By Liz White, editor
Huntington Beach, California - While some swimsuit makers using constructions completely coated with polyurethane had their products approved in a 22 June listing by swimming's international governing body FINA, others swimwear companies who submitted what they claim are nearly identical suits did not get the OK for their use.
So says swimwear maker TYR, headquartered in Huntington Beach, California.
"This is a truly unfortunate situation we are all in," said Matt Zimmer, promotions director for TYR, in a 9 July statement. "Our athletes are being denied the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. I am holding elite technology in my hands, virtually identical to what other athletes are now using, that I cannot give out due to FINA's failure in their own testing protocol and approval process."
Public controversy over what materials and construction are permissible, or even sporting, in swimwear has raged since Speedo first introduced its LZR suits with polyurethane and polychloroprene (Neoprene) panels, early last year, before the Beijing Olympics.
When FINA ruled that the LZR was acceptable, others jumped in to compete, and rapidly developed suits entirely coated in PU. While some of these suits are reported to tear easily, and to take up to 40 minutes to don, there is no doubt that swimmers wearing such suits have an advantage, as the continuing fall of world swimming records meeting by meeting shows.
TYR said in a 9 July statement that "in the interest of fairness, and out of responsibility to our athletes," it has filed a complaint with the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Strasbourg, France, asking the court to nominate an independent legal expert to determine why some suits have been approved by FINA while nearly identical suits from TYR were not.
The US manufacturer is querying FINA's rejection of four of its designs: two suits based on either polychloroprene or polyurethane combined with woven material, with more than 20 percent permeable material; and two seamless polyurethane types, one with woven backing, the other with knit backing.
According to TYR, "These designs are similar to, and in two instances incorporate a greater percentage of permeable material, than suits already approved by FINA."
UK Olympic swimming gold medallist Rebecca Adlington waded into the public debate, just ahead of the Rome swimming championships currently taking place. She has been reported as saying that since she would never take drugs, "why would I wear a suit just to improve my performance?" In her Olympic pursuit, Adlington wore the Speedo LZR suit - the one which started all this controversy.
PIC: German swimmer Britta Steffen wearing the latest all-PU coated body suit from Adidas, the FINA-approved Hydrofoil. This has an "ultra lightweight and paper-thin woven fabric, which features a fully laminated PU foil to ensure that the athlete and suit stay drier, lighter and more slick in the water," the company says.