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Keep It Briefs: No Bowing To The Knee

Jul 27, 2009  - Forbes Carlile

An open letter from Forbes Carlile 

The sport of competitive swimming could  be heading for more trouble, with the return to porous textiles  after January Ist 2010, if its so-called  custodians are persuaded, as  US Swimming  has proposed, that  competition suits should be permitted to extend  to the knees.

It is an irony  that US Swimming  whose High Performance Manager and CEO extravagantly supported--it is there on the record-- acceptance of Speedo's heavily promoted performance-aiding LZR, has  now assumed the mantle of "white knight", leading the charge with suggestions for swim suit  reform. Now  Australia and Great Britain have climbed aboard the wagon.

Those  who virtually caused the disease  are now setting themselves up  to cure it! This must be evident to all.

To call a spade a spade.  

The politics and  intrigue we are witnessing reeks of  the influence of SPEEDO and the other manufacturers.   With its special pleading, US Swimming is striving, irrationally, to "protect" the sensitivity of  its young men at the same time would, by permitting the covering of the thighs, leave the way open for more skullduggery.

It has been, and IS from beginning to end, a matter of CONFLICT OF INTEREST rendering the whole  disastrous situation of the fast suits rotten to the core.

At least, CEO  Cornel Marculescu and the now Honorary President for Life, Musta Larfaoui  were soundly repudiated by the  Bureau vote (a very rare happening), when these two FINA strong men persisted in arguing   that  suits should  carry performance-aiding characteristics into 2010 ( and technology should be allowed to "evolve"). Their cause would appear to be lost. Why should they be standing up for the manufacturers now?

This battle for a radical "step backwards" with the use of suit  technology may  appear to have  been won,  but there is still a major difficulty. It is the proposition of US Swimming to have suits to the knees.

There is  irrationality and danger lurking in  the resolution  of US Swimming which passed  without a murmur of dissent   at the recent  Congress and is now a by-law. Without  debate it would appear there was unquestioning acceptance of an American motion  that both for males and females  suits may in future extend down the thighs to the knees.

If this happens it could well be  a matter of swimming jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Please  consider these reasons for passionate support for  an immediate rethink of this by-law  by the Bureau.

Following the  huge disruption, agony and loss of reputation  which has been  suffered by  the sport there is a growing recognition, although it is not a major concern  in a consideration of fair play, that sight of the human body is  more acceptable than the "body suits" welcomed  by FINA as lending "glamour and world records" to the sport.

There has been an ever-increasing demand for a return to brief suits, including cries from a number of leading swimmers caught up  in the frenzy of searching for the fastest suit.

Instead of the traditional brief suits, despite the justification for a  complete return to the pre long suit days swimming is now offered that feared  compromise which is  fraught with "danger"- suits to the knees.

Where is the danger?

Craig Lord in yet another monumental article in Swimnews, July 25, explains it well:

"Now for the detail. Experts tells us that to allow jammers to extend past the break in the upper thigh muscle allows anchoring, leaves room for engineering that enhances performance in ways many have come to understand much better in the past year. Those experts should have the ear of new President of FINA Julio Maglione and the Bureau he leads. Shorts are not a problem. Extending material down the leg is not a problem. Extending material down to the knee is a problem." 

In the short term at least  there is no certainty that control  by "science" of porosity and the characteristics of the textile fabric used will be  a complete safeguard. Be sure that if there is a loophole there will remain a liklihood it  will be taken.

With rule SW10.7 having the words " and swim suits" added to it  AND recognising  the significance of MAY AID  in the rule there would appear to be no  option but for the bureau, in accord with the by-law, to rule out suits to the knees, which "may aid speed, endurance and buoyancy  Moreover Speedo and other manufacturers have never stopped claiming that their textiles out perform skin and aid performance.

Out of their own mouths they have condemned their cause. They said that even porous textiles could be performance-aiding.

We do not yet know what makes the LZR faster.  It is not the buoyancy of the material. The suit does not float, not whilst it is off the body. The  Speedo Company has  made a lot of that to justify their suits existence - but at the same time claiming, in its massive promotions  that its suit was performance-enhancing  defying the spirit of rule SW10.7. 

Buoyancy has been  a red herring  already used to  lead FINA down the disastrous  slippery slope   which allowed the latest generation  of  even faster suits than the LZR into the Rome competition. Buoyancy is known to be very important , but it is only one of the factors to be accounted for.  The danger of  there being some characteristics of the fabric not testable at this stage ( and there are strong rumours that such illegal aids exist now) is real.   As said, even with the provision for scientifically controlling the porosity  of the textile, surreptitiously performance aids  could still appear  in the fabric of the suit. Hence it is  only  good sense to minimise( which was US Swimming's mantra), the total cover of the body.

Remember that the important expressed aim in proposed swim suit reform as  has been stated, by the Americans, is  to decrease the amount of material covering the body. But they have a proviso!

To suggest material to the knees in this context does not make sense but it would  be welcomed by the swim suit companies.

The Americans claim there is a "sensitivity" of their teenagers to "gay" connotations in wearing  the brief suit, which  they say would justify a universal rule--a gratuitous insult to all homosexuals.

The rules could allow brief suits to  have material extending two or three centimetres below the crotch-line.

FINA must  now place the well-being of the sport beyond concerns both for the inventories of the manufacturers-- and their profits. We can be sure that suits extending to the knees would be expensive, much more expensive than brief suits, and  have a far higher profit margin.

Let there be a clean sweep for a complete reform.  It is within the power of the new bureau to ensure that all competitive swimming is in  brief suits, that  there is no  option given, as US Swimming advocates, for  wearing semi bodysuits to the knees.

Forbes Carlile