Performance Enhancing Suits

23 02 2009

With the first female world record of 2009 now in the books, questions are in the air as to when or if FINA will step in soon to make a ruling. Sakai Shiho, of Japan, is the first female to break a world swimming record in 2009. In the 100m back at the Japan Open, she set a short-course record of 56.15 seconds. The previous mark of 56.51 set by Natalie Coughlin of the United States.

There is no question that swimsuits like the Speedo LZR and the Blue Seventy Nero Swimskin have enhanced performance. The critical issues are the fabric and the testing procedures to be performed by FINA. It remains to be seen if any rules will be changed and when they would go into effect, some new rules may not go in effect until 2010. Below is the FINA statement from February 20, 2009:

The FINA statement:

FINA, represented by its Executive and Technical Swimming Commission, Legal, Coaches and Athletes Commissions’ representatives, held today a meeting in Lausanne (SUI) with representatives of 16 swimwear manufacturers in order to examine amendments of the current ‘FINA Requirements for Swimwear Approval’. 

Based on FINA’s proposals and contributions discussed at the meeting, the FINA Bureau at its meeting on March 12-14, 2009 in Dubai (UAE) will consider amendments which include:

  • DESIGN: The swimsuit shall not cover the neck and shall not extend past the shoulders nor past the ankles;
  • MATERIAL - The material used shall have a maximum thickness of 1mm; When used, the material shall follow the body shape; The application of different materials shall not create air trapping effects;
  • BUOYANCY: The swimsuit shall not have a buoyancy effect of more than 1 Newton (100gr);
  • CONSTRUCTION:Any system providing external stimulation or influence of any form (e.g. pain reduction, chemical/medical substance release, electro-stimulation) is prohibited;
  • CUSTOMISATION: All swimsuits of an approved model must be constructed in an identical fashion with no variation/modification for individual swimmers from the samples submitted for approval;
  • USE: The swimmer can only wear one swimsuit at a time;
  • CONTROL: FINA will establish its own independent control/testing programme. Scientific testing will be conducted by a team led by Prof. Jan-Anders Manson, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and Laboratory of Polymer and Composite Technology;
  • APPROVAL: Swimwear manufacturers will be able to make submissions for approval of swimsuits until March 31, 2009. 

In a further step, rules applicable from January 1, 2010 will also be examined by the Bureau.

One of the main aspects to be considered is the limitation of the use of non-permeable material.

 “FINA has studied this matter very carefully, and together with all interested parties and the scientific expertise of EPFL, we have reached the best possible result. With these amendments, FINA shows that it continues to monitor the evolution of the sport’s equipment with the main objective of keeping the integrity of sport. While we need to remain open to evolution, the most important factors must be the athletes’ preparation and physical condition on achieving their performances” – FINA President Mustapha Larfaoui, Feb 20, 2009.

END of statement.








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