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Feature Articles





The Suits. Bowing to the Inevitable.
Forbes Carlile
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An Open Letter From Forbes Carlile 24 March 09


The Suits. Bowing to the inevitable? Beware the end of March.

Friends of Swimming, At the Australian Trials we encountered some interesting exchanges.
Most people register surprise that Rule SW 10.7 does not apply to swim wear. Suits, all should know, are not in themselves considered to be devices nor to contain devices --according to FINA rule interpretation -- this, a Bureau member with a very good handle on what is going on, has told me. FINA on its present tack has had to confirm this earlier stand or look plain stupid by defying pure logic--although they obviously do not want, for political reasons to announce widely that suits are not to be considered as performance aids. They know this view would be considered ridiculous in the extreme. This knowledge serves to make clear the path FINA is taking. The direction of FINA, led by Executive Director Cornel Marsulescu , is with swim suits to keep performance-aiding technology as much as they can in the sport, under the guise of this being legitimate "evolution"--the word used in a recent statement from the FINA President. There is every indication of FINA supporting some major companies -- but NOT the neoprene-based Blue 70 and its ilk.


March 31 marks the deadline for approval of suits to be permitted at the Rome World Championships in late July . It is near certain of course that the axe will brought down on the Blue 70 and other suits which this time will not pass an arbitary "100 gm" buoyancy test which is not the only criterion of capacity to aid performance aid. Does this mean that the 2008 era of grossly performance-aiding swim wear is over? Not by a long chalk. The notion that suits may aid performance prevails. It is is dying hard. Swim suit companies are far from throwing in the towel


We were surprised to meet American Dr Rick Sharpe the foremost physiologist /"swimming" scientist" in the USA. No, he was not on vacation. He is CONSULTING for Speedo in Australia.
We must smell a rat. Obviously there is to be the least possible retreat by Speedo from the application of high technology,"technical progression?" it may be called -- enhancing the performances of swimmers --why else does it need a team to be working on future production? To milk the maximum advantage from the complex rules FINA is set to come up with?
This just does not jell with FINA's recent unctuous statement, taking the moral high ground, that it claims allegiance to," the main and core principle that swimming is a sport essentially based on the physical performance of the athlete". Oh yes.? Come on! Of course the weasel word is "essentially". What astounding, mealy-mouthed hypocrisy given the part FINA has played in presiding over what has happened to disrupt the sport.

The direction that a chief sponsor of Swimming Australia is taking is clear. Speedo has a glossy full page advertisement in the Trials program from which I quote exactly ..... "Fastskin, LZR Racer . 5% less passive drag, 4% faster in starts,sprints and turns and 5% better oxygen efficiency ( shades of "interaction) "
The "may aid performance" in Rule SW10.7 would logically make it incumbent on FINA ,with Speedo's promotion of its LZR suits (whether completely accurate or not, to immediately disqualify the suit. Do you think FINA's newly appointed chief scientist Professor Manson will be set the task of determining how much truth there is in Speedo's advertising? Not likely. judging by FINA's apparent past indifference.
By dispensing with the application of rule SW 10.7 applied to swim wear FINA would reckon they and Speedo are "in the clear", with a rescue line defending them from an otherwise logically indefensible position.
My conviction remains ..........the difficulties and unfairness caused in permitting use of 2008 advanced swim suit technology* (with more to come?) whether within present FINA rules or not are so great as to be insurmountable. To maintain its credibility and integrity there is only one path for Swimming to follow---, to get rid of recent advanced technology in swim wear "equipment"---yes equipment, permitting use only of benchmark pre 2008 suit technology.
I have felt driven to continue to point out , and most some of the major difficulties, anomalies, and the rank hypocrisy--caused by the abandonment of principle by FINA which will continue to degrade our sport.
A coach wrote me this-- The word "principle" and "FINA" should not be used in the same sentence unless "expediency" is mentioned in there somewhere as well. EXACTLY
The costume companies will not sue FINA. My information is that success would be very difficult to achieve under Swiss contract laws. -- and think of the good will and sales potential these "friends of swimming" would lose if they did sue with the vast bulk of those who sustain the swim suit market far removed from the relatively few elite. Should not the future health and well-being of the sport be the major consideration of us all?
Alas, I fear this may all be preaching, fruitlessly, to many including those who complcently say--"Oh well the suits are there,we should go with the flow."
It seems certain that on March 31st is the fateful day, when the FINA Executive through the 22 Bureau members will attempt to hammer another nail in the coffin of competitive swimming when the costumes to be worn in Rome are due to be offered for approval and FINA, at least until January 1st 2010 is set to permit performance -aiding suit material to remain in competition swim wear In a back-door remedy approach it plans to enshrine a number of incongruent band-aid rules, such the red herring emphasis on a ban on wearing two or more "fast suits"--- designed to make things harder, just a little harder for LZR suits, but still leaving the material (fabric) there for at least the best part of another year. This is what FINA( certainly the Executive) is going about setting in stone in an ill-conceived Phase 1 to cleanse the sport.
Regards

Forbes Carlile Sydney, Australia. 24 March 09

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