In a move that did not surprise anyone, FINA, swimming’s governing body, has banned high-tech swimsuits. However, like most sound decisions, the ban will not start until 2010, allowing swimmers one last hurrah at this weekend’s World Championships in Rome.
When Speedo introduced the LZR Racer swimsuit seventeen months ago, more than 130 world records have fallen. Some swimmers supported the measure including the sports biggest star, Michael Phelps. FINA’s new proposal is that the suits be made of permeable materials and that there be limits to have much the suit covers one’s body.
Now the debate has begun as to whether these swimmers were cheating by using the enhanced swimsuits. One swimmer, Rebecca Adlington, said she would never take a drug so why should she be considered a cheater for swimming in LZR Racer. Mark Schubert, the general manager of the United States national team, suggests that the records from this era should be wiped out because they were achieved through artificial assistance.
This debate has many parallels to the steroid era in baseball. Athletes claiming that they would never knowingly cheat. However, as long as what they are doing is not against the rules, they will take whatever edge they can find. Previously, Italian freestyler Federica Pellegrini wore two swimsuits on her way to a gold medal in Beijing to make her more buoyant. Like baseball dealing with the steroid era, swimming will be debating how to deal with the swimsuit era and those who are unable to maintain their prior levels of accomplishments will be forced to admit that it was a result of the suits.