Debate deepens over bodysuits

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The Independent Online

Dennis Pursley, the head of the United States national team, yesterday criticised the use of full-length bodysuits, saying they would provide an unfair advantage to those Olympic swimmers who had access to them.

Pursley said his biggest concern was that only a select few would have access to the custom-made suits, giving them a distinct advantage during the Sydney Olympics which start in September. "I do not know that all the swimmers that are Olympic hopefuls will have the same opportunities," he said.

The suits are custom-made and, therefore, they take time to make and are expensive and it is believed that manufacturers would not be able to make them available to all swimmers.

Pursley also said he believed the neck-to-ankle suits breached the spirit of the rules of swimming even though the sport's world governing body, Fina, has cleared them. "I think technology improvements that reduce or eliminate obstacles to performance are a good thing, but to me we have rounded the corner and we are now looking at a suit which enhances performance. Fina has a rule that says you cannot wear any suits or equipment that are performance enhancing," Pursley said.

"The manufacturers claim the suits are performance enhancing and Fina has approved it. So, to me it looks pretty clear: either Fina's approval is in violation of their own rules or the manufacturers are guilty of false advertising." The suits are said to improve race times by up to three per cent.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to determine whether the suits meet Fina's regulations. John Coates, the AOC president, went to the CAS because he was concerned that a swimmer wearing a bodysuit might be stripped of a medal if a rival competitor protested to the CAS.