AOC to test legality of neck-to-ankle swimsuits

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The Independent Online

The Australian Olympic Committee will test the legality of neck-to-ankle swimsuits in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with or without the support of FINA, swimming's world governing body.

AOC president John Coates has said swimmers who win Olympic medals while wearing the bodysuits could be exposing themselves to legal challenges by rivals who do not.

The neck-to-knee swimsuits have been sanctioned by FINA but Coates said legal challenges at the Olympics would be referred to the CAS, an international arbiter, where the interpretation of what equipment was legal or illegal could be defined differently.

AOC secretary-general Craig McLatchey on Tuesday said FINA did not want to participate in the test case, which is expected to go ahead before the Australian Olympic swimming trials in May.

"(FINA) are not prepared to participate in the advisory opinion ... they're satisfied that they have their rules and appropriate procedures and I understand that view but it probably doesn't go quite far enough," he said.

McLatchey said the AOC was not challenging the FINA regulations but was trying to ensure the rules were being applied to the letter of the law.

"It would be terrible if it were found that a suit ... were to have breached the FINA rules and the result of the athlete was set aside," he told Australian Associated Press.

McLatchey said the AOC action was a preventative measure.

"The question we're asking is not whether 10 or 800 athletes will wear the suit, it's simply saying 'how do we ensure that if our athletes wear the suit they won't be vulnerable to a challenge at CAS by an athlete who didn't wear the suit'," he said.

After the launch of a bodysuit by Australian Olympic sponsor, Speedo, in Athens, Greece, last week, FINA released a statement saying bodysuits are not "devices" designed to make swimmers go faster, such as webbed gloves, flippers or fins that violate FINA rules.

"It is up to each national Olympic committee or national federation to decide the equipment such as swimwear, track suits or other uniforms their athletes will wear at Olympic Games or World Championships," the statement said.