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Risk Of Dubai Being Roberval Revisited?

Nov 5, 2010  - Craig Lord

FINA continues to add very many suit models to its list of approved race garments, while the latest 97 suits, added to the published list since October 15 in various stages to November 2, have been backdated to July 1 approval. And days before those 97, 51 suits were added over two days. 

The latest approvals pave the way for use of suits that have only just been placed in the public domain to be used at the world s/c titles in Dubai next month and world long-course titles in Shanghai next July, in contravention of the 12-month rule agreed by FINA Congress in July 2009.

Should suits that have been placed in the ken of swimmers less than six weeks before a world championships be allowed in Dubai, then the northern winter showcase may well court the kind of controversy witnessed in Roberval at world open water championships, where some suits many swimmers had never seen before and were unaware of were worn by a few swimmers, some of who raced to medals. 

Serious questions remain over suits and the handling of the entire process of approvals at a time when manufacturers have been sent letters from FINA HQ to indicate that flexibility and ad hoc decision-making rules over the rule book and the will of FINA's ruling Congress.

One source told SwimNews today that the marketplace
-availability date of January 1, 2011, for suits that can be used at Shanghai 2011 world titles has been shifted to a looser "six months out". By whose say so? Did the Bureau agree a change to what Congress voted for? Did the FINA Executive take that decision? And if so, why? The rule was not put there to suit suit makers. It was placed there to promote fairness for the people who matter most: the athletes. 

And what, with that thought in mind, should we make of this from an official close to the suits approvals process: " ... politics are prevalent, FINA spends disproportionate time with manufacturers ... the FINA raison d'etre (swimmers) almost gets in the way."

FINA is there to represent athletes first and foremost but recent events on a number of fronts appear to challenge the validity of that assertion.

SwimNews has asked FINA for clarification, with the following questions:

  • those suits just added would clearly not have been available to swimmers until this week, less than 6 weeks before a world championships. We all know what Congress agreed in 2009.
  • so, can swimmers heading for Dubai wear these latest backdated suits in competition?
  • and when does FINA envisage closing the list in order that no more additions can be made in accordance with the guidelines and rules agreed by Congress in 2009?

We will post the answers here when we get them.

Events in Roberval led the world's leading open water swimmer, Thomas Lurz (GER) to question FINA decisions. In June, swimmers had been allowed to wear suits with zippers, the Portuguese federation having been granted permission for that by FINA HQ in Lausanne. 

Complicating matters was the appearance of suits only just approved, including garments warn by close rivals of Lurz. The German athlete made an appeal, his argument sound: were suits worn by swimmers in his races that he had had no access to? Part of the argument is also over the use in Roberval of a suit with a zipper, an African referee having overlooked it because, documentation suggests, he had not brought himself up to date on suit rules. 

That charge could also be put to FINA HQ, given the erroneous answer provided to Portugal when it asked: zippers ok? 

Meanwhile, let us remind ourselves of the will of the ruling FINA Congress in July 2009:

"All FINA approved swimwear to be used at the Olympic Games and FINA World Championships must be approved by FINA at least twelve (12) months prior to the start of the respective competition. In addition, it must be available for all competitors by 1st January of the year of the Olympic Games or FINA World Championships."

The level of additions that continue to flood the latest approved suit lists, with garment approvals being granted backdated approval five months after the date, on the eve of a world s/c championships (and no, Congress never meant to distinguish between world championships long and short when it came to fairness and availability) and just seven months before the main FINA world championships (Shanghai 2011) in clear contravention of the rule, clearly demands clarification.

Why? To answer that question requires us to ask why Congress agreed that 12-month approval deadline: answer - fairness, available to all, no-one gets a last-hour advantage etc etc. How then does granting suits a five-month backdate and approval on the eve of major competition fit into the spirit of what Congress agreed? 

The answer is that it does not. One explanation given is that these are suits that were rejected earlier in the year, and have now been resubmitted with the necessary changes made to make them legal.

It was 7.44am on November 2 when the latest change to the published list of approved suits was made in Lausanne, according to the FINA website. 

That makes the following moves in just over two weeks:

  • October 13 = +3
  • October 14 = +48

  • October 28 = +42

  • October 29 = +54
  • November 2 = +1

That's 97 suits, up from 612 to 709.

Among the latest additions are four new Blueseventy suits. The Micro range includes suits that clearly ought to be marked for open water only, given their profile. Asterisks need adding...

Also worth note for the record: Yamamoto Hokosho Co., Ltd. has two new suits while all listings for Yamamoto Corporation have been switched to Yamamoto Hokosho Co. Ltd.

The latest additions since October 15, 2010, according to screen grabs of the FINA lists taken on October 16 and today, include:

  •  Agon (1): Proback PRB2 E, for women
  •  Arena (1): Powerskin R-EVO OW classic suit for men
  •  Asics (4): more Top Impact 2011 suits
  •  Blueseventy (4): "Micro" suits for men (including open water models not marked as such as yet)
  •  Descente (24): addition of "Double Matt F", "New Collection" KRBR, "nux-FD", and "Strush" suits
  •  FASHY GmbH (4): new maker registered in Germany
  •  FEW (4): all men's suits (Few 2, Few 4, Few 10, Few 12)
  • Jaked (4) - J Force One  (x2) and Storm One (x2) - 
  • Sports Hig (14)
  • Mizuno Corporation (6)
  • Nike (2) Hydra HD3
  • Speedo (9) Flex range 
  • Yamamoto Hokosho (2)