Talbot: AOC taking wrong tack on swimsuits

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The Independent Online

The Australian Olympic Committee was well meaning but was taking the wrong strategy by challenging the legality of full-length bodysuits, Australia's head swimming coach said today.

Don Talbot said the continued controversy surrounding the Fastskin neck-to-ankle swimsuit could disadvantage leading swimmers at the May 13-20 Australian Olympic selection trials.

"I think the (AOC) strategy is the wrong one," Talbot was quoted saying.

Australian swimmers have been "asked to win 20 medals at the Olympics and yet we're being asked to not wear a suit that the rest of the world is able to wear," he said. "That could disadvantage us."

The bodysuit issue has split Australian swimming since the AOC first raised concerns about its legality after a presentation last year of the performing-enhancing qualities of the new technology.

FINA, the international swimming federation, sanctioned the full-length bodysuits in October last year, although swimmers had worn earlier versions of the swimsuits at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

In a bid to head off legal challenges from disgruntled swimmers, AOC chief John Coates had applied to the Court of Arbitration for Sports for an advisory opinion to determine if the swimsuits were a device or a swimming costume.

FINA rules prohibit any "device that may aid his speed, buoyancy or endurance during a competition."

But CAS arbitrator Richard McLaren on Monday delivered an opinion which backed FINA, saying the international federation had followed its own guidelines in sanctioning the bodysuit.

The ruling prompted the AOC to announce it would delay naming the Australian Olympic swim team until May 22 to give swimmers who missed selection 48 hours to appeal.

But an Australian Swimming Inc. spokesman said today that the national swimming federation would go ahead and name the Olympic team at conclusion of the trials on May 20 to give competitors a sense of the atmosphere to expect at the September 15-October 1 Olympics.

Australian swimming team co-captain Chris Fydler, who is opposed to the bodysuits, said designers would start incorporating fins and flotation into swimsuits if FINA didn't review its rules.

"I can only imagine ... we've only just seen the start of the bodysuit," he said.

But Talbot said all swim suits were designed to help athletes go faster, adding that technology was part of sport. He said the CAS ruling should have been the end of the matter.

"I think the (CAS) statement says categorically that FINA is allowed to do whatever they like with their own sport," he said.