By Liz White, editor
Rome - Polyurethane swimsuits will be banned from competitive swimming by the world federation Fina from 1 Jan next year, Fina's technical committee announced on 2 Aug. The world of swimming had predicted that the ban would take longer to put into effect, but Fina's announcement from its world championship meeting in Rome has set this new schedule and also clarified a previous statement about materials.
In the statement from Rome, where swimmers set 43 new world records, the association gave further details on the textiles and materials which will be permitted after 1 Jan 2010. Any surface treatment that closes the open-mesh structure of the fabric will be banned and Fina also ruled that the material should be soft, flexible, regular and flat.
Fina had already said the textile should consist of natural and/or synthetic, individual and non-consolidated yarns made into a fabric by weaving, knitting, and/or braiding. Now it has added that the any surface treatment of the fabric by coating, printing or impregnation should "not close the original open-mesh structure of the base textile fabric."
Requirements of thickness, permeability and flexibility are crucial, the statement noted, adding that the material must be flexible and soft-folding, as well as regular and flat, "with no outstanding shapes or structures, such as scales," Fina said.
The federation will allow a combination of different materials, as long as they conform to the textile definition, and and all other criteria -- notably thickness and permeability. But such a combination of materials must be completely attached/bound/stuck together except where required to protect sensitive parts - the so-called "privacy layers."
And Fina is not taking any chances: it is banning systems providing external stimulation, such as pain reduction, chemical/medical substance release, electro-stimulation.
Fina pointed out that its 19 June 2009 list of approved swimsuits is valid until 31 Dec 2009, and that future swimwear approval will be done at least 12 months before the next FINA World Championships (50m) or Olympic Games.
Manufacturers will have to make those models available at least six months before the next Fina World Championships or Olympic Games.
The ruling by Fina follows an 18-month period during which suits made with polyurethane panels, and then all-polyurethane-coated suits came to the fore. These suits make enough of a difference in streamlining the body and aiding buoyancy to allow world records to fall at every meeting in an unprecedented fashion, caused a furore in sport with arguments raging over technological doping and unfairness.
Observers thought Fina would ban the all-PU suits this June, but the federation backed down and allowed most of them. This wrong-footed those manufacturers who had assumed the ban would take effect, and enraged others whose suits were banned, despite being almost identical to approved types.
From Rome, Fina president Dr Julio Maglione also revealed the composition of the commission, led by Prof Jan-Anders Manson (from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne, Switzerland) which will control the swimwear approval process and monitor development of the swimsuit industry based on Fina's rules. Other members are Rafael Escalas - the athletes' representative, Prof David Pendergast (State University of New York - Buffalo), Prof Brian Blanksby (University of Western Australia), and Associate Prof Shigahiro Takahashi (Chukyo University, Japan).