Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Swim News - Suits Under Scrutiny

When I was a kid, if we wanted a bike we carved it out of an oak tree with a butter knife. We got splinters and we liked it!

Much debate over skin suits, the Speedo LZR and alike. TYR suing USA Swimming over the use of Speedo products in the Olympics after they paid to be the "exclusive supplier". They lost millions as Michael Phelps won his medals in a LZR.

From a triathlon perspective, the speedy swim suits have also come under scrutiny. Ironman and USAT say that they follow the FINA swimming rules, however, don't discount all the sponsorship dollars flowing into the company's treasury. This creates a tremendous conflict of interest. See the law suit below for a real time example.

The issue, in my opinion, is these suits provide floatation aid to those who have poor body position. The aid that they (those swimmers with poorer body position) get out weighs the aid someone like Jenny H. or myself get if we were to wear one in a triathlon. We can wear the suits too, but since we would swim well without the aid of a float suit our difference is minor. Imagine the up roar if good swimmers, who were not strong runners were given two miles of a triathlon run to use a skateboard. Same concept. For those great runners, they don't need it. If you are me, it changes the whole ball game.

Below are the news stories from and the battle about the suits. Not discussed is the IL high school association (IHSA) to scrub all records set in the 2008 state swimming championships because of the suits. I'm not sure I agree with that either, but from a high school competition factor it makes a bit of sense. Is it fair for a kid in the inner city or a small IL town who cannot afford a speed suit to race in a championship versus a kid from Lake Forest or St. Charles where $500 is the weekly allowance for some kids? Probably not, but there has to be a better way. Until better minds figure out a solution, they are banning the use of speed suits.

Talking to Rowdy Gaines today, my debate was about a swimmers ability versus the aid of equipment. In Ironman, they are considering a ban on the speed suits but with the current money situation in the sport I think a ban is unlikely. In order to really compete, I think you have to have one. I refuse to wear one out of principle (as well as the fact that they cost between $300 and $685). So until I get a sponsor... I race "spartan".

** Re-printed from ***

Mare Nostrum Tour Follows FINA Suit ListCraig LordJun 2, 2009

Organisers of all three rounds of the Mare Nostrum tour - in Barcelona, Canet and Monte Carlo - will enforce FINA rule and disallow the use of the Jaked01 and other suits that did not make it on to the list of 2009 approved suits on May 19.

A spokesman for Barcelona confirmed to SwimNews today that events in the Catalan city this weekend will be organised under FINA rule, including the latest direction on suits: "No, those suits will not be worn. We will go on FINA norms as they are right now."

The series will be over before the June 19 deadline arrives for resubmission of modified suits, though the timetable for re-testing of certain models, such as blueseventy's range and the Jaked01, remains unclear. The FINA executive will consider the issue once they have data from the head of the independent testing team, Prof Jan-Anders Manson, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

In Lausanne last Thursday, FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said that it was the international federation's intention to make all decisions affecting the world championships in Rome as soon as was possible. "We are very close to the championships now and swimmers and coaches need to make choices," he said, echoing what swimmers and coaches have been saying for many months now.

FINA also intends to make decisions related to 2010 before racing starts in Rome, with a view to making clear to suit makers what materials they ought to be rolling on production lines in readiness for January 1. A decision before Rome will also allow the world championships to be placed in their true context: for one season only.

TYR Cleared For Court Case Against US FedCraig LordMay 30, 2009

A federal judge in California has dismissed an attempt to dismiss TYR Sport's antitrust lawsuit against Speedo and USA Swimming, allowing the case to go to trial next year.

The decision issued by US District Judge James Selna of Santa Ana, Calif., said that nine of the 10 claims made by TYR were strong enough to be heard in court. Also named in the suit are Mark Schubert, US head coach, and Erik Vendt, US Olympic team member who switched to Speedo after he came to the conclusion that the LZR racer was the suit that helped him the most.

The case is scheduled for trial in March 2010.

TYR claims that the exclusive endorsement relationship between USA Swimming and Speedo, along with Schubert's dual role as Olympic coach and paid Speedo endorser, was an unlawful restraint of trade.

It remains to be seen how a restraint of trade will apply to a national team - the US - that is allowed to wear any brand of race swimwear it wants, provided that branding symbols are removed during national-team duty.

The case rests on whether Schubert, as TYR claims, tried to persuade elite swimmers to switch to the LZR, even if they had sponsorship deals with other companies. Schubert said that the choice of suit in 2008 would be a "true test of character ... will it be the money or the medals". He made that statement in March 2008, at a time when the LZR was the obvious choice as the only widely available suit recognised the world over after a February launch of the first suit to use non-textile, non-permeable fabrics.

"We are pleased by this ruling," Larry Hilton, attorney for TYR, told AP. Speedo, USA Swimming and Schubert had filed motions seeking to dismiss TYR's claims, and a separate motion was filed by USA Swimming and Schubert to strike TYR's state law claims, the agency reported.

Selna through out TYR's allegation of trade libel. For USA Swimming, Richard R. Young, attorney, told AP: "We are confident ... once the court is allowed to assess these facts, USA Swimming will prevail." Speedo has denied any wrongdoing but declined comment when asked to do so by Associated Press.

In light of what has come to pass since the launch of the LZR and various TYR suits since the dispute reared its head, and given that the death knell has been sounded for non-permeable, non-textile suits from January 1, 2010, the action is on the fringe of the current suits crisis.


  1. Its an interesting debate Bob - and I don't have a solution. You're spot on about the free flow of money to the Ironman corporation. I can't see the banning of Blue Seventy or suits like that. The pool swimming and Speedo LZR and other technology is interesting. I don't like the idea of erasing all record for 2008 - maybe they could make a separate record board for "The Year that Non Traditional Suits Were Allowed." I'm sort of joking about the title, but also not.

    The suits absolutely DO give aid...and we (as a society) are rewarding and recognizing those who can perform well AND WHO CAN AFFORD TO PERFORM WELL. Never mind the kid who practices his/her heart out every day who can't afford a suit. I do not think that's right.

    I like the idea of going back to "just" swimsuits. It keeps it real, it keeps it honest - but more importantly, it keeps it about the athlete NOT the technology.

  2. Bob: I am a long time reader and admirer of your triathlon endeavors, but perhaps you may need a skinsuit given the 40 minute half IM SWIM.

  3. My 40 min swim in FL had more to do with three things:

    A) The swim course being long - all those times are 2-10 mins slow depending on who you want to believe. For me, I would say I swam about 35-37 pace. *Not much better than 40 for my ability.

    B) Did you see the part about getting punched in the neck? I was involved in a bit of a "tussle" for several minutes in this swim. I'm still getting treatment and sitting here have a very painful neck.

    C) I had not swam in one month (since training in California in March - 6 weeks actually) going into this race. Not smart, but when you are fully trying to get work and not getting any training time because you actually feel guilty working out and not searching for a job... you understand. *I swam Saturday for the first time since 5/17. Again, I'm trying to get work first.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. I guess I'll need to be more subversive in my choice of swimwear for IMKY. Maybe if I stuff bubble wrap underneath my tri jersey. . .