Open Water Safety and FINA Related Issues

Informative email string from Coach Richard Shoulberg. Forwarded by John Leonard (with enthusiastic approval from Coach Shoulberg, whose mission it is to make Open Water Swimming safe in the immediate future.) Please feel free to forward this to anyone you deem important to see this. It says a great deal about Open Water Safety and how FINA really operates. – JL

Email #1

—Original Message—
From: Thomas Lurz
Sent: Thursday, November 04, 2010 2:23 PM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Subject: Re: Fran

Hello Mr.Shoulberg,

Thanks for your email, and for writing to me. Of course I would like to help you and everyone else who I can help. I also wrote with M. Crippen. I knew Fran really well and he was so good guy, athlete and a very good swimmer! One of the best in world of course in open water. I had a lot of respect for him and we had also some fun together at the swimming competitions.

But also we spoke a lot about the conditions and organisations in open water and especially about the FINA World Cup series. We had the same opinion about that. It should be much more professionel in many ways.

I was so shocked and I am still very shocked about what happened and I still cant believe it, really.

The race was not well organised. the FINA deligate (he is from Latvia and does not speak good English, don’t know his name) was not able to chance something and I also think didn’t wanted to chance something.

The weather was too hot and the water temperature also. The water was around 32 degrees and the outside air temperature was around 45 degrees. We also started at 10 o’clock and at 12 we finished the race. I think that is the worst time you can start such arace. Its the hottest temperature during the day. Not professional!

The race should not have been there!

We traveled to the hotel from Dubai to this town called Fujairah one day before the race. It was nearly 3 hours by bus through the desert.

There was not enough safety boats and life guards during the race. We swimmers came to the organisation and said Fran is missing and when he is missing there should be something wrong because he is one of the best and he should be in the finish. We swimmers were diving after him. the organisation drove with jet skis and they had no idea where they need to search and they had no idea what to do when such accident happen. and also it was dangerous again because many swimmers were inside the sea diving and they were driving with jet skis!!! not a safety boat with gps or echolot! for normally it must go very fast. they didnt collect the accreditaion and given them after the race again to the swimmers to check how is in the finish and who not.

I am getting very angry when I read the statement from organisation chef ayman saad. I know him a little and when I read his statements I am just angry and aggressive. like “what can we do…he just pushed so hard…” perhaps more safety boats and take care about swimmers and don’t swim in the desert under too hot conditions!!!??!!!

in many FINA races we have not good conditions in general. many swimmers write me and ask me if I can do something to chance it and I will try my best.

If you want I can send you a letter I wrote with reasons to chance. but all the same sometimes I don’t feel the power because even if they chance it will bring us Fran not back.

I hope so much that USA Swimming is finding out the real reasons of the Fran [Crippen] death because I think in Emirates they tried to say is was heart attack. I am sure the hot conditions were the biggest reason. Fran was top fit!!!

And also 3 other swimmers went in hospital and I saw another russian girl who felt down after the race because of the hot weather.

I have a lot of experience in open water but this was too much. I would not swim the other 15km a few days later even nothing serious would finges were swollen and we don’t need to swim under such conditions! We are professional swimmers and we do Olympic Sport and we aren’t extreme swimmers or surviers under the hardest conditions.

If you have any questions you can ask me. I want to help in any ways!!! And how are the things going right now? Did the doctors find out something?


—- Original-Nachricht —-
Datum: Thu, 4 Nov 2010 07:19:53 -0400
Von: Richard Shoulberg
An: Thomas Lurz
Betreff: Fran


Fran Crippen has been part of our program for over 20 years. I am the head coach for Germantown Acadaemy for the past 42 years, I can only tell you that Fran Crippen had the greatest respect for you first as a person and as an athlete. I would appreciate any information you can provide me about the events of Fran’s death and the meet in general. It is my mission to ensure that this never happens again and that open water swimming with be safe for all. Please continue to train hard and work toward you dreams. All the best.

Richard W Shoulberg

Email #2

—Original Message—
From: Thomas Lurz
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 4:32 AM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Subject: letter


thanks for your email and I think you wrote very important points down. enclose I send you the letter for the athletes. its a proposal for some rules chancing. many swimmers already signed it and I will wait a few more days and then send to FINA. We have a big support from all swimmers. its nearly every swimmer in open water!!!

I also think that the FINA technical open water commitee need to chance soemthing. they can do it and they need to take care at the world cup races.


HI Everyone,

after the terrible race in Fujairah in October I think we as an athletes need to chance some things in Open Water. We don’t want that such things will ever happen again and also we need to get our sport more professional. Many swimmers came to me after this last World Cup race and asked me if I can write some reasons down. I did it and just read it and if you have the same opinion and you stand behind this letter just let me know and “Singature” this letter.

Thomas Lurz

Email #3

From: Christine Jennings Sent: Sunday, November 07, 2010 4:32 PM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Subject: Re:

HI Coach Shoulberg,

Forgive my late response, I have not been regularly checking email. I’ve been at the OTC without a computer since I got back, so I have no way to save this report into a file, sorry. I did print it for my reference, just in case.

I also have some saftety issues I wanted to share with you and the rest of the Open Water group, but have it hand written. I am planning on typing that up today or tomorrow and sending it out to Kalyn Keller, who has sent us an email to work together on this. I know as an individual it is hard to be heard, but as a group we can make some progress, especially with you and Kalyn helping us.

Below is my statement of what I recall happened that week:

Thursday-Friday, October 22, 2010

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

On Thursday, October 21st, we were notified the race location had been changed. On Friday afternoon we drove 2 hours to the new location, Fujairah, across the peninsula. After the long drive many swimmers went down to the race course to swim in the water, I however did not because I always do one practice the day before my races.

The night of the 22nd a technical meeting was held, as is required before any open water 10K race. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, about 60-90 minutes less the amount of time any other technical meeting I have ever been to has lasted. The first 10 min of the meeting was introducing who was in the race and the total points so far accumulated by the swimmers in contention for the grand prize. After that they went over the course map and feeding stations. Some questions were asked on how two feeding stations that held 20 each could potentially hold up to 80 feeders, one for each swimmer. After that, we shortly went into medical safety, which was all about who the medical doctor was, what type of insurance FINA had for the race, and that an ambulance would be available. The topic of safety on the water was never discussed. They then went to dismiss everyone from the meeting, not realizing there were plenty of coaches who still had questions to address, mainly being about the finish shoot, rules regarding swimming on either side of feeding station, who is on what feeding station, starting with or without swim caps and several others. The topic of safety, as I look back seemed irrelevant, as many were too focused on the task at hand, me being one. While these last questions were being addressed, there were about 20 people left, coaches and swimmer’s together, the rest had already left and boarded the bus. I stayed the whole time.

When I got back to the hotel for dinner, I started asking the American swimmers how the water felt, because, again, I did not get in that night. Their responses included a bit of surprise about the difference in water temperature between Dubai and our current location in Fujairah. After that, all I could think of was how to best prepare to swim in hot water, drinking lots and lots of water was one thing I did, because I knew once I got into the water there is nothing else you can do but give your best.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fujairah, United Arab Emirates

On the day of the race I got up early to swim in the hotel pool, which was about 12-15m long because I was trying as much as possible to limit my exposure to the hot water on the race course. I then proceeded to eat breakfast, drink more water, and load the bus to the race course. When I got to the race course, it was about 845am, and one could just tell the air temperature, even at that time, was already steadily increasing. The “air condition” tent was definitely cooler than outside, but it was still warm enough for me to sweat. I got my swim suit on and proceeded to go check in to get numbered. I brought my credential over to identify myself to receive my number, and that was it, I never needed that credential ever again. There were no timing chips either, which are used to track swimmers as they do each lap and finish. I believe just about everyone was continuously hydrating while doing their pre-race routine of applying vasoline for chaffing, duck tape, and gel packs in their swim suits. Thirty minutes prior to the race, I started wondering what the water was like, so I decided to go in. I swam out about 50 meters and back, a total of probably less than a 100 meters and then proceeded back into the tent.

Next, they called all the men’s names and told them to enter the water, next the women, there was no collection of credentials. I watched the men enter the water and their start and then entered the water myself.

***Here is how the race played out for me during those 2 hours:
While lined up at the start I already knew this was going to be a tough race to finish, a swimmer’s gut feeling I guess you could call it.

About 500 meters in we rounded the first feeding dock, I had to check to see if my feeder, Jack Fabian, was on the first one, as the coaches never knew which station they were allowed on because one feeding dock could only hold 20 feeders out of a potential 80, he was. Nobody I saw fed 500 meters into the race, it just was not yet needed. About 1700 meters, almost one loop, into the race, I took a gel from my suit, 200 meters later I felt sick to my stomach and could taste the gel as it started to come back up. At my first feed, 2500 meters into the race, I drank all my feed, which included Gatorade and gel packs mixed in them, the cold drink helped for a bit, but as soon as I took another gel pack at about 3700 meters, I finally threw up. At that point I just kept telling myself that no matter how much I throw up or feel sick, I need to keep on intaking Gatorade and gels whenever possible. I fed again at the feeding station (4500m), this stayed down for a couple minutes, as was the case for the my third feed at 6500 meters. I took a gel at 7500m which did not stay down. My fourth feed, at 8500 meters, I could not swallow any of it.

Physical Situation:
The first inclination that something did not feel right was at the 6000 meter mark, I had a pretty bad headache and was hoping my next feed coming up would help subside my headache and nauseousness, it didn’t. At about the 7300 meter mark my vision started to get a bit hazy, I then began to swim with my eyes shut as much as I could, I started praying. Around that time, the pace of the swimmers began picking up, I followed hoping I could stick with them. When the last feed came by, I knew I was struggling. I took my bottle, tried to drink, it never happened. I threw it away and continued trying to stay behind the girl ahead of me to get her draft, next thing I knew I was several meters away from her and had to work harder to get back on her feet again, this happened several times. At this point, I remember trying to talk to myself, encouraging myself to stay awake and focus and push my body harder, something inside me then told me not to, I stopped and started to go easy.

After loosing the front pack I realized I had drifted about 15 meters off course when I saw some girl’s swim by, I don’t really remember swimming the next 700 meters until I turned on my back because I was scared of passing out or not finishing the race. I lifted my arms as far out of the water as I could at the time, which was definitely above my elbows, gave a few waves and then floated on my back for several minutes hoping someone would come and check on me, nobody ever did. I did see a boat 300 meters away, but apparently they were not “looking” for danger. I had no energy to go in search of help. After I calmed down and was no longer panicking and hyperventilating because it was hard to breath, I decided the only way I’m getting out of this race is to swim the last 500 meters. I started swimming, next thing I knew I had a German girl holding and hugging me at the finish and trying to then help me out of the water.

After the Race:
I could barely stand after getting out of the water and was helped to the ambulance where it was cooler. Some guy thought it was a good idea to throw ice cold water on me to cool me down, I almost went into shock, I’m glad I did not. After a while, I was kicked out of the ambulance so someone else could use it, I was still not ok. I ended up being taken to the tent and someone who was smarter put ice in a towel over my head and behind my neck to try and cool me down. I was told later at the hospital that I had started to act a bit delusional and I was really pale and was still overheating. I remember asking lots of questions about Fran’s whereabouts and why no one was looking for him. Thirty minutes after the race they decided to take me back to the ambulance and to the hospital. I rode with Eva Fabian, we never got any intravenous saline solution until after we arrived at the hospital.

The hospital story:
I’ve never been hospitalized in my life, so having an IV in my hand was a first. After the last saline solution ran out, blood started to flow into the tube out of my hand, which I later found out that if it forms an air bubble and goes back into my hand it can cause problems in the heart and lungs from the air bubble if large enough, I think it was called Air Embolism, I will need to look that one up. Anyway, once the blood started to come out of my hand, Eva and I were a bit freaked out and started asking for a nurse or doctor, nobody came, we started yelling for Help, nobody came, then a few minutes later, a doctor pops his head in and tells us basically to “shut up, this is a hospital” in a rude manner. Yet, at the same time some guy next to use had been chanting really loud in Arabic for the past 10 minutes? Really! A nurse later came in and resolved the situation of my blood coming out the wrong way into the IV tube, thankfully no problems occurred.

