Updated May 7 with USMS and USA Swimming comment, NFHS ruling
PHOENIX, Arizona, May 6. ARENA has quickly taken steps to correct an issue with three versions of its Powerskin Carbon-Pro after FINA discovered a compliance issue with one of those versions in February 2013, according to information received by Swimming World Monday.
In February 2013, FINA queried Arena regarding a Powerskin Carbon-Pro racing suit, the women's full body open back — FINA approval code AR220993, that FINA purchased in the open market during routine testing. FINA had a question regarding the suit's permeability.
Arena then launched a quality control investigation into its entire process, and found that two other variants of the Carbon-Pro were also impacted stemming back to December 2012. These two other variants are the women's full body closed back (FINA approval code AR220994) and men's jammer (FINA approval code AR141364).
With this in mind, Arena has waived its FINA approval on the three mentioned variants effective today.
Arena told Swimming World today that the full quality control investigation discovered a change in the manufacturing process in December 2012 following what it calls “a significant surge of market demand.” This change, which Arena states has to do with the heating process that bonds the seams and adds logos to the suit, caused a “reduction of the consistency of permeability” for suits from December 2012 through the initial part of 2013.
Arena North America's general manager Tim McCool stated to Swimming World this morning that the part of the production that was affected by the anomaly had no impact on performance of the products. He also said that FINA has been working with Arena throughout this process and that all times swum in the suits, up until today, still count.
FINA has yet to respond to inquiry regarding this situation.
This morning, Arena addressed several issues regarding how it would rectify issues with the no-longer legal suits.
– A recall and replacement program has been instituted. “Consumers in possession of a current model POWERSKIN Carbon Pro with proof of purchase may receive, at no cost, the new generation POWERSKIN Carbon Pro Mark 2.” Full details regarding this program can be found at support.arenapowerskin.com.
– Last summer, Arena already received FINA approval of its Powerskin Carbon-Pro Mark 2 suits. These suits are now quickly being distributed in anticipation of its three original versions no longer being available. In fact, Arena will be sending a shipment to the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte to make sure that all athletes will be competing in legal suits.
These three suits are: AR221039 — woman full body open back; AR221028 — woman full body closed back; AR141028 — man jammer
“Arena apologizes for any inconvenience,” Arena CEO Cristiano Portas said. “But its commitment to fully comply with FINA rules and, more broadly, its commitment to fair competition in the world of swimming must be given the highest priority.”
Arena will also have representatives at U.S. Masters Nationals and the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte to help with on-site servicing for the recall and replacement program.
Nelson Diebel and Jenna Johnson will be in Charlotte for Arena to handle all questions regarding the recall/replacement program. Anyone with questions in Charlotte can head to the Arena booth to be found in the Fan Experience Area this weekend.
Meanwhile, an Arena representative will be on hand at the All-American booth (the meet vendor) at U.S. Masters Nationals to help all swimmers with their recall/replacement questions and needs.
USA Swimming also responded to a request for comment by Swimming World regarding how it would handle the no-longer legal suits this weekend in Charlotte.
“USA Swimming has notified John Wilson, the head meet referee for the Arena Grand Prix at Charlotte, that three versions of the Arena POWERSKIN Carbon-Pro will no longer be allowed in competition,” USA Swimming spokesperson Karen Linhart responded. “The topic will be addressed at the both the coaches' meeting and officials' meeting prior to the start of the meet and a note will be sent to the coaches of all meet entrants. Arena has also offered its support to check for the suit on-site at the start-end of the pool during prelims and in the ready room during finals.”
Updated May 7
USMS is also on record regarding the situation, having issued a statement Tuesday morning.
“USMS has been in communication with Arena representatives regarding the recent FINA ruling for Arena swimsuits,” USMS spokesperson Laura Hamel stated. “Although Arena is not a USMS sponsor, we recognize that some Masters swimmers have purchased and expect to compete in Arena suits at the USMS Spring Nationals this weekend. USMS-licensed dealer All American Swim Supply will be onsite in Indianapolis and will be accommodating those Masters swimmers who have questions or would like to exchange their Arena suits for FINA legal Arena suits.”
Meanwhile, the National Federation of State High School Associations has elected to allow the three non FINA-illegal suits for high school competition throughout the rest of the current season according to a memorandum obtained by Swimming World.
The philosophy behind high school swimmers being allowed to continue using the three suit versions is that the bulk of the rest of the high school calendar already took place with these suits being worn. It levels the playing field to allow states such as California to compete under the same suit conditions as the rest of the nation.
USA Swimming has also followed suit, and has granted a waiver on the three suit versions through June 2. These suits will be legal in terms of USA Swimming cuts and other time standards at USA Swimming meets until June 2, the end of the Grand Prix circuit, of which Arena is the title sponsor.
Arena will still be on hand at the final two Grand Prix meets to help with replacement needs, especially with swimmers who might need to post FINA legal times and prefer to swim in an Arena suit. But, the stress level on the replacement program has definitely lessened with the NFHS and USA Swimming rulings now focusing those in absolute need of the newer suits being a much smaller group of people.
From USA Swimming:
Times swum in the Arena Carbon Pro swimsuit (FINA codes: AR220993, AR220994, AR141364) will be valid for swims completed through June 2 at 11:59 p.m. MDT. Starting June 3 at 12 a.m. MDT, all suits worn in USA Swimming-sanctioned events must be on the FINA-approved list.
While times recorded through June 2 will be recognized by USA Swimming, they will not count toward FINA records (including World Records).