FINA confronts the swimsuit issue


FINA, the international governing body of swimming, is attempting to put the genie back in the bottle.

The genie would be the high-tech swimsuits, starting with the well-known Speedo LZR Racer, that dominated the run-up to the Beijing Olympics last year, and the next generation of controversial successors.

On Friday, FINA met in Lausanne, Switzerland, with 16 swimsuit manufacturers and developed a series of recommendations to be voted on at the executive level, the FINA Bureau, in Dubai, March 12-14.


Potential regulations regarding suits include a maximum buoyancy effect, a maximum thickness (no more than one millimeter), limiting coverage areas (suits would not extend past the shoulders or ankles and would end below the neck), and limiting swimmers to wearing one suit at a time.

Yes, that last item is correct. Apparently, swimmers were putting on two, and sometimes three suits to receive enhanced benefits. Also, there have been rumors of suits’ providing external influences: pain reduction and electro-stimulation.

“Oh, it’s been the Wild West -- way Wild West,” USA Swimming’s Mark Schubert said Friday.

He was talking about the post-Olympic climate. If Speedo raised the bar in 2008, other companies have rushed to jump over it and then some. Critics had called the LZR Racer “technological doping.”

Schubert’s impression was that FINA would, in all likelihood, push the suit technology back to pre-2008 levels and do a better job of policing the fast-paced developments. More than 100 world records have been set in the last year, including 10 in December at the European championships in short-course competition.

“The United States has been very involved in these proposals,” Schubert said. “I think the world’s attention went up when all the world records were being set at the European championships and World Cup meets and now all the other swimsuit companies are responding.”

Among the proposals was that FINA establish its own independent control and testing program. Swimsuit makers can make submissions for approval of suits until March 31. The next major meet of significance is the world championships in Rome, starting July 18.


“With these amendments, FINA shows that it continues to monitor the evolution of the sport’s equipment with the main objective of keeping integrity of sport,” FINA President Mustapha Larfaoui said in a statement.

Said Schubert: “I would say about the outcry throughout the world being heard by FINA: We want the swimming to be about the swimming, not about the suits.”