We were told about Fran’s death 30 minutes after he had arrived at the hospital. We were released from the hospital around 4-5pm. We returned to the hotel for 30 minutes, I packed and took a shower and then had to go to the police station to give my report.

The police station:
I had several issues I did not agree on when at the police station. I do know and understand that there is a difference in culture, but some things still need to be done better. One of the first questions I was asked was what religion I am, me having a translator who was not very fluent and was actually one of the race organizers, I responded, “I’m a Christian, what does that have to do with this?” They told me that they file my report under what religion I am. I’m thinking, well, what would happen if I was Jewish? What would happen to my report, would it hold any substance?

After they printed my responses they had typed up, I asked someone to read it back to to me because it was in Arabic. Small detail, they got the date wrong, second, they very briefly summarized what I actually said. I was angry, I made them rewrite it, it was much longer afterwards. (LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT AN EXAMPLE). It was like they did not take a death seriously, they did not care for the why or how. It just did, or as Eva told me, as the police told her, that Fran died because it was fate. Which I do now know is part of their belief system.

I was then shuttled straight to Dubai, boarded my plane and left for the United States. I arrived back home Sunday morning in Colorado.

Thank you, Let me know if I can clarify any of this as this is what I scribbled down as soon as I got back to the USA and just quickly typed up in word. When I get a chance to clean this up, as some words might be jumbled and not make sense, I can email you a new version.

My Regards,
Christine Jennings

On Fri, Nov 5, 2010 at 7:18 AM, Richard Shoulberg wrote:


I had the pleasure of meeting you and I know exactly who you are. Fran spoke very highly of you and my new mission in life is to make this wonderful sport safe and I have communicated with everyone and anyone who I thought could help the sport of open water. I wrote to the president and secretary of FINA, but did not get a reply-no surprise to me. When you have a chance, I would appreciate you giving me your thoughts on that horrible day. I saw your interview on TV and saw quotes in our local newspaper about the tragic event. I want you to keep your dreams high for Fran and yourself. I will be on the sidelines next June at our national championships and I guarantee I will give you a big good luck hug.

Richard W Shoulberg
Head Coach – Swimming/Aquatic Director
Germantown Academy
340 Morris Road
Fort Washington, PA 19034

Email #4

From: Alex Meyer Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2010 6:16 PM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Subject: Re:

Hey Shoulberg,

Thanks for your email. I was hoping I would get to talk to you a little more this past weekend, but it just went by so fast and there were so many people to see. Will you be at Golden Goggles?

I, too, want to make something good out of this tragedy. I’m here for anyone who needs to know what happened that day, and I am committed to making necessary changes happen. I’ve attached a letter that I wrote that details all of the problems with the UAE race.

My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. Call me if you ever need anything.


On Tue, Nov 2, 2010 at 9:15 AM, Richard Shoulberg wrote:


So sorry for the loss of Fran and so sorry for what you went through to help your friend. I am trying to get together as much information as I can about the tragic death of Fran. Any information you can give will be great. I sent an email on Tuesday, October 26, to Chuck Wiegus, Dale Neuburger that I told Fran at 2:16 a.m. that I had a new purpose in life and a new mission. I will do everything possible that this will never happen again to any family, club or country and FINA once they put the gold medal out, they do kids would work extremely hard and in my opinion FINA and the host organizers failed all the athletes. Keep in touch. Chase your dream and never, never give up.

Richard W Shoulberg
Head Coach – Swimming/Aquatic Director
Germantown Academy
340 Morris Road
Fort Washington, PA 19034

October 25, 2010

To whom it may concern,

This report is prepared by myself, Alex Meyer, based on my perspective of the events surrounding the tragic death of my friend and teammate Fran Crippen, and the experiences of others that were related to me in person.

Almost every FINA World Cup I have attended has had glaring organizational errors in terms of athlete accommodation, transportation, and venue location and safety. Listed are the major problems with the organization with the last race in Fujairah that I believe contributed to Fran’s death.

There was no check-in or check-out for the swimmers before and after the race, therefore no way to be accountable for their whereabouts. At most World Cup races, the athletes’ credentials are taken as they enter the water, and returned to them after they finish, allowing officials on land to know exactly who is still in the water.

The officials did not appear to have radios, or at least several of them that I spoke to. It’s possible that the officials on the two boats had them, but I cannot know for sure. I began to get worried and started asking questions to the race officials about ten minutes after the first men finished. They could not answer the simple questions of whether or not Francis Crippen #39 was disqualified or if he had gotten out of the water voluntarily. I asked if they could radio the referee since they could not answer these important questions, but then said they had no radios. They also didn’t know where the referee was. After this I had no choice but to begin a search on my own and I got on a jet ski to look for Fran on the course. I went around twice on a jet ski and then came in and got Jack Fabian to help me, who had been caring for Christine Jennings and his daughter Eva who were very sick after the race.

There were 55 males and 27 females entered to swim the races, and there appeared to be no lifeguards. It was unclear what was said about lifeguards at the technical meeting since the FINA medical delegate spoke little English and went through the whole presentation in about five minutes, saying little, even attempting to end the meeting before several people had the opportunity to have their questions answered. The questions they did answer had very vague answers, almost all of them saying that they will “try” to do something.

If Fran had attempted to get help, it was a futile effort because as Christine Jennings said to me in an email, “I lifted both arms out of the water for about 10 sec or so then laid on my back for several minutes hyper-ventilating bc I was too tired to keep waving for someone. I just was hoping someone would see me and come and ask if I was ok because I was afraid I couldn’t finish and wanted to either be pulled or have at least someone next to me as I tried to finish…I was extremely scared!”

At the technical meeting, the FINA medical delegate said that a water quality check had not been done since they changed the location of the race, but that he was sure it was OK. Though the water was relatively clear, it was 33°C, which is not OK. There needs to be a rule for maximum temperature just like we already have one for minimum temperature. Four athletes ended up in the hospital, one of them dead.

  • The race was swum from 10am to noon, the hottest part of the day when the sun is directly overhead.
  • There were no medical boats, only two official boats (one for each race), and the medical delegate on a jet ski.
  • After the race, Eva and Christine were being treated for heat exhaustion in the ambulance and had to share an oxygen mask.
  • There were only two ambulances. They did not have air conditioning, drinking water, or IVs.
  • There were no certified EMTs.
  • Jack and I and several athletes who had finished the race were the only ones looking for Fran before any officials came to help.
  • There was no surf rescue until about two hours after the men’s race finished. Police and rescue divers showed up. There should be scuba divers under water during the race.

While the organizers with the local committee were compassionate and accommodating, the FINA delegates and the local press were anything but that. They tried to wipe their hands clean and absolve themselves of all responsibility, with no sympathy for Fran, his teammates, or the other athletes. The technical delegate was the most rude and disrespectful. Multiple conflicting reports were released prematurely, with lots of misinformation. In an effort to make it appear as though Fran was rescued in a timely fashion, one report said that he was found floating, another that he was on the rocks, and that he died later in the hospital. He was obviously dead when they brought him to shore because the rescue boat approached the harbor very slowly, and they were not performing CPR. They covered him head to toe with a white sheet on a stretcher and put him in the ambulance. I was hysterical and pulled the sheet down off of Fran’s face and his lips and nose were very white. He still had his goggles on too. Also, he was bleeding from his ear, and later the doctors confirmed that his eardrum had ruptured from the pressure while sinking. Obviously the reports of him being found floating or on land and found alive were fabricated because he was clearly deep underwater, and it was obvious that he was dead upon arrival to the harbor. Hopefully an autopsy in the United States or by a trusted doctor in the UAE can provide a reliable conclusion.

Jack Fabian returned to the venue to claim his feeding sticks which were being held there for him. He had to go there because the organizers refused to bring them to the hotel. When he arrived, there was a press conference waiting for him, and reporters were asking if it was true that he killed his swimmer because he pushed him too hard. One report claimed this, and that Fran looked tired at the last feeding station where Jack last saw him, and that he made him continue swimming. Jack did the right thing and spoke to nobody and left immediately.

The FINA technical delegate asked Jack why he thought this happened, and Jack replied that there was a lack of safety precaution etc. The delegate immediately put his hand in Jack’s face and said that he had heard enough. This man is notorious among the veteran athletes for being incompetent and not caring about the well-being of the athletes at the competition.

There were other problems with the organization of this race, though I don’t think they had anything to do Fran’s death.

There were No Timing Chips

The local committee hosted all the athletes in Dubai, a three-hour drive away, until the afternoon before the race. It’s unacceptable to make athletes do this the day before a race, especially the last and most competitive one of the World Cup circuit.

Before the Grand Prix race, the only option for pool training was to drive three hours back to Dubai to train, and back to Fujairah again.

This careless lack of consideration for the safety and well-being of the athletes is absolutely inexcusable. Negligence on behalf of FINA and the UAE organizing committee killed my friend and teammate. The race was put together last-minute with the least amount of money possible. It showed, and four athletes suffered from it, one of them fatally. Fran Crippen was a remarkable athlete and an even more remarkable person. He always had opinions about the way events were run and always had new and bright ideas to make them better. I think we should honor his memory by fighting for change in the way athletes are treated and races are organized, especially in terms of safety. We are humans, and deserve to be treated as such. We swim because we love to do it, not for the money. The night after Fran died, many of the athletes sat at dinner and despite how competitive we are with each other, we all love each other and feel like we are part of one big family. Everyone loved Fran, and he had close friends from all around the world who I believe will fight for this cause too. It will take a group effort, with multiple swimming federations working together to get these changes to happen, but I know it can be done, and I am committed to making it happen.

Ideas for the Future:

There needs to be a rule about the maximum temperature in which a race can be held. This should be a combination of water temperature, air temperature, and water conditions. It should also be dependent on the distance of the race.

Mandatory lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio, competent lifeguards, and efficient coverage of the course. One idea a coach from New Zealand proposed was to offer free accommodation to competitive surf and rescue lifeguards from Australia and New Zealand to come guard at the competition. Many of them would leap at the opportunity.

Some kind of GPS-like tracking system for athletes, with information on velocity and depth underwater. It’s 2010 – this technology is available.

Alex Meyer

Email #5

From: Richard Shoulberg Sent: Sunday, November 07, 2010 2:32 PM
To: Dale Neuburger
Subject: Questions

Dear Dale,

Here are some of the questions I’d like for you to consider before we speak on the telephone:

  1. How is a Grand Prix or Open-Water World Championship awarded to a host country?
  2. What are the credentials or qualifications of the people who vote for the open-water sites?
  3. Who provides the voters with the information needed to select a site?
  4. What are the published rules for site selection?
  5. What are the written rules of the competition and who is charge of enforcing the rules?
  6. FINA has a low temperature rule. Why is there no high temperature rule?
  7. Who pays the organization or company that represent the different countries vying for site selection?
  8. What knowledge do those organizations have in regards to the rules that effect the safety of competitors?

Going forward, a safer open-water calendar must be adhered to by FINA. Also, a standard for proper housing, food/hydration, and preparation time must be established for all competitions. Will ShanghaI 2011 be reconsidered because the conditions will be dissimilar to London? It would make sense to select athletes for London 2012 who have been proven fit for the conditions they will be expected to endure.

I’m looking forward to our phone conversation or you may feel free to email a response to my questions.

Richard W. Shoulberg, Head Coach
Germantown Academy and Germantown Academy Aquatic Club

Email #6

From: Richard Shoulberg Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2010 11:01 AM
To: Julio Maglione; HKASA; Steven Munatones
Subject: Concerns


I would think that the Technical Open Water Swimming Committee is working feverishly to make sure the death of Fran Crippen never happens again and I know that the season starts January, 2011.

In my opinion FINA must add a high water temperature. They currently have a minimum low water temperature and in my opinion they must add a maximum high water temperature and it has to be different for fresh water versus salt water.

I would like to see a list of all the safety requirements needed to run a FINA or Olympic or USA swimming open water venue and who will enforce the safety requirements?

I think the FINA Open Water Technical Committee must select safe sites for all competitions and list any site that is not safe before people vote on the site selection.

My impression is the people who voted on having the open water competition in Dubai (and I was told there were 20 votes and Dubai received 14 votes) and I would like to see the expertise that these 20 people had in picking a FINA open water site and what company represented Dubai for the bid.

