Bodysuits May Signal End to Speedo’s Sponsorship of Australian Team

By Jacquelin Magnay

SYDNEY. April 19. SPEEDO's days as a sponsor of the Australian Olympic swim team appear numbered because swimming costumes are now regarded as equipment rather than uniforms.
The new ruling is a response to swimmer Ian Thorpe wanting to wear an Adidas bodysuit at the Sydney Games.
Australian Olympic Committee president Mr. John Coates, who has been a vocal critic of the new-age bodysuits, made the reclassification decision. He said swimmers would now be able to wear whatever brand of swimsuit they desired, without contravening the AOC's long-term sponsorship with Speedo.
"We have said to Speedo that unless they convince us otherwise, swimsuits are technical, like running shoes… this will be the end of having a swimsuit sponsor for the team. We will not have that category in the future," he said.
Speedo–the AOC's longest-running sponsor–had not responded yet, Mr. Coates said.
Meanwhile, officials from the world swimming body FINA have vowed to support the use of the controversial bodysuit for the Sydney Olympics and said they would ignore any court opinion that found against it.
FINA's secretary, Mr. Gunnar Werner, a Swedish lawyer, said yesterday that Mr. Coates "had made a hen out of a feather" by referring the legality of the suit to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
CAS has been asked to make an advisory opinion about the suits and clarify whether the suits and swimmers wearing them would be subject to legal challenge by non-bodysuit-wearing swimmers.
Mr. Coates has been concerned that a swimmer who finishes third at {Australia's] Olympic Trials next month could challenge his or her omission from the Olympic team if the first and second placegetters, who automatically make the team, have worn the bodysuits.
But Mr. Werner said the CAS hearing was immaterial and irrelevant. "If the opinion goes against FINA then we don't care; it is just an opinion and we couldn't change the rules anyway because it needs the entire [FINA] Congress [on September 14] to do that and the proposals for that agenda have closed," Mr. Werner said. "I don't know what the AOC is afraid of…they have made a hen out of a feather."
Speedo has claimed its bodysuit is three percent faster than traditional suits. On the weekend, Olympic gold medalist Kieren Perkins swam exceptional times in an Adidas bodysuit, despite having spoken out against their use.

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