Bodysuits banned from U.S. Olympic trials

Thursday, June 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (AP) -- American swimmers can't wear the full-length bodysuits that have revolutionized swimming at the U.S.
Olympic trials, officials decided Thursday.

The full, 23-member board of USA Swimming discussed the issue for several hours Thursday before agreeing to ban the suits that have enabled competitors to slice through the water at record-shattering speed in the Aug. 9-16 trials in Indianapolis because of concerns that production delays will mean some swimmers
may not get theirs in time.

"The issue of fairness is at the forefront," said Charlie Snyder, a spokesman for USA Swimming.

Bodysuits have been approved by the sport's international governing body, so American swimmers will be allowed to wear them
at the Summer Olympics, which begin Sept. 16 in Sydney.

The new suits are highly popular among top-level swimmers, but leading manufacturers have struggled to keep up with demand.

"It's a very, very time-extensive product to make," said Craig Brommers, director of sports marketing for Speedo. "There's much more stitching. There's much more fabric to deal with. ... We're still in a learning curve on how to make the suit as efficiently as possible."

The bodysuits, some of which cover the arms and extend from neck to ankle, have been cited as a major reason for the abundance of
world records this year.

While there is no firm data on the effect of the suits, Speedo points to its own research as showing the "Fastskin" fabric provides a 3 percent reduction in drag -- significant in a sport where races are decided by hundredths of a second.

The sport's governing body asked Speedo and three other suit manufacturers -- Adidas, Nike and Tyr -- to make their high-tech suits available to all swimmers by June 14, giving them plenty of time to get comfortable in the new attire before the trials.

But Adidas was the only one that met the deadline, forcing USA Swimming to reconsider its position, Snyder said.

"At the Olympic trials, there will be well over 1,000 and possibly more than 1,200 swimmers," he said. "We wanted to be as
fair as possible to all competitors."

Australians Ian Thorpe and Susie O'Neill wore bodysuits as they set world records in the Australian Olympic trials last month. Inge
de Bruijn of the Netherlands wore one while setting three world marks in the past two weeks. American Tom Malchow was covered when he broke the record for the 200-meter butterfly in Charlotte, N.C., last weekend.

The Speedo suits were designed by marine biologists with a textured pattern that they say mimics the effect of sharkskin in water. Adidas says the swimsuits improve performance by compressing a swimmer's muscles.