaoui, outgoing president of FINA, apologised to organisers of the Rome 2009 championships at a banquet last night for the damage done by the suits crisis. 

The apology was aimed at commercial interests not swimmers. For this morning Larfaoui and executive director Cornel Marculescu opposed the voted agreed by the 103 nations. It is understood that at least one suit maker has its 2010 poly bodysuit line ready. Never mind -  they can always cut them up to make some corporate cushions to sit on.

Jim Wood, a coach and also President of USA Swimming, federation to the world's aquatic superpower, said: "They [FINA] have failed to understand the gravity of this. We have been talking to FINA for a long time now. If they cannot provide the leadership required, we have to take action. We need to make decisions in the interests of the major stakeholders in this sport: the athletes. Without fairness we have no sport."

Other decisions of the day:

FINA Technical Swimming Congress

Provisions have been made concerning the use of 10-lane pools: in this case, the fastest swimmer shall be placed in lane 5, and the swim-off will take place in the event of equal times in the heats for the tenth place or twentieth place;

From now on, swimmers must proceed to the first call room 20 minutes before the start of their events. Then, after inspection, they proceed to the final call room;

Precisions on the breaststroke technique were made;

In medley swimming, it was clarified that each stroke must cover ¼ of the distance;

It was precisely defined that all individual races must be held as separate gender events;

World Records can be established only in fresh water and by competitors wearing swimsuits approved by FINA.

 FINA Extraordinary Congress

In masters diving synchro competitions, competitors from different clubs within the same Federation are permitted to take part as a team;

New events were added to the masters swimming programme and clarifications were made in breaststroke;

In masters water polo competitions, it is now clarified that all players listed on the game roster will be entitled to play. Moreover, for age groups 30+, 35+, 40+ and 45+, the game will consist of four periods of seven minutes each; for age groups 50+, 55+, 60+, etc, each of these periods will be of six minutes;

In masters synchro competitions, the events are solo, duet, trio, team and combination. The technical and free routines of solo, duet, trio and team count as one event. The Combination - by itself - is one event. At the World Championships, the programme shall be the Technical and Free Routines and Combination. A competitor shall be permitted to swim a routine in only one age group. Finally, new specifications regarding the reserves and the draw in synchro were approved, and the age was defined as being the one as of December 31 of the year of competition.