In December 2008, we reported that the unease felt by many swimming coaches prior to the Beijing Olympics over the Speedo LZR racer suit, had flared into outright revolt when Fifteen of the 17 top European nations, including Great Britain, signed a protest which was to be presented to world governing body FINA calling for a number of regulations to be discussed and implemented.
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Now FINA has convened a summit meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, to debate the issue of all high-tech swimsuits with manufacturers, scientists, coaches and swimmers following calls to ban them on the grounds that they offer extra buoyancy and therefore amount to performance-enhancing aids.
Critics of the suits point to the extraordinary statistics in Beijing where swimmers wearing the Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit won 90 per cent of all available medals and broke 23 world records, including Rebecca Adlington’s demolition of Janet Evans’s 19-year-old 800 metres freestyle mark.
Since Speedo launched the suit a year ago, an astonishing 108 world records have fallen.
The powerful USA Swimming federation recently added their voice to the growing backlash against the new technology, calling on FINA to limit the amount of fabric on swimsuits, effectively outlawing the LZR Racer.
But Jason Rance, who headed the Speedo research and development team that produced the all-conquering suit with the aid of NASA scientists, has denied that it offers any extra buoyancy and is willing to prove it in a laboratory.
“What I can be clear on is that Speedo has always tested for buoyancy because we don’t believe it’s fair to have a suit that basically allows you to float on the water,” he said.
“We would welcome an independent buoyancy test to make sure that our suit is not buoyant because I think that is something that people have jumped on.”
The issue of high-tech swimsuits has spiralled out of control since Beijing with some swimmers choosing to wear two or three suits at the same time, one on top of the other.
The American and Australian federations have called for an immediate ban on the practice of wearing multiple suits, and Rance agrees that urgent action is required. “I think wearing multiple suits is patently ridiculous,” he said. “The only reason you would do that is if you felt that by trapping air between the suits it is going to increase your buoyancy.”
FINA will make a final decision on the new technology when their ruling ‘Bureau’ meet in Dubai next month, but Rance believes independent scientific testing and greater clarity in the rules would resolve much of the confusion and misunderstanding about the new technology.
But, despite the huge publicity Speedo has received since the launch of the LZR Racer, Rance is hoping the spotlight will now return to the athletes.
“It’s almost as if the suits are becoming the focus of attention, and I can understand if the athletes are starting to get frustrated because at the end of the day it is down to their performances and their training,” he said.
“What we do is to provide them with what we believe is the world’s fastest swimsuit, but it’s not going to get very far on its own. At the end of the day, it is only a very, very good swimsuit, but it’s still just a swimsuit.”
Source: Source: Daily Telegraph
Swimmers who want to improve their times with or without the aid of a Speedo LZR Racer should read: Complete Conditioning for Swimming Price: £17.99 (23.40 Euros).