Australians give swimsuits green light

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The Independent Online

Australian Swimming rules out bodysuit ban at Olympic trials

Australian Swimming will allow swimmers to wear the controversial neck-to-ankle bodysuits at the Australian Olympic trials despite threats the suits will spark protests.

Australian Swimming president Terry Gathercole said the May 13-20 trials would comply with regulations set down by FINA, the world swimming federation, which had already sanctioned the Speedo swimsuits.

"If FINA says the swimsuits are legal, we can't just go around changing the rules because then we would run into trouble," Gathercole said.

"There's always a concern (about protests) but on the other side of the coin, if we prevent people who want to wear the swimsuit from doing so and it's within the rules to do it, they would have the same rights to take action."

The advent of the Speedo Sharkskin bodysuit has polarized Australian swimming, with the nation's leading swimmers taking opposing views on the legality of the device.

The Australian Olympic Committee is seeking a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sports to determine if the swimsuits comply with FINA regulations, which prohibit "any device that may aid (a swimmer's) speed, buoyancy and endurance during a competition."

The AOC has said the design and impact of the suits on a swimmer's performance was questionable and it wanted clarification of the issue to avoid possible legal challenges at the selection trials from swimmers who don't wear the bodysuits.

The CAS appointed Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren to take submissions and make an advisory opinion.

FINA is not participating in the CAS action. Gathercole said Australian Swimming executives would not become involved in the CAS hearing.

Gathercole said the CAS decision was not binding on FINA or Australian Swimming because arbitrator McLaren had been asked only to provide an opinion.

"Whatever the ruling is, FINA may take it on board or they may say, 'We don't want any part of this'," he said.

On Wednesday, Speedo said a bodysuit would be available to every swimmer participating in the Australian selection trials.