Skiing: Downhill hits the skids over plastic underwear row
The deeply competitive world of downhill skiing is being rocked by a heated dispute about plastic underwear and whether wearing such garments on the slopes gives racers an unfair aerodynamic advantage over their rivals.
The row erupted last week when the Slovenian skier Tina Maze finished second at a major Austrian event only to be accused afterwards of wearing banned plastic undergarments which might have given her an edge over her competitors. The charges prompted the Swiss Skiing Federation to lodge a complaint with its parent body, the International Skiing Federation (FIS).
Maze tried to make light of the affair – "My underwear is obviously too sexy for the Swiss," she retorted – but her underclothing was subjected to a rigorous examination all the same.
Yet the FIS verdict was by no means conclusive. It ruled that Maze's undersuit met the strict air permeability rules for such garments laid down in the regulations. But FIS added that the garment also contained a membrane which "could be considered a form of plastic", a material banned under the rules.
The body concluded that, although Maze's suit was permissible, "it is recommended that the one-piece undergarment not be used by any athletes in competition." However, it added that the ruling was based on evidence that her garment might be bad for the skin.
The row is the latest dispute to cloud the ultra competitive sport, a discipline in which winning is often a question of a hundredth of a second. Speed suit fabrics and wax types are already constantly modified. Now underwear appears to have become the new battleground for racing regulators.
Beside health concerns, there are suspicions that as some air passes through a skier's outer clothing, underwear that further reduces resistance could deliver an advantage. "The question is: is it the underwear?" Sasha Rearick, the United States men's ski team coach told The New York Times.
Last weekend, Günter Hujara, the men's race director for FIS, chose the Austrian ski resort of Kitzbühel, where a World Cup skiing event will be held shortly, for a meeting with skiing coaches at which he waved a piece of blue plastic skiing underwear around in the air. He is then reported to have said: "If we see something like this, we will not hesitate to disqualify immediately."
It has since emerged that Mr Hujara was brandishing a men's skiing undergarment consisting of a full-bodied plastic neoprene hybrid sheath which can be worn under a standard speed suit.
These kind of undersuits, which are slightly different from Maze's garment, came to the attention of FIS officials at a race in Italy in December when members of the Italian team were seen wearing them. However, the race was cancelled because of bad weather and the Italian coach insisted that his athletes never competed in them.
Competition ski coaches were meeting in Kitzbühel yesterday in an attempt to resolve the dispute and obtain a conclusive ruling from the FIS.
Latest in Sport
Sky Sports and BT Sport announce Premier League live matches for 2015/16 with Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in action
Football kits 2015/16: The good, the bad and the downright worst new shirts from around the world for next season
Sergio Ramos to Manchester United: Transfer news live - Paul Pogba and Raheem Sterling to Manchester City, Lukas Podolski to leave Arsenal
Chelsea 2015/16 home shirt leaked again as new picture appears online
Wimbledon 2015: 'Heather Watson deserved to win the match,' concedes world No 1 Serena Williams after gruelling contest
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Baby rescued 1km out to sea after parents forgot about her
- 5 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...
£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...