Manchester, UK -- As 2009 finishes, US and European swimmers had a last chance to wear the controversial all-polyurethane bodysuits in a Manchester, UK, competition before a ban imposed on such suits by the world swimming federation FINA comes into effect 1 Jan 2010.
In the last two years or so, nearly 300 world records have fallen in swimming, with much media attention going to the effect of wearing the performance-enhancing suits, rather than to the swimmers.
In Manchester, attention was focussed on Olympic great Michael Phelps, who had chosen to compete in the ordinary knee-length textile shorts or "jammers" that FINA has specified for men to compete in after the deadline.
Sports journalist feel the choice of this swimwear contributed much to Phelps' defeat by the relatively unknown Briton Michael Rock in his signature event, the 200-m butterfly at the Manchester event, held 17/18 Dec. The UK competitor, like many, took the last opportunity to wear an all-polyurethane suit in the competition between a team from the US and a European team - British Gas's Duel in the Pool.
From next year, all suits for competitive swimming must be of textile construction: men are limited to wearing knee-length shorts, while women's suits can cover from the neck to the knee.
Swimwear maker Speedo, whose LZR Racer suit with polyurethane panels started the rush to all-polyurethane swimwear, has had its new textile suit range approved by FINA. Its new LZR Racer Elite range "is fully compliant with the new FINA rules that come into effect from January 2010," the company said.
Meanwhile the good news for Phelps, according to sports reports, is that, unlike those more reluctant to give up the PU bodysuits, he does not need to get acclimatised to the new gear. The world of swimming is no doubt keen to see what 2010's fresh start will bring for the sport, untrammelled by accusations of polyurethane-assisted technological doping. (LW)
PIC: Flashback to early 2008 with Michael Phelps wearing the Speedo LZR Racer suit with PU panels