ROME - Record-setting bodysuits were banned by FINA on Friday, with swimming's governing body taking a major step to limit technology in the pool.
FINA has come under criticism for its failure to regulate the rapid advances in swimsuit technology that have led to 108 world records last year and nearly 30 so far this year.
Some suits are suspected of creating "air trapping" effects that enhance speed.
A U.S. proposal to limit the amount of swimsuit coverage — between the waist and knees for males, not beyond the shoulders or below the knees for females — was overwhelmingly passed by the FINA congress, meeting in Rome during the world championships.
The new rule also says suits shall only be made from "textiles," but that term has yet to be defined.
"The most important thing is that it's textile only," Mark Schubert, head coach and general manager of the U.S. national team, told The Associated Press. "I think we sent a strong message as to our feeling of what the suit should be."
The new rules won't take effect at these swimming championships, where dozens of world records could be set in suits made from materials such as polyurethane.
The legislation was passed as a general rule, but then a subsequent motion from Britain to make the rules part of FINA's bylaws was accepted, putting the matter in the hands of FINA's bureau.
General swimming rules only come up for discussion at the FINA congress every four years, whereas the bureau meets several times each year, and can also convene on short notice.
"We didn't disagree with the U.S. proposal, but we wanted the flexibility to amend it as technology moves on, and we can now," said David Sparkes, the chief executive of British Swimming. "Technically, the bureau could even convene over e-mail.
"For sure it's not the end of the road in terms of innovation."
But bureau bylaws pertain only to world championships and Olympics.
"FINA rules in general are only for worlds and Olympics. It's normally up to each federation to decide on their own rules," FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said. "We will clarify it and hopefully finish with the suit controversy."
USA Swimming will conform to the international standard.
"Our policy has always been to follow FINA rules," Schubert said.
The question of how to define textiles is unlikely to be determined until the next FINA bureau meeting in September or October.
With the high-tech bodysuits still in use, multiple records are expected in this meet — records that could stand for some time.
"I think it will be difficult to eclipse those records if we go back to true swimming, without the rubberized suits," Schubert said. "The East German times (achieved by athletes using performance enhancing drugs) stood for a long time, but even they got broken, so I'm sure our athletes will be up to the challenge."
Schubert also backs attaching an asterisk to records set over the last 18 months.
"That's something the FINA bureau is going to have to address. That was just an idea, perhaps to have two lists — one list with the new suits, then one list with the old suits," he said.
The Americans originally wanted men's suits to be limited only from going beyond the shoulders or knees.
"We amended it last night after meeting last night with Cornel and the coaches of the major swimming countries, and that was the consensus of the coverage that they wanted, so that's why we made the switch," Schubert said.
"It was a little bit more severe switch, but we're pleased."
Our summer league, Prince-Mont, banned any suit that goes over the knees and the shoulders must be exposed. Too many younger swimmers would want the fast, but expensive suits to be like the big boys. Mostly a financial issue. -Hugh
Hugh, My kids swim MCSL, Have fore several years and this is the first year where I saw the 15-18s break out the long tights and body suits for Divisionals. One kids even had a LAZR. What parent in their right mind drops that kind of cake on a suit for a teenager unless he is swimming with Bob Bowman or the like?
Probably a parent who has never swam a lap in the pool. I mean, what benefit would that do for a 50-100 meter event. Practice your starts, turns and finishes.
And Saturday was really humid.
Wow. Phelps breaking records left and right with a fancy swimsuit and everyone thinks that he's one of the greatest athlete of all time. A German beats him once at his own game and all of a sudden it's considered cheating. Let us not forget that Phelps had the same opportunity to wear the same suit but decided to take sponsorship money and go with a slower suit. At least the German was man enough to admit that his world record was due largely to the suit. Didn't hear the same thing from Phelps during the Olympics and now he's complaining ?
This is like a pro triathlete complaining that he lost the Ironman because he was sponsored by a lower end bike company with lower end wheels. Or, a marathoner complaining that he lost the marathon because the shoe company that sponsored him doesn't make race shoes.
Let's the arguments commence :)
I'm just hoping that wetsuits are forever legal in tris :)
Lynn ... Montgomery Co has a lot of money. It's all relative. $5,000 on a new toy for their kids is no different than me spending $100 for a good pair of running shoes for mine. One may even argue that what kind of person in the right mind would drop $2-$10k on a bicycle or purchase bicycle wheels that costs more than some cars :)
Before I forget ... gotta go out today and buy a lottery ticket.
Finally I agree with tuan who knew. Ihave to agree that phelps is acting like a baby with him losing now the suits are bad but was ok when he was winning. I agree money is relative who spends tons of money on track spikes for whAt a small diff in time try working on starts and fitness. Anyway interesting dabate I think that should allow any suit so long as it does not float. This going back to old tech will kill the sport of swimming and stifle innovation.
I'm all for going back to the speedo briefs. Old school, baby!
A guy that swims in the Pentagon pool told me something very interesting. He was at a meet and someone critisized his friend for winning with one of the skin suits we are talking about. The guy looked at this person, threw the suit in the pool, and looked at it. After which he said, "Ok, was just making sure it wasn't swimming for me, and it was me propelling it through the water.
There is some truth in that, and also some truth in the fact that Polyurethane suits are more boyant then the previous suits, and allow for better glide. On a pro level that is a HUGE advantage. And as technology keeps evolving, I am sure that there will be a suit out there one day that will graduate Tuan from a vertical swimmer, to a world class swimmer. It is what it is.
I say let's see the real talent and go old school.
the bigger question is where do you draw the line? basically any improvement in technology will be an advantage.
you may say this or that is not much but who is to say what is an advantage or not?
going from brief style to jammer style, may have a slight improvement in hydrodynamics but again no matter how small at the pro levet it matters.
what do we do then? require all swimmers to wear identical swim suits identical manufacturers identical materials, if you want to go that route fine, but again you will have no competition for swim suits and if one company does not fit well for you too bad. now you have the opposite problem no competition or variety for swimmers to choose from. think you still want to go back to archaic rules like this?