There must be an open water calendar set by FINA and approved by the Open Water Technical Committee experts in dates and location of competitions and the period of time between the dates of competition and that the host country provide ample time for all competitors to acclimatize to where the venue will be held.

Working backwards for 2016, Brazil Olympics, the FINA technical open water experts should pick venues that mirror more like Brazil, starting with the year 2013.

I would gladly discuss with any of you any time, on how to make this beautiful sport safe and secure for all athletes from all nations. Fran was a member of our club since he was a little boy. His sister was a 2000 Olympian. His other sister made the World Championship team that will compete in China this summer and his third sister is a ten-time All American at the University of Virginia and is a present captain. The loss of Fran leaves a huge hole in the hearts of everyone at Germantown Academy, US Swimming and world swimming. I challenge you to make it safe.

Richard W Shoulberg
Head Coach – Swimming/Aquatic Director
Germantown Academy
340 Morris Road
Fort Washington, PA 19034

Email #7

From: Covino Francesca On Behalf Of Presidenza FIN Paolo Barelli
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 10:15 AM
To: Richard Shoulberg
Cc: Julio Maglione; Pipat Paniangvait; Margot Mountjoy; Flavio Bomio; Dale Neuburger
Subject: Answer Richard W Shoulberg letter of November 7, 2010

Dear Sir,

This is to reply to your e-mail dated 7th November 2010. For your information I have received no previous correspondence from you.

On behalf of myself and of the whole Italian Aquatic Family, let me first reiterate my deepest sadness for the death of Fran Crippen and confirm my most heartfelt condolences to his Family, to USA Aquatic Sports and USA Swimming. The tragic loss of Fran Crippen – such a great athlete and such a bright and incredible person – has been mourned also in Italy, where he gained the love and the sympathy of all the persons who witnessed his achievements when he won the bronze medal at the 13th World Championships in Rome 2009.

In my role of President of the Italian Swimming Federation I strongly wish that FINA and the responsible authorities will support every action aimed to clarify each aspect of this tragedy. It has to be done for Fran, and for all swimmers performing this wonderful sport. I say this as an Olympic athlete, as FINA Honorary Secretary (since July 2009) and as President of the Italian Swimming Federation. I obviously profoundly care for safety at all competitions, and for all FINA athletes, including, among them, thousands of Italian swimmers who practise open water swimming.

Coming to your letter, both its contents – a sequel of statements concerning my person and my reputation, which are both false and offensive – and its tone oblige me to give you a very clear and open answer.

Firstly, I do not need to make any comment to counter your affirmations about the FINA World Open Water Championships held in Roberval, Canada, on July 2010: in fact, the report that the FINA Executive received from the FINA TOWS Committee Honorary Secretary, herewith attached, already clarified various inexactnesses and inaccuracies which you manifested in your letter (and that were previously manifested – by coincidence! – also both at a Swimming Coaches Clinic, in the USA, and on a swim blog).

The FINA TOWS Committee Honorary Secretary’s report points out very clearly how competitions in Roberval were held according to the FINA Rules, included those related to swimming suits. I need to underline that your association of my name as FINA Honorary Secretary to the speculation that the Italian swimmers – my compatriots – had competed wearing swimming suits not approved by FINA is totally unfounded, and extremely serious. The following statement of yours (.”…Mr. Barelli, Honorary Secretary of FINA, is a major stock holder in that same company, the company that produced the suits”) is not only abusive and offensive but also reckless and false, just rubbish.

Your foolhardiness in asserting such falsehoods is aggravated by the fact that I do not know you personally and I have never talked to you. Indeed, you were temerarious in associating my person to both conjectural incorrectness in Roberval and my involvement in a swimming suit company. Actually I am not involved in any of such companies, or business, and therefore you must take responsibility, and you will be held accountable, for your calumnies. It would be interesting to know which your sources were.

You wrote also: “…privately and publicly in our meetings I have told Dale Neuburger and our IRC committee that FINA stands for two words: greed and corruption.” Of course you will take responsibility, and you will be held accountable, also for labeling FINA with these two words – greed and corruption. Could it be assumed that you are applying these two words, and all what they imply – also to Dale Neuburger, FINA Vice-President and FINA Bureau Member since 2000?

Before I conclude, I wish to say that I am glad to have many friends in United States, and that I love this wonderful country. I studied and swam in the USA, under the great coach “Doc” Counsilman, at the Indiana University, and I have relatives who are USA citizens.

Unfortunately, stupid and unreliable persons live everywhere in the world, including the USA. However, honest persons have to try and curb the damages that few stupid persons do: such appear to be the case of all those who are using a tragedy to instrumentally pursue other purposes. Eventually that will be uncovered.

I have written this letter for transparency and clearness and I will be looking forward to reading your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Paolo Barelli
FINA Honorary Secretary
President of the Italian Swimming Federation (FIN)

Email #8

—Original Message—
From: Chuck Wielgus
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 6:36 PM
To: Fran Crippen
Cc: Richard Shoulberg;Jim Wood;Lindsay Mintenko;Jack Roach;Mike Unger
Subject: FW: Open Water Swimming


Thanks for your note and attached letter. I’m going to share this with Jim Wood, Mike Unger, Lindsay Mintenko and Jack Roach to get their feedback so that I can give you a more thoughtful response. This may take a few days so please be patient.



—Original Message—
From: Fran Crippen
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 4:26 PM
To: Chuck Wielgus
Cc: Richard Shoulberg;Jim Wood
Subject: Open Water Swimming


Ive attached a letter concerning some of the issues surrounding the current state of Open Water swimming. I hope we can work together to solve some of these problems.

thank you and I hope youre having a great day,


Chuck Wielgus
CEO, USA Swimming
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO

Dear Chuck,

I’m writing you today with the hope that we can work together and constructively discuss some of the changes that are taking place within USA swimming. Since its Olympic insurgence in 2008 Open Water swimming has been gaining popularity and affording athletes a new event to compete and excel. This event, however, presents the athletes and USA swimming with a completely different set of challenges than in your average swim meet.

As the average age of the national team has increased so has the age of the athletes involved in Open Water swimming. The difference though is that a post grad pool swimmer who wants to stay involved in the sport can undoubtedly find a swim meet within driving distance of their home. Open Water swimmers, however, have no choice but to travel a great distance to gain exposure and experience in competitive events.

Once at the events, our swimmers are typically on their own to find assistance. An open water swimmer needs a coach to represent them at the pre race meetings, coach them during practice, and most importantly, feed them during the event. I think the last point is the most critical. When an athlete doesn’t have a coach they often have to garner the assistance of local volunteers. In this day and age, it is extremely risky to trust a volunteer in a foreign country with the Gatorade and Gel packs that we are going to consume during the race.

To give you a clearer picture of the effects of some of these issues, I would like to use myself as an example. Open Water swimming has brought my dream of winning an Olympic Gold Medal closer to a reality. Since graduating from college I have been committed to traveling to the World Cup events and competing against the best marathon swimmers in the world. These events, however, are all over the world and have created monetary hurdles. This year I have competed in seven of the eight world cup races and my airfare has totaled 4,452.81. FINA agrees to pay 5 nights in a hotel so at some of the races I have had to pay my way for a few nights. Over the year my hotel costs have totaled 595.15. USA swimming agrees to pay 400 dollars per world cup race so I have spent about 2500 dollars of my own money in order to compete.

At the seven world cup races we have only had a USA swimming delegate at three. Eva Fabian’s father, Jack, paid his own way to two of the races and was kind enough to help four other American swimmers with coaching and feeding. Coach Bill Rose also traveled, at his own expense, to Mexico and helped take care of seven athletes. We have had at least five athletes at six of the seven races and I believe that not having proper representation is a very poor reflection upon USA swimming.

Throughout the season I have had numerous conversations with National Youth coordinator Jack Roach and Open Water National Team director Paul Asmuth about the direction of Open Water swimming. We discussed on multiple occasions the National Team director’s intention of reimbursing my travel expenses and sending someone to help and protect the athletes at the races. I was very enthused about Mark Shubert’s plans and believed that this was a great step for Open Water Swimming. As the year has progressed these conversations have not translated into action.

I know in the past month there have been many issues surrounding USA swimming but I feel it is critical to try and find a solution to some of these problems. There are many swimmers who are feeling the same way and Id like to act as their voice on these matters.

Feel free to call or email me at anytime. My number is (XXX) XXX-XXXX and my email address is

I know your time is valuable and I really appreciate it,

Fran Crippen

Update 20

Sunday – October 31 – 11:00 a.m. EST

There are no words that can adequately describe the roller coaster of emotions that the swimming family has traveled this past week. Nor are there enough words to adequately translate for those not in Conshohocken these past few days what took place here. People from around the country, and indeed even a few from other countries, made their way to this special place to gather, to place arms around one another’s shoulders and to embrace the Crippen family in a circle of love and affection. There was much crying, some laughing, much reminiscing and overwhelming moments of solemn private reflections as we listened to those who spoke and shared such deep and heartfelt memories, thoughts and sentiments with us.

Virginia Swim Coach Mark Bernardino opened the ceremonies with rich and warm stories of what Fran meant to his family and to the swim team at the University of Virginia, where Fran was the team captain and leader. He took us on a short journey with words that conveyed images of Fran’s many qualities and characteristics, and he painted pictures that made us smile and made us cry. Fran’s Germantown Academy brothers were represented in Geoff Meyer’s first reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and others who spoke after were equally composed, but perhaps none more so that Fran’s girlfriend, Caitlin Regan who spoke in a manner that conveyed the deepest of love and respect not just for Fran but for the entire Crippen family. Whatever Caitlin’s future might become, it will be impossible for anyone who heard her speak in such a strong and composed way not to think that perhaps there will in some way always be four Crippen sisters.

At the end of the service, Fran was carried from the church by his GA and UVA brothers and the long procession to the Calvary Cemetery ensued for the burial. As the church emptied, so too did the adjoining hall where those who could not get into the church were able to watch via video. People had come to the church 2-3 hours early and still had to wait in a line that stretched around the block.

Following the burial, a reception was held at Germantown Academy. There, many of us lingered in the hallowed space that is the swimming pool at GA and the place where Dick Shoulberg has shaped both swimmers and souls for decades. When you step in, you don’t want to leave and you know you are in a cocoon of passion, of heart, of commitment, of success and accomplishment. It is a sanctuary where the greatest of teaching takes place, and where young men and young women grow and emerge and blossom into adults ready to make a difference in the world.

Back in the GA field house, where the reception was going on, the UVA brothers circled up, locked arms and began their college cheers. Not to be outdone, the GA brothers responded in kind and amidst the exuberance of their youth the attending adults could be seen with both wide smiles and teary eyes. And then another special moment, Eva Fabian, the young 17-year old swimmer who also competed at the race in the UAE with Fran stepped before a microphone and played a rendition of the national anthem on her violin that stirred every heart and punctuated the day.

As things drew to a close and people began to drift away, it was hard not to begin turning one’s thoughts to what happens next. How will family and friends respond to this tragedy? How will life go on for those most deeply affected by the loss? What will be done to help the young athletes and others who will struggle with their ongoing grief? What will organizations and others do to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again? Many, many questions.

Many things have been quietly in the works below the surface this past week. Counselors and others with experience have been made available to the family, to friends and to athletes who were Fran’s teammates. FINA has already announced plans to conduct an investigation, and so too has USA Swimming. Investigators of the highest caliber with international experience and specific experience in the UAE are already engaged and at work in the fact-finding that must be done. USA Swimming’s is forming its review commission that will receive the investigator’s report and consider many other things in an effort to provide the Crippen family with information on what happened before, during and after the competition;and to come forward with recommendations necessary to improve safety at future open water events so that nothing like this ever happens again.

Many people are reaching out and want to share information, offer suggestions and offer their own time and expertise to the work that needs to be done. USA Swimming will establish a means by which everyone who has information and recommendations to share will be able to do so. However, it is important for people to understand that these efforts will take time. Investigators have an enormous task in front of them, with many people from different parts of the world to talk to. The process of fact-finding will take several months and people should not expect progress reports along the way while this work is ongoing. I would urge those people with information and recommendations they have to share to take the time now to write things down while things are still fresh and to have this ready to share with the commission once it is established and a conduit has been set up to receive information.

USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton and I will continue to share information as we can. Bruce and I remain in constant contact and we have a “kitchen cabinet” of wise and experienced people helping us. We will do the best we can to respond to any questions and queries that come our way, but we also trust that people will understand that there will be some things that – at least for a time anyway – may have to be quietly withheld. However, please know that the efforts going forward are very in-depth and that we’ll seek to be as transparent as we can be along the way.

With the deepest of sorrow, and the strongest of intent to ensure that no other family has to carry the weight of a similar tragedy.

Chuck Wielgus
USA Swimming

Dedicated to the Memory of Fran Crippen with Peace and Serenity for the Crippen Family.


For Swim Parents – “The Big Deal About SwimSuits.”

By John Leonard, Executive Director, American Swimming Coaches Association.

Over the past 18 months, the swimming world has been a frenzy of controversy over the emergence of technology in swimsuits. At the recent World Championships in Rome, the constant and overwhelming refrain about suits, echoed the volume and intensity of the last time we were in Rome for a World Championships,when the topic was doping….drugs distorting our sport…in 1994. Fifteen years later, the emotional topic was the new high tech suits that have swept through the sport from the World Championship level down to the local park district championships in the summer league. The parallels were impossible to miss.

FINA, in an unprecedented move at its Congress in Rome, banned the use of all “non-textile” materials from suits beginning in 2010, and limited the coverage of the body to “knees to navel for men” and “knees to shoulder straps” for women. 168 nations voted in favor of the restrictions, against a mere 6 in opposition. (who apparently did not understand the word “textile”) This in the face of strong opposition to the move by the sitting President and Executive Director of the FINA organization. Amazing and never seen before. The USA delegation initiated the restrictions and led the opposition. Why such a strong reaction in opposition to the existing plastic and rubber suits?

A parent new to the sport, from a middle class background, might well say “hey, why not? Technology marches on! Equipment gets better. Why not let my son/daughter wear one of the fancy new suits and swim faster?”

Its a valid question that requires a thoughtful answer. Here it is.

The answer revolves around two words, with of course, a considerable amount of “side data” that adds to the intensity of the discussion and the strength of the resolution to end the problem worldwide.

Those two words are “Maximizing” and “Enhancing.”

Quality lane lines “maximize” the opportunity of the athlete to swim fast, with minimum turbulence in the lane. (you should have seen the waves in the pool back in the 60’s and 70’s.)

Good Goggles allow the athlete to see the turns, see their competitors, and comfortably compete.(to say nothing of allow them to train hard for hours….impossible in the chlorine pool without goggles…in the old days, yardage and performance was a fraction of what it is today.) Goggles Maximize the opportunity of the athlete to work hard.

Evolution in coaching techniques in training and biomechanics allow the athletes to Maximize their ability to benefit from their time in the sport.

Swimsuits, up until approximately the year 2000, and certainly until early 2008, were designed to maximize the opportunity of the athletes to go fast….the manufacturers designed suits to “get out of the way of the water.” Less suit, less friction with the water, less drag, tighter fit, and better materials MAXIMIZED the ability of the athlete to perform to their highest earned level.

Beginning in 2008, manufacturers took advantage (and must be applauded for doing so, within the existing rules, which were close to non-existent) of the idea of designing suits to ENHANCE the ability of the athlete to swim faster. A line had been crossed. Designed suits incorporated plastics, rubberized material and new design criteria, to enhance the ability of the athlete to be buoyant in the suits (riding higher makes you faster), wrapped more tightly (compressing the “jiggly parts” makes you MUCH faster) and shed water from the plastics and rubber materials much more effectively, thereby reducing the drag of the suits remarkably.

Since February 2008, 158 world records have been set by elite athletes. Their ability to perform has moved from being “maximized” by their swimsuits, to being “enhanced” by their swimsuits. This rate of improvement is absolutely farsical in the historical context of over 100 years of our sport. At the world championships, new world records were receiving polite applause akin to the “golf clap” for a good shot, rather than the historical roars of appreciation that a swimming crowd used to provide when a human barrier went down, as it infrequently did, by great athletes at the peak of their power.

How does this translate down to the local pool?

Pretty simple. The manufacturers don’t make any money by selling suits to the elite athlete. They give the suits away to them. They count on age group swimmers watching the “big guys” and wanting the same suits and equipment.

And lo and behold, the same miraculous benefits accrue to 12 year old Sam and Samantha when they put on the “magic suits” in their local championships. The time drops are miraculous, the smiles are, literally, “priceless” and child, mom and dad are all happy.

Wait a second. That suit just ripped. wow. How did that happen? How much did it cost? Wow! You paid $500 for a suit that Sam just put his foot through, rendering it a $500 broken garbage bag? Uh-oh., well, honey, get him another one….we can’t have Joe Jones’s son Pete beat him in the 200 free tomorrow. Teeth Grit. This is a kids sport? We now have $1000 in suits so far.

And of course, all those magic benefits only last 7-15 swims, so good for maybe 2-3 meets, unless its a championship and your child swims 6 events and makes finals in all events…in which case its $500 a meet.

Lets see, $500 a meet, we go to 2 meets a month, 10 months of the year….Honey, its gonna cost us $10,000 Just for Samantha’s suits this year!

Well, the solution is simple….just wear the suits for the championship meet and wear your regular suit the rest of the time. OK. Good.

But, Samantha’s 58.5 100 free with the magic suit on, just became a 1:02 100 free with the old suit on. Smiles gone. Gone. From Samantha, from Mom. From Dad. Oh well.

And of course, there are some other objections as well.

First, the magic suit deal is like paying for your child to have instant improvement. Is that what you want your child to learn from the sport? Or do you want them to learn to persevere, EARN improvement with hard work, attention to detail, paying attention to the coach and, shall we say it again…”Working Hard.” Or do you want them to learn that you can always “pay your way” with cash to what you want?

“Earn it, or buy it.” Which do you want to teach? Answer carefully, parents.

Second, the suit does not affect everyone the same. The thin, fit swimmer will benefit marginally by it. The overweight swimmer will swim like a young seal in it. Spending the same $500 on two children will yield radically different results. Not a fair competition at all. Is that what anyone wants?

Third, and its seems unnecessary to say this…but if you just buy 3 suits a year, that’s $1500 or MORE. (Today, purchasing one of the great European suits online from the USA will cost you $900…with no guarantee of fit, durability or return-ability, and about 30% of them RIP on the first attempt to put them on…no refund, folks.) Do we really want age group and high school swimmers to have to spend that kind of money to BUY success rather than work for it? It doesn’t make our sport a middle class sport, it makes it a sport for wealthy families.

Are you pooh-poohing that? Wait till your son or daughter gets beat the first time by someone whose mommie or daddie could afford a more expensive piece of plastic and rubber than you can. The bitter taste in your mouth is not fun. Not much in the way of “sport” there.

So, in answer to the local official who asked “Why are “they” (FINA officials) wasting time with worrying about THAT? Don’t they have better things to do?”

The answer is no, the suit debacle is the most important thing that any of us can attend to. It preserves the heart and soul of our sport….which is reverence and appreciation for the hard work, attention to detail, courage and teamwork required to be a fine competitive swimmer and to learn to succeed with those life-skills. Instead of with your Daddy’s wallet.

The Congress (not the Ruling Bureau) of FINA took the rules into their own hands after the Bureau had time and again failed to establish the rules necessary to keep our sport vital, credible and important. Bravo for them.

All the Best, John Leonard


How High Throughput Methods Could Revolutionize Drug Testing in Sport

By Laura A. Cox, Ph.D., Department of Genetics, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, Alamo Area Aquatics Association, San Antonio, TX

Did you see the new television show “Life on Mars”? The main character is a police detective who is transported back in time from 2008 to 1973. During an investigation the main character asks his 1973 fellow-police detectives how long it will take to find out if fingerprints from a crime scene match any records in the database. One 1973 detective replies that it will take about 2 weeks. While the 2008 detective is thinking that two weeks is an incredibly long time and in 2008 it would only take a few hours, the second 1973 detective interjects that it’s amazing what technology can do to get the results back so quickly. As with crime detection, quick accurate results in sports drug testing can dramatically improve the odds of catching the bad guys.

This fictional story reminds us that technologies we take for granted today were beyond the realm of science fiction only 30 years ago. What does this have to do with drug testing in sport? Methods that are currently available for testing biological samples to identify genes, proteins, and many other substances were beyond imagination 30 years ago.

The classical approach in biology and medicine has been to test for one substance in one sample at a time. Tweaking the testing protocols might allow for increased throughput, i.e. faster sample processing, for testing for one substance in as many as 20 or 30 samples at one time. These methods were standard in the 1950’s through the early 1990’s. The convergence of increased computing power, implementation of stringent quality controls on reagents for testing, development of specialized software tools and machines in the late 1990’s has led to the development of methodologies that allow for testing of hundreds and even thousands of substances in a single sample.

In addition, these new technologies allow for analysis of hundreds of samples at once and require very small amounts of sample material. That is, using today’s technologies it is feasible to analyze samples from a few hundred individuals quantifying hundreds or thousands of substances at one time. And even though the current methods require much less sample material from each individual, the results are far more precise than previous methods. Because samples can be run in parallel, using less sample material and less time, these new technologies have dramatically reduced the cost of sample analysis for each substance from dollars to pennies and reduced the time to analyze samples from weeks to days.

In addition to more rapid testing and analysis, these new capabilities provide a “profile” on the thousands of genes or proteins in a sample and this profile is extremely sensitive to substances such as cigarette smoke and prescription drugs to name a few. This profile, which has been referred to as a physiological profile or a “physiological passport,” provides a detailed physiological fingerprint for each individual. Consequently, these new technologies allow us to not only ask: Do we find evidence of “Banned Substance X” in the sample from this athlete? But also allow us to ask: Do we see changes in a person’s physiological profile that suggests use of a banned substance?

In an era when some cheaters are collaborating with chemists for access to the latest designer steroid or growth hormone rather than using “Banned Substance X,” the availability of testing methods that identify abnormal profiles without prior knowledge of all substances currently in use by cheaters is a powerful tool. Biomedical scientists and clinicians transitioned to high throughput methods more than 7 years ago; maybe it’s time to increase the odds of catching the cheaters and leave behind the decades’ old approaches for drug testing in sport. If not, it’s just “Life on Mars” for clean athletes.


Let’s Keep the Tech Suits With The Senior Swimmers: An Opinion by John Leonard

The last two weeks I have been at our LSC Junior Olympic Meet and our LSC “Division II” meet, which is a nice way of saying, “the last B meet where you can qualify for Junior Olympics,” without making any of our supposedly delicate children swoon upon hearing that they are in a “B” meet. (but that’s another story.)

One of the most disturbing trends that I have seen is age group swimmers, particularly 12 and unders and 10 and unders, in the new hi-tech suits made by all the swimsuit companies, in prelims and finals of these local meets.

First of all, congratulations to Speedo, and all the other swimsuit companies. Some have done real and very expensive research and come up with fabulous suits that clearly assist the swimmers in swimming faster…much faster. Others have simply done the “Burger King Thing.” (Burger King does little to no demographic or other studies when it locates its restaurants… lets McDonalds spend its money on those expensive studies and then Burger King just opens across the street from every new McDonalds….saves them a lot of money and they get there 3 months later….so what? Good bottom line approach. Trust your best competitor to do the heavy lifting.)

Now, the old man coach in me sighs at the sight of the new suits on anyone, but lets face it, they are here, they are good and they work. When it comes to setting World Records, American Records, Ugandan Records, Finlandian records, and making Senior/International Cuts, you’d better have one of these suits on, because the people swimming the fast times and setting those standards for the meets, are wearing them. If you don’t wear them, you are out of it. Unfair for you if you’re NOT wearing one.

Case in point, over 440 College Women have qualified for the NCAA Division I meet this year with the “A” cut..phenomenally fast. The biggest number in any prior year to make the NCAA Meet with BOTH “A” and “B” cuts has been 259. Every college conference meet in the country was incredibly fast….why???? …..The Suits. Again. Good for the companies, Good for the Senior/International Swimmers.

