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Adidas Suits Added To FINA 2010 List

Feb 1, 2010  - Craig Lord

The following article (and comment) was updated on February 2, the day after original publication

Adidas and Jaked are among new additions to the 2010 list of FINA approved suits as of today. The suits were added in the past 24 hours to the list of apparel that conforms to 2010 textile-only rules, though the date of the list has been kept at January 4, when the international federation published a list of approved suits that excluded adidas garments and named only two Jaked suits, both for men.

FINA's suits approvals commission rejected hundreds of suits in the current round of checks and said no to Jaked, SwimNews understands, on the grounds that its "textile" suit had a coating designed to increase buoyancy. The adidas suit was sent back for modification of a lining perceived to be a problem when it came to complying with guidelines covering 'breathability' in a part of a suit in which modesty is best served by two layers. There was no suggestion that adidas was in any way intending to break the rules that set limits so sensitive that readings may alter fractionally from one type of testing equipment to another.

Adidas, in keeping with Speedo's retention of the LZR name, has retained the Hydrofoil branding of 2009 for its 2010 suits and now has four garments approved by FINA. Jaked has eight standard textile suits on the latest FINA list.

SwimNews also understands that many companies have effectively been told to scrap prints on 2010 designs because such "coatings" may break a rule that forbids anything beyond one layer of uniform "material" with no secondary layering. If correct that fact produces more evidence that the approvals commission of FINA and the ruling Bureau are taking a firm line when it comes to observing the wishes of Congress in July last year. 

It also shows that this is a tricky period for manufacturers as they seek to produce large quantities of suits for the world market at relatively short notice, and at a time when the cost of dumping printed suits that comply in all other aspects to 2010 rules is believed to exceed $3m across the spectrum of several of the main players in the suits market (and that figure more likely to be conservative than an exaggeration).

All in all, a costly mistake and a costly exercise. But the true costs, it seems, are not being felt by FINA - which led the sport down a dark road - but by suit makers, some leading, others led on the way to swimming's shadowland. Ultimately, all were protagonists in suits wars started in sensational fashion by Speedo and brought to a thundering close by arena, the company that warned FINA in the loudest of tones against the course it was on in spring 2008 (with the backing of adidas and several other key players at that 2008 gathering in Manchester) and then, given no choice as a business that relies on swimming for its existence, emerged the winner of the last shiny battle of Rome back in July.

The X-Glide and the Hydrofoil were the answers to FINA's acceptance of a Jaked booster suit that should never have been allowed in the race pool.

Water under the ruins of a bridge that so-called technology bombarded in 2008-09. Here is the new, new FINA approved suits listdated January 4 but released February 1, 2010.

Comment: It is ever more clear that what swimming needs is what was so painfully absent in 2008 and 2009: stability and absolute clarity from FINA when it comes to the lines that may not be crossed by suit makers. That job is made all the more difficult at a time when some of the smaller players in a market that they are new to continue, according to senior sources, to submit suits designed to enhance performance in the hope that they make it past the gatekeepers. 

Perhaps it is time for FINA to consider something like a three strikes and you're out clause in its suit guidelines for those perceived by the scientific experts working for FINA to have deliberately tried to bypass the rules: three suit submissions that fail and the maker must serve a suspension. After all, it is one strike and you're out when it comes to doping and some other offenses. At this time of transition back to common sense, it is clear that a cultural shift has been accepted and made by the big traditional players in the suits market but is still to be made by some of the newest and smallest players in the business of producing apparel for the race pool that now must not aid buoyancy, speed or endurance. 

That is the case under rules of the sport that will be in place until 2013 provided that the new FINA Bureau honours the will of the ruling Congress, provided that provision to tamper with bylaws is used in that context and never abused, and provided that there is no move to alter the federation's Constitution in a way that would negate agreements and commitments already in place. 

Rules are one thing, guidelines another. A fair few suit makers are deeply unhappy about some aspects of the current 2010 approvals regime - not because, in most cases, they wish a return to days of shiny chaos and circus (which some do still want but hope and plot in vain) but because they cannot build production and marketing and sales on the basis of multiple clarifications that follow, rather than precede production. 

That is, of course, a two-way street and if guidelines are unclear to a suit maker, that suits maker must (and some have) contact FINA to seek clarification before pressing the button on the presses. Many did just that, and adidas making a modification as it has done is a happy moment for the sport of swimming, a sport richer for the presence of such a sporting giant, and not only in financial terms.

Just as swimmers will live through a time of adjustment in the months ahead, so too will suit makers and scientific experts who must be ever-vigilant when it comes to products that can shape-change at the speed of a shiny suit in these days of rapid advance in the world of fabrics, some of which stems from a military world that has applications in the spheres of medicine and fashion but has no place in the world of fair sport.

Integrity was one of the watchwords on which Dr Julio Maglione hung his peg and reputation as he took office as FINA President back in July. There is every reason to believe that there are some in FINA who would have him waiver from  that stance but no reason as yet to suggest that he intends to do any such thing. 

The question that remains unanswered but will not go away is clear: does any member of the FINA Bureau have a personal financial interest in a suit maker submitting products for approval? That was surely the case in 2009 and should not have been so. It is time for such interests to be declared and if and when they are time for those involved to make a choice as to which cap fits best. And declaration of interest should be made obligatory among all who have the power of a vote or a say in the decision-making process of FINA. A professional era calls for professionalism from those who govern aquatic sports.