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France Bans 100% Poly/Neo Suits

Jun 29, 2009  - Craig Lord

France, disappointed in FINA's lack of clarity on the suits issue, has announced that it will impose the May 19, and not the June 19 list of approved suits in all domestic competition.

  No 100% polyurethane suits will be allowed. That means that the likes of Fred Bousquet and Alain Bernard may wear their Jaked01 and arena X-Glide in the wider world but back home in France they may not.

 The ruling is not aimed at them, of course: it is aimed at the youth of France and relieves parents and guardians of the need to fork out a small fortune on suits that will not survive the year in the race pool. 

 The decision, led by Francis Luyce, French member of the FINA Bureau, sends a strong message to the international federation: there is an election and a vote coming up at Congress in Rome and those on the side of the chaos and the suits crisis had better keep their heads low.

 In a dig at those who appear to prize more highly the interests of suit makers and not swimmers, the French federation (FFN) issued the following statement: "The French federation always works in the best interests of swimmers and swimming.

"As we know, for the past six monnths, FINA has been unable to reach a clear and ethical position on suits. The changes in direction, the lack of clarity is destabilising for athletes, teams and national federations."

It goes on to say that the FFN has always observed FINA rules because rules were there to make sure that swimmers could prepare for the biggest occasions knowing that fairness of competition and a level playing field were part of the deal.

But the FFN now had no choice but to impose tougher rules domestically than those that applied for the time being internationally at a time when "at international level, decisions are being taken for reasons other than sport".

"In that context," the statement continues, "the FFN will not recognise the latest list of FINA approved suits. It will instead observe the list issued on May 19. That implies that all [100%] polyurethane suits are banned in French waters, specifically for the upcoming youth championships of France."

The FFN then expresses regret that FINA had not been able to work together, at Bureau level, to find the right solution to the suits crisis.

Then comes the nail in the coffin for the last years of the presidency of Mustapha Larfaoui: "It is not possible to [let this pass] without saying something. The president of the the French Federation, Monsieur Francis Luyce, will be present in Rome as a member of the renewed FINA Bureau.

"He will canvass for a new mandate at the heart of FINA with the aim of behaving in a wholly different way because the swimming needs to rediscover wisdom and indisputable performances."

What France has now made public, other federations around the world are echoing in private. The current FINA leadership is in a hard place, Larfaoui's weak leadership on the suits issue now coming in for ever growing criticism.