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Whither The Racing Brief?

Dec 31, 2009  - Craig Lord

On the eve of new suit rules that ban bodysuits and the use of performance-enhancing non-textiles such as polyurethane in race apparel, Australian and American swimming parents are set to call on their federations and FINA to explain why they are finding it almost impossible to buy a pair of racing briefs.

SwimNews has had access to a large number of e-mails doing the rounds on the subject. The views of many parents can be summed up by the question posed by one parent when looking down the list of 2010 FINA approved suits: "Please explain why the Speedo Aquablade Record Breaker classic has been omitted and the same in the kneeskin included (are they certifiably insane)? Note that the new Speedo LZR Racer Elite Record Breaker Classic and full-knee are both in!"

To take account of the fact that some manufacturers are not submitting less expensive suits without material cover of the thigh for approval by FINA, some federations have written rules  that allow "competitors to wear swimsuits that conform to the 2010 FINA style and material guidelines or have not been submitted to FINA for approval". 

Suits that extend down to the knee cost much more than those that do not but under new FINA rules ought not to provide any performance benefits beyond traditional suits that stop at the hip. You can read a Forbes Carlile editorial on that subject.

That briefs of one kind or another are available can hardly be questioned: the training/warm-up sessions at recent meets in November and December featured almost no other cut of suit. The questions are these: are briefs made of the latest "textile fabrics" and engineered in the way that knee-length suits of 2010 are engineered available; and what advantage does a knee-length suit provide over a brief suit, given that the rule states that no such thing should be a part of the sport of swimming.

SwimNews understands that the issue will be raised with the FINA Bureau at the executive's meeting in mid-January. At that meeting, the Bureau will also consider a proposal to have two sets of world records listed on all start and result sheets - one for the booster suits era, another for any records that get past the standards that stood on January 1, 2008. 

Critics of that proposal are divided, some saying "leave the records exactly as they are and face a period of time in which some of the current world records will stand for many years", others saying "draw a line either side of the booster-suit records, that allows all efforts to be honoured and recognised, while allowing the sport to face the future in a way that allows comparison of comparable records - textile suits pre 2008 and textile suits post 2009".

The deadline for the silly suits circus that shredded the thread of history in swimming is midnight tonight. Great news for the sport. For FINA, however, there is some serious housekeeping yet to do, the mopping up not yet over.