Now, we get to the Division II Age Group Meet where the goal is to swim fast enough and well enough to qualify for the Junior Olympics.

And low and behold, here are the high tech $150-$450.00 suits on 10 and unders and 11 and 12 year olds.

“B” Level 10 and unders and 11 and 12 year olds.

With some terrible stroke technique.

And going to practice 2-4 times a week, for an hour.

And not working all that well yet, in many cases.

And not paying attention to the coach all that well yet, in many cases.

And coming late to practice in many cases, because Mom and Dad don’t understand yet, the importance of being on time for practice.

And coming late to warmup for the meet, because Mom and Dad don’t understand the importance of warmup yet.

But Mom and Dad want to “support” their child, and they are told that those $150-$450 suits “work” and will make their child faster. And good parents help their child swim faster, right?



SO……..”honey, get the American Express card out and lets get Clarence one of those fancy new suits, so he can beat ________.”

Meanwhile, some of those same parents are objecting when the club wants to raise dues from $50 a month to $70 a month, because the club wants to pay their coach some more, so he can get rid of that 15 year old car, and actually drive to practice in something safe. He does the teaching of the swimmers.

Some of those same parents don’t respond when the coach says “Clarence really would improve a lot faster if he came to practice 3 times a week instead of twice.”

Or, “Gee, if you could get Clarence to look up from his cell-phone and text messaging when I am trying to talk to him, I’m pretty sure he’d listen and learn better.”

Or, “Please help me get Clarence to understand that hard work in practice is what will help him swim better and faster in the meets.”

Or, “You said that you’d like Clarence to turn better and can I fix that? Yes, I can, but I need Clarence to pay attention to his turns when he’s practicing if he’s to improve, and not just slop his way through practice without attention to details like turns. I’m here to teach and I need him to be here to learn.”

By buying the Tech Suit for Clarence, his parents are teaching him that you can buy the things you want in life. You don’t have to work for them.

You can simply buy speed. You can fix anything that you lack with enough money. No need to work hard. No need to Pay Attention. No need to Learn.

And, of course, reassuring themselves that they fully support their child in swimming….”you know what we did at the meet this weekend? We bought Clarence a $400 swimsuit? Can you imagine that? When I was a kid, I swam in my underwear and now my kid has a $400 suit! But boy, did it work! In his old suit, he hadn’t beaten “_______” in the 200 free all season, but with this new suit, he dusted that boy!”

So Clarence, who all season has gone 2:25 in the 200 yard freestyle, puts on the suit, goes 2:18 and qualifies for the JO’s where he puts it on again and low and behold, drops ANOTHER 2 seconds and gets to 2:16.

Hooray for Clarence! Mom is happy. Dad is happy. Clarence thinks its pretty cool…for about 10 minutes, until he gets out his $200 cell phone and goes back to texting his friends. Since he’s really more into that than the swim meet, or swim team, or practice.

Now what happens? Well, there are a couple of scenarios.

Lets say Clarence goes to a meet, (a regular, ordinary, one session age group meet) about two weeks later. Mom says, “oh honey, you did so well in your new suit, put that on again and lets see you GO!.”

So Clarence does. and surprisingly, he just goes about the same time…and actually, it maybe took some more work to get there. And his next swim is worse. And the one after that is worse still…. Clarence is disappointed. Mom and Dad are disappointed.

Coach walks over and says “let me see that suit. How many swims have you worn it for? Twelve? Well, these things wear out you know…they’re only good for just so many swims before they no longer do what they did do.”

Now Dad is just a tad suspicious……… “what did you say?”

“I said, these tech suits are not intended to be worn all the time. The material fatigues, wears out and you need a new suit if you wear it very often”

At this point it dawns on Mom and Dad that another $400 suit is going to make this a pretty expensive swimming month. And they haven’t even paid their club dues yet. Or their entry fee escrow account. And they are $800 in the hole.

Mom puts her foot down. “No more tech suit. Back to the jammer. We’ll buy you the tech suit for Championships only.”

Good. Firm decision, reasonable for the family finances. Very fair.

So two weeks later, Clarence goes back to his next age group meet, in his old jammer. And his 200 free slips back to 2:23. Long face on Clarence. Long face on Dad. Mom says, “maybe you’re just not cut out for this sport”

“or maybe your coach just didn’t prepare you properly for this meet.” Or, “he’s not really a very good freestyle coach anyway, did you see Clarence’s stroke fall apart in that 2nd 100, honey?”


Clarence says to himself (or maybe even out-loud) “I can’t swim fast without the suit.”

What is lost in all this, of course, is that the reason his parents got Clarence into swimming was to make him more “fit” and “healthy” and give him a chance to “compete” and “learn to work for things” and be part of a good group of hard-working, dedicated kids.

What Clarence and his parents should have been doing is working to improve his practice attendence, his love of the sport itself, his ability to focus and learn, and his technical swimming skills…his strokes, his starts, his turns. His improvement should have been coming from “real stuff” and not a $400 swimsuit.

Then when he dropped to 2:23 from 2:25, it would have been a real improvement and everyone could have been happy and he would have been ENCOURAGED to work harder, pay more attention, and focus on the tasks he needed to improve.

Instead of relying on the “magic pill”of the suit.

The solution to all this? Very simple.

Ban the suit for age group competition. Nothing below the knee nor over the shoulder in any competition except Senior/International Swimming events.

Keep age group athletes focused on improvement coming from hard work, more practice, more attention in practice and quality coaching of good strokes, starts and turns. The real stuff. The right stuff. The only stuff that matters.

And make a rule to do this. Not just “an agreement among coaches.” We know there are always renegades who will do whatever a parent wants to get their kid to swim fast…whether a $400 suit or a hypodermic needle full of HGH.

It’s like the arms race….if Johnny has a $200 suit, then Clarence has to have a $400 suit.

The problem is not with the suit manufacturers. They’re in business to make money. And by getting senior swimmers to do marvelous times, they do that.

But lets not allow commercial considerations to DESTROY the purposes of age group swimming.

Again, Applause to Speedo and the others for a job well done. Let the suits do their magic at the Senior/International Level of swimming. At the age group end, the magic is in the process of working and learning.

Let’s keep it there.
John Leonard

Postscript: Southern California swimming has had this rule in place since 2000. The Rule reads……”swimwear in age group competion…The swimsuits worn for all age group competition, shall conform to USA Swimming Rule 102.9 and shall not extend past the top of the shoulder (the acromial process of the scapula) nor further down the leg than the top of the kneecap (Patella).”


Swimmer’s Shoulder

By James N. Johnson, MD

Swimmer’s shoulder is the term most commonly used to refer to the triad of over-use injuries which affect the anterior capsule (front) of the shoulder. The three conditions which all cause similar pain are biceps tendonitis, subacromial bursitis, and rotator cuff (usually supraspinatus) tendonitis. These entities all overlap and are related. The problem develops one of three ways or a combination of the three – improper technique related to a strength/laxity imbalance, too rapidly increasing volume, or too rapidly increasing intensity.

Improper technique, most often in freestyle swimming which makes up the largest percentage of training volume, develops because the athlete that chooses swimming usually has lax (loose) joints. A loose shoulder joint causes what is commonly called dropping the elbow but is actually the front part of the shoulder joint moving anterior (forward) to the plane connecting the body to the arm, more technically called anterior subluxation. The simplest way to correct this is teaching the swimmer to roll his or her body as a unit – hips, core, and shoulders at the same time. The idea is to keep the head and spine in line and for the body to rotate on the long axis of the spine like a barbecue skewer. Bilateral breathing may help some swimmers who have asymmetric body roll. Pulling with a buoy may help in the learning process by floating the legs thus decreasing the load on the shoulders and emphasizing the importance of generating the roll from the hips and core.

Too rapidly increasing the volume or intensity of training especially in the context of improper technique exacerbates the problem. Volume in itself is not bad. Some swimmers respond physiologically to high volume training based on their cardiovascular characteristics and muscle fiber type. Also, there is a place for high intensity training for a different type of athlete. And combinations of volume and intensity in different percentages benefit different athletes. But generally a progressive training program in terms of volume and intensity will protect the athlete with improper technique from swimmer’s shoulder. So, it is important to know each athlete’s training and racing history before beginning a season. Important aspects to consider are: maximum training volume per week in career, average training volume per week over the last season, number of years training and number of practices per week over that career, and, of course, history of race times and when they occurred during each season.

If an injury does occur despite proper technique and progression, prompt and considerate treatment is required. First, athletes must be allowed to communicate that they are injured. Once an injury is identified, the first thing a coach should recommend is to get a physician with an interest in sports involved. The athlete needs to have a proper evaluation and appropriate diagnostic work-up to diagnose swimmer’s shoulder because there are less common more serious problems, which must be ruled out. After a diagnosis of swimmer’s shoulder is made, the initial treatment includes relative rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication. Relative rest is generally returning to the level of training at which the shoulder did not hurt. If the pain persists at this level, further reduction in training load should be considered. Ice should be applied for 20 minutes at a time at least three times daily or more often if possible(as much as 20 minutes per hour in the evening after practice and prior to sleep). And, under a physician’s supervision, a 10-14 day course of anti-inflammatory medication (being aware that stomach pain could indicate a side effect, which would require discontinuation of medication). If initial treatment is unsuccessful after a two-week trial, reevaluation by a physician and subsequent physical therapy may be indicated. Cortisone injections are recommended by some physicians, and there is a place for them; but make sure the physician knows if the athlete has had any previous injections and where the athlete is in the progression of their swimming career (someone approaching their last ever meet may be a better candidate for an injection than someone early in their career). Surgery is a late stage treatment in rare cases.

In addition to monitoring technique and progression of training, prevention should also focus on strength development of the primary scapular stabilizers in addition to the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff muscles should function only as the secondary stabilizers of the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is designed to move the shoulder through its full range and should not bear a heavy load. Strength training should focus on the trapezius, rhomboids, serratus anterior, and latissimus dorsi muscles of the back in addition to band exercises for the rotator cuff DONE PROPERLY, (emphasizing the inner range of motion which is well described in the literature).

Swimmer’s shoulder is a common entity which all coaches should be familiar with. There are accepted modes of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment that should be followed, which can help the athlete return to competition. If the physician, coach and athlete communicate and work closely together, fast and fun and injury-free swimming will be the end result.


  1. “Swimmer’s Shoulder.” Lecture by Craig Ferrell, MD ACSM Annual Meeting. 3 June 2000
  2. “Swimmer’s Shoulder: Targeting Treatment.” Scott Koehler MD and David Thorson MD The Physician and Sports Medicine. Vol. 24, No 11, 39-50, Nov 96.
  3. “Swimming Injuries.” William C. McMaster MD Sports Medicine. Vol. 22, No 5, 332-36, Nov 96.
  4. “Rehabilitation of Injuries in Competitive Swimmers.” Katherine Kenal and Laura Knapp. Sports Medicine. Vol. 22, No 5, 337-47, Nov 96.
Mayo Clinic, Department of Family Medicine, Jacksonville, FL, USA Swimming Sports Medicine Society, Assistant Coach of Gustavo Borges and Beaches Aquatics Club Olympic/Olympic Trials Group.

Winning the Right Way

By John Maher, American-Statesman Staff

Glen Luepnitz remembers the moment when, out of the blue, he received a call from Richard Quick, coach of the US women’s swim team. Quick, a former coach of the University of Texas women’s swim team, had heard about Luepnitz’s work with athletes while visiting a daughter in Austin. He asked Luepnitz if he would consider working with some of Quick’s swimmers and provide advice on nutrition and supplements.

“I had just finished firing a couple of my patients,” Luepnitz recalled. “I had great suspicion they were cheating. So I kind of read him the riot act. I told him if I found athletes who were cheating, I would turn them in. And I said if he knew they were cheating, I’d turn him in.”

When the response was silence, Luepnitz figured the conversation, and the opportunity, were over.

Quick finally said, “Twenty-five years I have been trying to find someone who would say that.”

Thus began an unlikely partnership that has been extremely productive, even as it has become somewhat controversial. A week ago, the Houston Chronicle ran a story charging that Luepnitz had obtained his doctorate at a diploma mill. Quick and star swimmer Jenny Thompson came to his defense when later questioned by reporters in Australia.

“He’s a brilliant man, and I trust his judgment,” Thompson said.

