The FINA executive came under even greater pressure to do the right thing on suits tonight in Rome as delegates heading for Congress received an appeal from USA Swimming to do the right thing and deliver swimming and performance back to where it belongs: with swimmers, coaches and entourage, and the element critical to the nature of the sport - water. An amended proposal is gathering momentum.
Here is what USA Swimming delegates are urging FINA members to support:
"The true shareholders of our sport are the millions of participants worldwide. As delegates here in Rome, we have the sincere obligation to represent these individuals to the best of our abilities. For over a year we have tried to find a positive solution for the technical suit issue and unfortunately, those efforts have been unsuccessful. It is now our responsibility to make sure that something positive is done on this topic.
It is important that we take a stand that will correct the situation and the most effective ways to do this are to limit the area of the body that the swimsuit can cover and dictating the type of material from which the suit can be manufactured. By passing the amendment below (effective 1 January 2010) we will greatly improve the situation and at the same time give the FINA Bureau time to discuss buoyancy, permeability, and all the other issues which might need to be addressed.
It is important that we bring this issue up and ask the Congress to take action now to protect the future of our sport. We believe the athlete must take the center stage, not the swimsuit.
United States Aquatic Sports did submit legislation for FINA BL 5.3, but we would like to amend this proposal as follows:
"In swimming competitions the competitor must wear only one swimsuit in one or two pieces which for men shall not extend above the navel nor below the knee, and for women, shall not cover the neck, extend past the shoulder, nor shall extend below knee. All swimsuits shall be made from textile materials."
United States Aquatic Sports & USA Swimming
Bravo USA Swimming! Some minor but important detail: the jammer should not extend below the break in the upper thigh muscle; the shoulder should be a strap; and the back open. textile needs to be defined. Something like: a percentage of nylon and/or polyester with some Lycra content. Allow no coatings. Suit to be made of the same fabric throughout.
For those who feel that the above is retrograde, going-back, they need to ask themselves why they think a body such as USA Swimming would wish to propose such a thing. Then go and read up, find out, seek explanation. And if you can't vote for knowledge vote with faith in the fact that swimming will be better off without the bodysuits.
Failure to understand the serious nature of what is being proposed will not sink swimmers, coaches and performance next time round but FINA itself.
It is not too late to awaken a dormant, aesthetic sport that allowed swimmers to celebrate their performances free of the taint of performance-enhancement. Indeed, now is the time to take the bold step. What has happened is not technology or science or progress. It is money and glamour and a game that will feed money into the coffers of icons and officials; it is non-textile fabric that provides props and supports, that helps swimmers glide, that shades identity and efforts.
It was a great day for swimming: the kiss of life was administered to a rule that holds dear the idea that a suit should not aid speed nor buoyancy nor endurance. Performance belongs to the performer. The officials behind that move did themselves proud. They took back control of their sport. No longer acting in fear but with the courage of their convictions.
There was another time in swimming history when the many were wounded by the bad practice of the few. FINA can yet save its skin: by voting for skin - and water and swimmers and swimming.