By Phillip Whitten
The Executive Director of USA Swimming, Chuck Wielgus, advised the organization's 30-person board of directors to vote to ban the controversial new neck-to-ankles bodysuits from the U.S. Olympic Trials, to be held August 9-16.
The recommendation was made yesterday in an e-mail message to the board members, as the board prepares to meet today in emergency session to consider the issue.
Wielgus's recommendation conflicts with the decision of the body's Steering Committee, which voted yesterday to recommend that the suits be permitted at the Trials. According to Ira Klein, a member of the Steering Committee, the most compelling argument was "that the needs of the top athletes outweigh the need for fairness for everyone." Critics have charged that only the most elite American athletes–notably Jenny Thompson and Lenny Krayzelburg–have had access to laser-fitted bodysuits, giving them a substantial advantage over swimmers who have access only to "off-the rack" suits or, in many cases, do not have access to the suits at all.
Last month USA Swimming concluded that it was necessary to outfit the American team in the apparently performance-enhancing suits in order to stay competitive with the rest of the world. However, Wielgus, along with other officials including National Team Director Dennis Pursley, have argued that the fairness of the Trials would be called into question if the suits were allowed, possibly resulting in law suits. Last month, Canada decided not to permit the controversial suits at its Olympic Trials for precisely that reason.