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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Record-setting swimsuits fail to win FINA's approval

Record-setting swimsuits fail to win FINA's approval
AFP/File – French swimmer Alain Bernard competing in April 2009 in the supersuit that has been credited with helping …

PARIS (AFP) – World swimming's ruling body FINA on Tuesday refused to give approval to 10 swimsuits, including some of those made from polyurethane and which were used, controversially, to set new world records.

The use of swimsuits in recent years has caused huge controversy in the sport because some experts, including some top swimmers, believe their use gives an unfair advantage in the pool.

In particular critics of the all-polyurethane suits claim the compression and buoyancy which results from their use helps boost speed.

This led to FINA, swimming's world ruling body, to put all 348 swimsuits, from 21 manufacturers, to full review.

After two days of tests and meetings FINA on Tuesday approved 202 swimsuits, rejected 10 and called for modifications to be made to the remaining 136.

The "X-Glide" by Arena and the "Jaked 01", which have been used notably by French sprinters Alain Bernard and Frederic Bousquet respectively to set new world records last month, did not appear on FINA's approved list but FINA did not specify whether they were rejected outright or whether they appeared on the 'to be modified' list.

FINA also did not state whether the records set by Bernard and Bousquet using the polyurethane swimsuits, during the French championships last month in Montpellier, would be annulled.

Bernard used the X-Glide to set a new 100m world record of 46.94sec, while Bousquet beat Australian Eamon Sullivan's previous best world mark of 21.28 in the 50m in a time of 20.94 last in Montpellier.

A FINA statement said 10 swimsuits were rejected "for not passing the tests of buoyancy and/or thickness".

Regarding the further 136 which required modifications, it added: "136 swimsuits to be modified in accordance with 'Dubai Charter' rule 3.1 c), as they don?t fulfil the requirement stating that 'swimsuit material shall not be constructed to or include elements/systems which create air/water trapping effects during use'.

"The manufacturers have now a deadline of maximum 30 days (until June 19, 2009) to resubmit the same swimsuit for FINA approval, with the corresponding corrections."

FINA's decision could also have serious ramifications for the Italian hosts of the world swimming championships in July. The Italian team is sponsored by Jaked, an Italian company.

Bousquet wore the controversial red Jaked swimsuit on Sunday on his way to beating Beijing Olympic hero Michael Phelps of the United States in the 100m final at the Charlotte UltraSwim.

French coach Romain Barnier, who manages top swimmers at Marseille, including Bousquet, would only confirm: "In Montpellier my swimmers used the Jaked 01."

Christian Donze, the French federation's technical director said: "Both swimsuits (Jaked 01 and Arena's X-Glide) are not on the (approved) list. We're waiting for more information from FINA before making any statement."