“I have no doubt about his qualifications or his advice to our team,” Quick added.

After enjoying stunning success with two of Quick’s swimmers, Thompson and Dara Torres, Luepnitz now is serving as an adviser to the US swim team. It’s not a paid position, far from it.

“My out-of-pocket expenses will be $68,000,” Luepnitz said, pointing out that employees at Lone Star Oncology would still have to be paid while he was in Australia footing his own bills. “But once I said yes, there was no backing out.”

While no pay comes with the position, there are perils, some of which still lie ahead. Luepnitz runs a risk that a U.S. swimmer might break his rules and end up testing positive at the Olympics for a banned substance.

“That petrifies me, to get a black eye,” Luepnitz said. “It could really hurt me. Whatever control I have, I try to utilize.”

Improvement Without Cheating

Luepnitz, 41, specializes in nutrition and the use of supplements and how they can relate to the prevention of and recovery from cancer. But he’s also been pulled into a tangential field.

“Sports-performance enhancement is new and legal. There are a lot of people out there who don’t want to cheat,” Luepnitz said. “My interest in athletes and nutrition started with the moms and dads in the Austin area who had children participating in the semi-elite level. They were referred from local physicians. Some of these athletes went on to distinguished athletic careers in college. My name spread by word of mouth. Before I knew it, I was having elite athletes come and see me.”

Quick, a longtime and outspoken opponent of illegal drug use, was looking for ways to enhance performance without cheating or doing anything unhealthy for the athletes. In May, Luepnitz began providing advice on nutrition and supplements for Thompson and Torres, both of whom trained with Quick at Stanford.

“He started doing some counseling by phone, and then I sent him some blood samples to work with,” a pleased Quick said after the US swimming trials.

Thompson and Torres are about as different as swimmers can be.

“The have different body types and hormone profiles,” Luepnitz said. The powerfully built Thompson, 27, was trying to stay at the top of her game, while the taller, thinner Torres, 33, was attempting the near impossible, trying to make the Olympic team after seven years away from the water.

When Thompson went on to swim some of her best times, that was impressive. When Torres swam faster than she had in in her prime, making the Olympic team in three individual events, it was downright incredible. After the tour de force at the trials, other coaches were eager to have Luepnitz work with their athletes.

After the trials, Quick explained, “One of the reasons I have Dr. Glen Luepnitz working with our athletes is that I want those supplements that the athletes are taking to be No. 1, safe, No. 2, healthy and No. 3, legal. In today’s society where one of the heroes of the world of sport, a fellow who hit quite a few home runs, was using a performance-enhancing drug that was banned by the USOC, you could see athletes flocking into your local health food store or supplement store and just buying stuff randomly without supervision, without understanding if it’s safe, if it’s completely legal or not, then, going by the salesman’s idea of how much they ought to take and when they ought to take it.

“So, I’ve been on a search for somebody who had experience working with elite-level athletes in a safe, healthy manner.”

Not long after Quick named Luepnitz to work with the US team, however, Luepnitz’s credentials were questioned in a story in the Houston Chronicle. Luepnitz received his doctorate at LaSalle University in Mandeville, La., which grants degrees by mail. Luepnitz defended his degree to the Chronicle and said that in addition to course work, he’d written a thesis that exceeded 300 typewritten pages with another 150 pages worth of charts.

In Australia, Quick defended Luepnitz, saying it was difficult to get a degree in that kind of field and that Luepnitz had taken courses from schools all over the world.

They Almost Can’t Eat Enough

In athletics, however, courses and degrees don’t guarantee results. Athletes are interested in results, even if they don’t always grasp the process.

“The average athlete has no idea of how the body utilizes food,” Luepnitz said. Luepnitz and his elite athletes are a little secretive about his methods, lest the competition catch on. But he talked about the basics, which begin with the never-ending fight to keep the body from storing fuel as fat rather than burning it.

“Your body believes every meal is the last thing you’re going to eat. Survival rules,” Luepnitz said.

Under Luepnitz’s regimen, Thompson and Torres were taking almost two dozen supplements a day, including amino acids, minerals, protein powders and some controversial, but legal, creatine. But Luepnitz said such measures are only the top of a pyramid.

“The base of the pyramid is extremely good nutrition,” Luepnitz said. “You have to eliminate the toxic junk that even athletes eat. When you’re processing the chemicals from your own food, you’re not processing energy.”

Cokes, tea and coffee predictably are on his hit list. But so is too much juice, even if it’s fresh squeezed orange juice.

“Juice is sugar water,” Luepnitz said. Another surprise is the athletic power drinks, which Luepnitz said are OK during competition but a lot of empty calories afterward.

“The most common fallacy is the carbohydrates,” Luepnitz said. “Athletes eat too many carbohydrates. That creates spikes in the blood sugar and insulin. The other fallacy is that they believe they can’t eat meat. Beef can be very lean. The average athlete is protein-malnourished. An athlete might need 17 ounces of meat a day. And I’m asking them to eat six times a day. Fueling the elite athlete is a huge problem. They almost can’t eat enough.”

He continued, “The next step in the pyramid is proper rest. Most Americans are sleep-deprived.”

He said aspiring young athletes “need eight to 10 hours of sleep. I tell them they should be in bed around nine. They have to get into the concept that athletics is a lifestyle, a 100 percent lifestyle commitment.

“Next above sleep is the type of exercise. I don’t step into that area. Above that are supplements. I consider them to be an edge.”

He’s big on glutamine – an amino acid – and protein supplements, and also uses antioxidants and minerals.

Quick said, “He doesn’t represent any company. He’s not trying to sell any product. He’s interested in helping athletes achieve a great performance again in a healthy, safe, legal way.”

You may contact John Maher at or 445-3956.


Emotional Preparation For The Olympic Games

By Cal Botterill, Ph.D. who is a professor at the University of Winnipeg where he teaches sport psychology, growth and development, issues in sport, and psychological skills in sport and life. He has worked with seven world championship teams and athletes as well as numerous Olympians.

Is it possible to emotionally prepare for the Olympic Games? My initial reaction is that it is not easy, and although there are important things an athlete can do, it is probably impossible to totally prepare emotionally for such an experience. There is no denying how special the Olympic Games have become. The fact that they only occur every four years means that even top athletes often only get one shot at them in their prime;for many others, the cycle of “peaking” in their careers just doesn’t work out for an Olympic opportunity.

The history of the Olympic Games going back to early civilizations, the gallant ideals of the Olympic Movement, and the public and media interest in the agony and ecstasy of Olympic striving have created an almost irrational and irreverent mystique and aura around the Games.

The heartbreak, the exhilaration, the breakthrough accomplishments, and the team effort, even in relatively unknown sports, have captured the hearts and attention of people around the world in a very personal and emotional way. Most medal ceremonies bring tears to the eyes of those watching and listening, and we feel the emotions involved.

Even vicarious experience of an Olympics can exhilarate and drain us emotionally. If someone we know or love is involved, we are likely to feel the full spectrum of emotions before the experience ends.

For athletes and coaches, the “magnitude” of the Olympic Games is hard to prepare for because there really is no experience exactly like it. World championships and World Cups produce outstanding competition and increasing commercial interest, but there is absolutely nothing like a visit to an Olympic Village where top athletes from every part of the world are attempting to peak in a wide range of sports, coping at the same time with a huge international following.

Over the years, many athletes have gone to the Olympic Games and have later admitted to being “blown away” by the distractions, emotions, and aura of the Games. The commercial aspect of the Games can also be overwhelming, especially for those from less well-known sports. The media attention can be both exhilarating and disruptive. The entertainment options can be mind boggling with star entertainers often performing in the Village itself.

It is hard not to star gaze when interacting with the world’s greatest athletes. An unbelievable range of music, language, customs, food, uniforms, costumes, and cultures from around the world floods the senses.

The Olympic Games experience is craved by millions and experienced by few, For those who make it, the Olympics is an exhilarating festival and celebration. To be a satisfying experience, however, calls for perspective and focused excellence.

In order to prepare effectively for the Olympic Games, it is important to consider emotional preparation as well as technical, tactical, physical and mental preparation. Emotional preparation is related to and can influence all the other aspects of preparation, but it is probably most closely related to mental preparation.

In my estimation, when mental preparation breaks down or isn’t adequate, it is often because emotional preparation and management were not considered or were not accomplished well enough. Our feelings are what make us human, and they are the most difficult part of our total behavior to control and manage. Dr. Bill Glasser (1984) has identified the four key aspects of total behavior:

Clearly, all aspects of behavior and preparation interact and influence one another. Therefore, managing physiology and fitness as effectively as possible can help give an athlete the physical capacities and physiological state to help optimize feelings, focus, and performance.

As well, technical, tactical, and mental preparation can have a lot to do with optimizing times, strategies, thoughts, and behaviors to facilitate performance. Pre-competition plans, competition focus plans, and refocusing strategies can all have an important impact on feelings and focus.

Perhaps it is more than anything the refocusing strategies that begin to sensitize an athlete to the importance of emotional preparation. In order to be able to focus or refocus in distracting emotional conditions, it is critical to have a competition focus plan and a pre-competition routine.

In addition, it is critical to consider the full spectrum of emotions that an athlete might experience at the Games. Dr. Bob VaRerand (1984), who has done an extensive review of emotions and sport, acknowledges that there is a tremendous spectrum of feelings that humans can experience, but suggests that there are seven basic emotions (or categories of emotions) that seem to define being “human.” These are fear, anger, guilt/embarrassment, surprise, sadness, happiness and interest.

In addition, there are variations or combinations of these basic emotions including resentment, jealousy, and envy. It would not be surprising to find Olympic athletes who have experienced extremely strong feelings in every category as part of their experience at the Games. For the most part, happiness and interest are a big part of what it is all about. Feeling ecstatic about being involved, grateful to be here, and excited about the opportunities and challenges produce a flood of positive emotions. I remember Jay Triano commenting at the ’84 Olympics in Los Angeles that it was more than anything he could have imagined! There were strong feelings of surprise even though Jay was one of the most creative and deeply prepared athletes I have ever met.

Along with the positive surprise possibilities, there are also negative surprise possibilities. At one moment Jay would admit he was almost overwhelmed by the positive surprise occurrences – Lionel Ritchie singing in the Village, Michael Jordan getting ready to play Canada, NBC interviews, expensive new uniforms, and on and on.

Emotions, though, are known to swing and the next day, when practicing at a remote high school gym, the media are off covering other sports, local transport is delayed in traffic, or the team loses a game it should have won, the Village can seem remote and lonely. After years of preparing for positive excitement, the effects of negative surprise can be emotionally draining and debilitating.

Jay would admit that the times the Games were less than he ever imagined were every bit as difficult to cope with and maintain focus through as the “highs.” Athletes clearly have to be prepared for considerable fluctuation in their emotions as well as the range in their feelings.

Surprise can also come in the form of opponent behavior or performance, officiating, playing conditions, weather conditions, crowd conditions, teammate behavior or emotions, or media scrutiny. Clearly, it is critical to be emotionally prepared for a variety of surprise conditions so the ability to refocus is not delayed or affected by the strength or depth of the feelings.

Fear, anger, and maybe guilt or embarrassment often accompany negative surprise. Because the Olympics are perceived as being so important, it is not at all unusual to be flooded with negative emotions the moment a negative surprise presents itself.

It is important to remember that all these emotions have functional value. Fear, for example, can trigger preparation, prevent complacency, and facilitate focus. On the other hand, if an athlete is not ready for possible and likely fear feelings in this setting, the emotion can be debilitating.

For an athlete, anger can be a call to compete, to fight and perform for what he or she is entitled. Like so many emotions, anger is important to respond to but not overreact to! If and when anger is felt, an athlete needs to be prepared to channel the energy it produces into dynamic, responsive, constructive performance rather than allowing it to lead to discipline or attention problems.

The source of anger can be an opponent, a teammate, an official, a delay, conditions, or the athletes themselves, which leads to another important emotional category: guilt/embarrassment.

Guilt and embarrassment are related and have a lot to do with our ability to respond to mistakes or disappointments and our feelings of obligations towards others. An athlete may feel embarrassed if an unheralded opponent surprises her and she does not initially perform as well as she should against her. If an athlete is not ready for this possibility, it is easy to also start feeling “guilty’ about not preparing better and possibly letting teammates down.

