(Legendary Australian swim coach, Forbes Carlile, has been among the most outspoken opponents of the new hi-tech bodysuits. The following is a letter he has sent to heads of all the national swimming federations, outlining why he believes there should be a one-year moratorium on use of the bodysuits pending independent testing of the suits.)
Why Bodysuits Should Be Banned at the Sydney Olympics
This letter is to urgently request your federation to consider the FINA Bureau's October 8th 1999 approval of the Speedo and Adidas bodysuits; [and vote] that the use of these and similar suits should not be confirmed at the General Congress on September 14th 2000 in Sydney.
Bodysuits with high tech fabrics should not be permitted in serious swimming competitions because use of such costumes defies the very essence of fair competition in that..
· There will always be swimmers cheated when technology is permitted to play a key role. Those competitors, mainly from wealthier "high tech" nations, will benefit from the use of expensive suits with a limited life-span.
· Thousands of average families and swimmers in many countries, because of the high cost involved will be forced out of competitive swimming.
· Where there is emphasis on expensive equipment rather than on the natural abilities and training of the swimmer, the important element of man/woman vs water, competing on "an even playing field," is lost. The introduction of advanced equipment technologies produces a different sport with new false records.
WHAT TO DO
A combined vote by FINA's member federations against the use of the suits can prevent, even at the "11th hour," great harm being inflicted on our sport.
This can be accomplished at the Congress two days before the Games.
So that no competitors should be "disadvantaged," all swimmers should be warned now that it is possible that they will need to compete in suits with standard fabric and not those with high tech fabrics developed and used in the last two years.
Such a … moratorium on performance-enhancing suits should be maintained until proper investigation and discussions within the federations have taken place.
The [Executive] Board of USA Swimming met on two occasions recently to decide what suits would be permitted at its Trials set down for 9-16 August. At first the Board ruled that suits to the ankles and to the wrists would not be permitted on the grounds of availability, but finally a decision, potentially, many claim, very harmful to the sport, was made that the full body suits involving high tech fabrics could be worn. This decision was publicly announced to have been based on the assertion that "everybody else at the Sydney Games would be wearing bodysuits so American swimmers must not be disadvantaged."
The Board was swept along following assurances in quick succession from Tyr, Speedo, Adidas and other companies that they would, if required, supply suits to all 1200 competitors. But significantly, the manufacturers did not say they would supply fitted suits, individually measured to ensure the closest possible fit, which is known to be essential for optimum performance. Other than with exactly fitting suits swimmers are slowed down to varying degrees…
The Board had painted itself into a corner by making the major concern availability.
The best and "highest tech" suits will never be available, even to all the elite, simultaneously. Clearly there will always be some just one step ahead and therein lies the essence of the unfairness. FINA rules have been always understood to be there to ensure that it would be the swimmer, not unfair practices or equipment, which should decide the outcome of competition.
The FINA Bureau, no doubt following its Executive's recommendation, in October 1999 took the far-reaching "longsuit" decision based on either..
1. denying any performance-enhancing effects claimed by the manufacturers OR
2. the Bureau took it upon itself to determine for the sport of swimming that suits worn beyond the torso which could aid performance should in the future be permitted – and to support their position said (incredibly) that Rule SW10.7 did not apply.
There seems little doubt as claimed by manufacturers that with various fabrics the resistance can be lowered between natural skin and water thus making it very likely there is significant aiding of performance.
Whatever were the reasons for the Bureau's approval of the bodysuits it is clearly essential that Congress should delay confirmation of this decision until scientifically valid, independent and objective testing of suits and fabrics is undertaken and the whole situation is thoroughly understood and discussed within the FINA nations.
There is no doubt that FINA rules require a Confirmation of all Bureau decisions at a General Congress.
Because it will obviously not be possible for well- informed decisions on the use of the bodysuits to be made before the start of the Sydney Olympics it is clear that the only logical and reasonable conclusion that the Sydney Congress can come to is to call for an immediate hold (a moratorium) to be placed on the use of ALL FABRICS developed, say in the last two years.
It is re-stated that no competitors will be
"disadvantaged" if every swimmer is required to wear a costume manufactured from a "standard fabric" and all competitors being informed now of this possibility. It would hardly make sense for swimmers to go to the trouble and the expense of wearing expensive knee or ankle length suits if the skin/water resistance was increased. But this would be their call.
In 2001, the full conference of FINA should meet to approve well-considered rules governing swimwear.