The athlete who is emotionally ready for these feelings can quickly channel the energy from them into effort, increased attentiveness, learning, and growth.

Probably the main functions of surprise related emotions are to trigger learning and coping responses. They test our adaptability and ensure that we don’t become bored or complacent. These emotions obviously have survival-tested functional significance. The key then is for an athlete to appreciate the value of negative emotions, qualitatively prepare for their occurrence, and use their energy to respond effectively.

All emotional categories have energy with the exception of sadness, which clearly has functional value in grieving and recovery. After grieving (sadness, low energy, reflection, melancholy), we usually end up grateful to be alive (happiness) and refocused on the opportunities/challenges of life (interest). Sadness has been experienced by many Olympic athletes, probably never more deeply than in 1972 over the massacre of Israeli athletes and coaches in Munich.

Sadness can be very sensitizing and it can help an athlete regain perspective and priorities, things that can sometimes get lost in the magnitude of the Games. On the other hand, sadness is low energy so athletes wanting optimal results at an Olympics cannot afford to let themselves dwell on feelings of melancholy, reflectiveness, or self-pity.

It is critical to recognize that these feelings may well occur at an Olympics. It is important to be prepared if they occur and to be able to “let go” and move on to more energizing emotions.

It is also important to remember that an athlete who is not emotionally ready for some of the other emotions or feelings and who does not respond quickly and constructively enough can often end up sad or feeling sorry for himself. If, for example, surprise from an unheralded opponent produces embarrassment followed by feelings of guilt and the athlete does not respond quickly and dynamically enough, the result may be continued impairment of performance as the athlete starts to be flooded by sadness, reflectiveness, self-pity, and so on. Later on, of course, the athlete will be very frustrated with this response.

Similarly, if fear or anger dominates for any length of time without constructive responses, they usually lead to frustration, then exhaustion which is usually correlated with such emotions as sadness and melancholy.

It is clear then that athletes should understand and accept the spectrum of emotions we experience as human beings. It seems crazy to prepare technically, tactically, physically, and mentally for thousands of hours to optimize potential on one special occasion in their lives and not carefully consider emotional preparation.

Feelings sometimes have every bit as much to do with performance as focus, fitness, skills and tactics. It is important to go over the spectrum of emotions an athlete might experience and rehearse effective responses to these feelings. Rehearsal produces a form of emotional stress inoculation which tests an athlete’s response and readiness for those feelings, many of which are inevitable around important competitions.

A review of mental and tactical plans should first identify potential situations where these emotions may be a factor and then develop and rehearse effective responses. With so much at stake, athletes want to be mentally tough and emotionally resilient.

* Review the seven basic emotions that human beings feel.

* Imagine situations at the Games that could trigger each of these emotions.

* Feel the feelings deeply and passionately.

* Let go;accept that strong feelings can be functional and understandable.

* Rehearse effective responses in the midst of or following, these powerful feelings.

* Simulate circumstances and situations that will help you to more fully experience your emotional reaction and response.

* Enjoy the feeling of being emotionally “inoculated” and ready for any feeling, challenge, or change.

Emotional preparation involves emotional management. There are a number of important aspects to work on and maintain going into an Olympics. Each involves “capacities” and a “state.” Physical fitness, for example, needs to be refined through a taper [ Coaches Report, Vol. 2 No. 31 so that key physical capacities are developed or maintained without draining physical, mental, or emotional reserves through overtraining . Emphasis shifts from quantity to quality training with great hydration, nutrition and rest patterns to help optimize one’s physical, mental, and emotional state.

Good fitness management, however, dictates that there is enough quality training and “work” for therapeutic effects, confidence, and concentration. Mental fitness is also a set of capacities and a state. It is important for an athlete to work on and maintain mental skills during the countdown stretch. Visualization, imagery, relaxation, energizing, “parking,” focusing, relationship management, and time management can all play a critical role as an athlete refines these skills as part of pre-competition routines, competition focus plans, and refocusing strategies.

Once again though, it is important to ensure that the athlete not get overloaded with too many cognitive or mental demands as the Games approach. The resulting stress and distraction can mask mental skills the same way physical overload or poor nutrition can mask physical capacities. The result, of course, can be emotional, mental and physical drain.

Being clear minded should be an important objective going into the Games. Once again though, it is critical to feel focused and occupied and to avoid falling into the human tendency to start overanalyzing. It has been suggested that “nothing never happens”;in the absence of a constructive focus our minds sometimes start “over-thinking” or “over-perceiving.”

· Enjoy the emotional spectrum that is part of life.

· Accept and experience feelings, let them go, and channel the energy into growth and effective responses.

· Respect the power and positive and negative significance of emotions on your system.

· Manage relationships and time so that you do not become emotionally drained at key times in your life, especially when working hard physically and mentally.

· Let go of irrational beliefs and perspectives.

· Reaffirm your mission, values, and perspective.

· Live. Never have to say, “I wish I would have …’

An athlete should be confident in mental skills going into the Games. Responses to stress and boredom should automatically be constructive, and time and relationship skills should be crisp and effective. Creative simulations, quality training sessions, and lead-up competitions can help ensure the rust is off attention and competitive skills during the countdown.

Simulations also play a critical role in developing emotional fitness. By simulation and rehearsing responses to some of the most demanding, distracting, or emotionally disturbing possibilities, an athlete tests emotional skills, capacities, and responses.

It may not always be fun to prepare for the full spectrum of emotional possibilities but with practice, athletes develop an inner confidence in their capacities to maintain focus and respond effectively.

The athlete becomes mentally tough and learns to accept, harness, and respond to the full spectrum of emotions. She begins to see that all emotions are functional and is able to manage them a lot better. She becomes emotionally resilient, knowing that a wide range of emotions for energy and feelings can be called on.

It is critical that an athlete not allow himself to become emotionally drained prior to or during the Games. Once again, emotional skills and capacities can be eroded if the emotional state is allowed to deteriorate.

Emotional exhaustion is probably the key component in burnout and overtraining. It is amazing what human beings can do physically and mentally, but it is usually emotional exhaustion that buries them. Therefore, it is critical to make emotional management an important part of fitness and countdown considerations.

There have been stories of phenomenal emotional resilience in sport. Witness Sylvie Frechette’s performance at the Olympics after her fiancé’s suicide, and her classy response after initially losing the gold medal on a judging system effort! There are phenomenal stories that demonstrate that we can sometimes draw on “emotional reserves” we do not even know we have. On the other hand, athletes going into an Olympics striving for personal best in a very emotional environment should try and be sure their emotional reserves are not depleted. If possible, things like relationships with loved ones, school or career demands, health risks, opponent hostilities, financial pressures, community or environmental concerns, and media pressures should be managed to minimize emotional drain prior to and during the Games.

It is important to have recently “tested” the full range of emotions and rehearsed effective responses. It is equally critical to be emotionally rested and able to call on the full spectrum of feelings and responses to optimize potential in challenging circumstances.

Emotions and perspective

Another important part of emotional management is to periodically check perspective. It is important to be on a “mission” to accomplish a personal best at the Olympics, but in spite of all the hype, aura, and mystique of the Games, maintaining a rational perspective is critical.

Checking to ensure irrational beliefs or perceptions do not develop can prevent a lot of emotional turmoil and pressure. Because the Olympics happen infrequently, it is easy to exaggerate their perceived importance to the point where the athlete starts feeling that self-worth and life are on the line. The Olympics are an exciting opportunity, but they do not determine an athlete’s worth as a person. That is determined in so many other ways. Witness Olympian Johann Olav Koss and his life beyond sport, raising support for hospitals and charities, and pursuing meaningful career opportunities.

Similarly, Dan Jansen’s accomplishments as an Olympian pale in comparison to his relationships with his family, including handling the loss of his sister to cancer and the love and support of his family through heartbreak in pursuit of excellence.

Feelings of patriotism and responsibility to others can lead an athlete to thinking he or she must perform for others. Narrowing this perception and pressure to wanting to perform for self and teammates is much more rational and emotionally less stressful.

The high standards and ideals of an Olympics can also lead to feelings of needing to be perfect. Perfection by definition and reality is impossible, so it is important for an athlete to rationally remind herself that the Olympics are about the pursuit of excellence. Striving for situational, personal, and team excellence is what it is all about, and if mistakes, setbacks, or challenges occur in the Games, it is important to be ready and enjoy the challenge of responding optimally.

With the stakes so high, we expect that things will and must be fair. Close scrutiny reveals countless Olympic situations that do not appear personally or professionally fair. The judging mishap in Sylvie Frechette’s case or runner Mary Decker’s fall due to crowding during the 1984 Olympics middle distance event are examples where the world doesn’t seem fair!

It is important then to be prepared for the possibility that an athlete may not always have a level playing field and should be prepared to respond to adversity if it occurs. An expectation that everything will always be fair can lead to considerable emotional frustration and fluctuation. On the other hand, someone who has developed a “no excuses” outlook and has prepared for the many challenges and emotions of the Games is lot more likely to accomplish a personal best.

Cliff Wurtak, an elite ringette coach preparing for the Canada Winter Games, suggested that his athletes adopt a simple outlook in preparing and participating – “Never have to say I wish I would have!”

This sentiment suggests clearly that it is important for an athlete to do everything possible to physically, mentally, and emotionally prepare for the Games. It also suggests that the athlete be ready to be assertive, feel license to go for it, and make the most of the opportunities presented. And it suggests that the athlete be ready to fully experience and respond to the emotions and challenges of the Games.

I would say to each of our Olympic athletes: Walk away knowing you gave it your best shot and exulted in the opportunity to test yourself in one of the most prestigious and emotional environments in the world. Accept that you can never totally control your emotions that is part of the challenge of being human. With emotional preparation, practice, and management we can often come closer to our situational potential.

Compete with passion, perspective, and preparation and be all you can be as you pursue your Olympic destiny. I wish you physical prowess, a clear mind, and an unburdened heart. Citius, Altius,, Fortius!

References: Glasser, V 1984. Control Theory, Harper &Row, New York. / Vallerand, R.J. 1984. “Emotion in Sport,” Cognitive Sport Psychology, Straub, W., and J. Williams (eds.) Sport Science Associates, Lansing, New York


The Traveling Athlete: Minimizing Adverse Effects

by Chelsea R. Warr, B.Sp.Sc;Grad. Dip. Phy. Ed

Department of Physiology and Applied Nutrition, Australian Institute of Sport

International sports competition is inevitably linked to overseas travel. With Australia being so globally isolated from prominent sporting events often occurring in the northern hemisphere, our athletes are undertaking extended flights and expected to compete optimally days later. Furthermore, many Australian athletes are travelling more frequently for exposure to environmental stressors such as heat and altitude in the attempt to enhance performance. The repercussions of extended flights are a general nuisance to the tourist traveller. For the elite athlete, rapid time zone travel undoubtedly impairs their potential in competition and in some instances can severely compromise performance.

Coaches commonly report noticeable decreases in various components of athletic performance between days 2-4 following extended flights. Performance gradually returns to normal by day 6 for most individuals (Lawrence 1993). Scientists suggest that this decrement in performance is caused by the dysynchronization of circadianrhythms (Your Biological Clock, Hill 1993, Shephard 1989, Reilly 1984, Winget 1988). More commonly, athletes and coaches attribute their poor performance to “jetlag.”

Although jetlag is inevitable with transmeridian flying, following simple procedures can help to prevent and alleviate many symptoms that can affect athletic performance. Furthermore, these procedures also hasten the resynchronization phase upon arrival, allowing the athlete to adjust to local time and complete usual training loads. The following is an outline of practical strategies implemented by Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) coaches, athletes and sports science/medicine staff when travelling overseas.

It is well documented that rapid time zone travel causes circadian dysrhythmia (jetlag). Jetlag occurs when there is a mismatch between the external zeitgebers (environmental time givers such as light and social interaction) and the internal body clock of an individual. More simply, the body’s internal clock becomes confused between the place of departure and place of arrival. This confusion is often characterized by malaise and a host of other symptoms including loss of appetite, tiredness and disturbed sleep, all of which contribute to poor athletic performance (O’Conner 1990).

Body arousal levels, temperature, strength and flexibility fluctuate over a 24 hour period. They peak in the late afternoon or early evening and are at a minimum by early morning. Consequently it may be expected that peak sports performance will coincide with peak levels of these parameters, i.e. in the late afternoon or early evening (Eichner 1988, Shephard 1984, Hill 1993). Literature cites many other examples of improved performance later in the day.

When athletes travel across time zones their normal 24 hour cycle of peaks and troughs in body arousal levels, temperature, strength and flexibility will no longer correspond with the day/night cycle of the destination. That is, their internal body clock is out of synch with the true time. For example, a 3 pm competition schedule in the new destination may equate to 3 am (sleeping time) in the previous one. How can the body work optimally when presented with such a scenario?

In knowing that international air travel can disturb the precise timing of various hormonal and physiological rhythms, it is prudent for coaches and athletes to:

  • Implement preflight jetlag programs.
  • Undertake in-flight anti-jetlag procedures.
  • Use strategies to hasten resynchronization of the internal clock after arrival.
  • Modify initial training sessions during the adjustment phase.

What Affects the Severity of Jetlag?

Understanding the variables that affect the severity of jetlag can help coaches program sufficient recovery time while travelling on tour. Naturally, not all athletes will be affected in the same way, or to the same degree, but there is a distinct possibility that some disruption will occur.

  1. Number of times zones crossed.

    The severity of jetlag is proportional to the number of time zones crossed. A rule of thumb calculation would allow about one day recovery for each hour of the clock shifted going west but slightly less for an east bound flight (Jones 1995). Coaches should assess the degree of disturbance by the direction of travel chosen and where possible plan to minimize the amount of time zones crossed altogether.

  2. Direction of flight.

    Westward flights, in which the body clock is delayed, appear to require a shorter recovery time than east bound flights where an advancement to the body clock occurs. Time shifts of up to six hours appear more tolerable than longer travel periods. Coaches should plan to break up considerably longer journeys for faster recovery.

  3. Hydration status.

    The dry atmosphere in an aircraft cabin can cause a travelling athlete to become dehydrated (Bond 1988). Hydration status is further compromised by athletes spending time in air-conditioned hotel rooms and airports. Dehydration often contributes to many of the common symptoms of jetlag such as headache, malaise and disorientation.

  4. Social interaction/personalities.

    Those who engage in social interaction following arrival seem to adapt significantly faster those who remain socially isolated (Loat et al 1989). Social interaction is considered to be a strong zeitgeber for circadian re-entrainment, therefore suggesting that an extrovert copes better with jetlag than an introvert.

  5. Pharmaceutical intervention.

    Although sleeping agents do not directly resynchronize circadian rhythms, they may relieve insomnia, a common symptom of jetlag.

  6. Jetlag minimization programs and travel experience.

    Circadian dysrhythmia is inevitable with rapid time zone travel, however anti-lag programs can minimize the acute symptoms an athlete may experience (Lawrence 1993). Those who are more experienced at travelling adapt more quickly than novices.

Guidelines for Travelling Athletes and Coaches


Pre-planning and organization is the key to a successful trip and will minimize athletes becoming distracted from the task at hand.

  1. Pre-book aisle or exit row seating to allow more room to stretch especially when travelling with teams of taller athletes (e.g. basketballers).
  2. Special meals on most major airlines can be easily arranged with as little notice as 36 hours prior to departure. Examples include low fat and vegetarian. Some airlines even provide athlete meals for group bookings (e.g. low fat, high carbohydrate). Avoid overeating. Remember that you are sedentary, perhaps even tapering, hence your caloric intake will not be high.
  3. To avoid transit hunger, pack healthy snacks which need minimum storage fuss and are long lasting (e.g. fruits, dried crackers, sport energy bars, liquid meals).
  4. AIS physicians suggest that pharmaceutical intervention to combat sleep difficulties during long haul flights should be based on individual preferences. Should athletes choose to use prescribed sleeping agents, trial at least one week before departing to observe potential side effects.
  5. Providing players with cultural profiles of the particular countries to be visited allows them to become familiar with local customs, foods, weather etc.
  6. Make contact with the proposed accommodation to determine when sporting facilities are available for guests.

During the Flight:

Maintaining Hydration – The oxygen concentration and humidity of aircraft cabins are considerably lower than normal air. This dry environment can cause athletes to lose more than 300ml of water per hour depending on their body size, with larger athletes losing significantly more.

  1. Drink at least 300ml of fluid, preferably water every hour, to remain well-hydrated. This equates to 1.5 standard cups per hour (approximately 10 small airline cups!).
  2. Pack water bottles or sport drinks with you and have them seated in the front pocket as a reminder to drink frequently and stay well-hydrated.
  3. Avoid coffee, tea, carbonated drinks and alcohol which are offered during the flight. Many of these act as diuretics and can contribute to further dehydration.
  4. Wet towels and water sprays can help to avoid dryness developing in the nose and throat.


  1. Avoid overeating as inactivity on the plane means that you actually require a smaller caloric intake than required for a normal training day.
  2. Adjusting your meal times to those of the country you are heading to can prompt the resynchronization process.


  1. In-flight stretching programs discreetly done from your seat can aid “travellers thrombosis” (e.g. pins and needles, swelling). Moving around the plane from time to time is also helpful.
  2. Transit stops are also a good opportunity to do some light exercise.
  3. Adjust your watch to the destination time when boarding the plane and try to synchronize daily routines accordingly. In-house entertainment and blackout eye pads may help.

Upon Arrival:

Diet, exercise, sunlight and social interaction are the key environmental cues (zeitgebers) to allow resynchronization.

  1. Stay awake even if you are tired. Unpacking luggage, stretching and light exercise (e.g. swimming) are favorable options.
  2. Social interaction and natural sunlight is an excellent re-entrainment tool so go outdoors and do a little socializing!
  3. Where possible, schedule un-taxing introductory matches and training.
  4. Initial training sessions need to be easy to moderate and carefully monitored by the coaching staff.
  5. Avoid taking sedatives as they delay the natural adjustment process.

Training Recommendations Following Travel.

Lawrence and colleagues (1993) from the Western Australian Institute of Sport reported a significant reduction in 20 meter sprint performance and reaction time on day 34 of arrival in female national hockey team representatives.

A concurrent deterioration in coordination and technical aspects of performance was also noted by the head coach. Performance gradually returned to pre-departure levels by around day 7. Practical recommendations. The following recommendations are based on the outcomes of this and similar studies.

  1. Initial training sessions should be light to allow the body to recover from the flight experience. Exercise modalities should focus on flexibility and promote movement through the full joint range available (e.g. swimming).
  2. During early days of arrival encourage all team members to implement additional therapeutic forms of recovery into their programs. Hydrotherapies (e.g. contrasting temperature showers and spas), restorative massage and mental relaxation techniques are therapies promoted by AIS recovery specialists.
  3. Skills and technique often deteriorate during the adjustment phase. Coaches should work on basics to avoid frustration developing among players during the first few training sessions.
  4. Morning sessions should focus on more detailed instructions such as combination work and tactical plays. Afternoon sessions should include basic drills and recovery work.
  5. Encourage athletes to keep tour diaries, providing psychological and physiological feedback for the coach on how the athlete is adapting.
  6. Coaches may revert to the standard program around days 4-6.

It is apparent that no one program will satisfy all athletes travelling hence the coach will need to assess each individual’s progress in preparation for early competitions. Standard selection criteria to compete must be flexible. This often means allowing players who are lacking form during initial sessions to compete, in order to maintain their morale for events scheduled later.

New Products

Various new products are presently on the market which claim to alleviate dehydration and dysrhythmia caused by aircraft travel. Although these have not been scientifically proven to enhance athletic performance, many current AIS sports use these products in order to alleviate symptoms they report hamper their performance.


The humidification mask which claims to reduce dehydration during aircraft travel and acts as a bacteriostatic filter. Many AIS programs such as Netball, Athletics and Swimming feel confident that it is a useful product for alleviating symptoms of dehydration such as headache and malaise. No noticeable side effects have been reported.

Details: Retails at approximately AU $30.00 – Worn for 50% of total flying time – Reusable for 100 hours of air travel – Available from “Humidifier Technologies” PO Box 168, Neutral Bay, NSW.


Melatonin is a natural hormone released by the pineal gland in the brain which is involved in the regulation of the body’s internal clock. American researchers are currently manufacturing a synthesized version of melatonin which claims to improve alertness and help with sleep disturbances. Melatonin is currently unavailable in Australia and banned in every country but the US, where melatonin is sold in drug and health food stores. Research currently underway in Adelaide may provide more substantial information about these claims.

Details: Not approved for sale in Australia, however individuals can import up to three months supply for their own use. Relatively inexpensive retailing- under AU$15 for 60 three milligram capsules (a supposed two month supply). Preliminary studies recommend 3-5 mg, taken before bed for 5 consecutive days upon arrival. Melatonin is most effective when the athlete is exposed to a regular day and night cycle. Recommended dosage and optimal administration time is still under research.


Too often coaches and athletes ignore simple and practical procedures which can restore athletes’ pre-departure performance levels significantly faster following international air travel. A comprehensive approach to travel and planning ahead will optimize performance in athletes and contribute to success.


Bond J, Minimizing Jetlag and Jet-stress. Sports Coach 1988 P 55-56 / Eichner E.R. Circadian Timekeepers in Sport. Physician and Sports Medicine 16: (2) P 79-84, 1988. / Jones M. Keeping in Time. New Scientist (V 89) P 14 1996 / Hill D, Effects of Jetlag on factors related to Sport Performance. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology;18 (1) P 91-103, 1993 / Lawrence et al;Aspects of Jet lag. Sports Coach, April-June P 6-9 1993 / Loat C, Jetlag and Human Performance. Sports Medicine;8(4) P 226-238, 1989 / Minors et al, Introduction: the travelling athlete. Coaching Focus (Leeds, England: (25), Spring 1994, P 20-21 / O’Conner, P-J;Morgan, -WP Athletic Performance following travel across multiple time zones: a review. Sports Medicine;10(1) P 20-30, 1990 / Reilly T, Circadian rhythms and Exercise. In: McLeod, Maughan RJ, Nimmo M, Reilly T C eds Exercise: Benefits, Limits and Adaptations. E and FN Spon, London, 1987: 346-366 / Shephard R Sleep, Biorhythms and Human Performance. Sports Medicine 1:11-36, 1984 / Winget C, Circadian rhythms and athletic performance. Medicine Science and Sports Exercise, 17(5), P 498516, 1985

Understanding the variables that affect the severity of jetlag can help coaches program sufficient recovery time while travelling on tour. Naturally, not all athletes will be affected in the same way, or to the same degree, but there is a distinct possibility that some disruption will occur.


Stress and Its Relationship to Swimming

Stress and Its Relationship to Swimming

From The Australian Swim Coaches Magazine
By Bernie Wakefield

Burned-out, Stressed-out, Over-worked, Over-trained and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are some of the designer terminologies used to describe the chronically exhausted athlete. Are they signs of an emerging illness or are they just euphemisms for sheer laziness or, taken to extreme levels, cop-outs for dodging the hard yakka?

Here are some others: Over-reaching, Staleness, Flattened and “Down the Mine.” Are these terms solid evidence of severe fatigue, stress or impending illness? To the swimmer suffering those accruing symptoms they certainly are genuine! Every day the daily paper carries reports of sporting people engaged in intensive competition, in anguish from similar manifestations that have seriously affected them for a period of time. There appears to be some misunderstanding on two of the most common idioms in usage, over-training and over-reaching. This is the official medical explanation of both terms.

Over-reaching, is simply a planned overload program combined with rest periods designed to enable the athlete to adapt fully or partly, depending on the ultimate goal. During this period it is possible for that person to sustain excessive fatigue. Regeneration processes such as spas and massage will hasten restoration when in this mode.

To use the expression “over-training syndrome” is to describe a pathological state that is rapidly approaching an immunological disaster! This could mean months of rest and recuperation.

Scientists tell us that the devastating glandular fever bug (Epstein-Barr) is almost certainly a by-product of the over-training syndrome. The question is, and should be on the lips of every coach, is science any closer to solving the mystery of these debilitating illnesses? The answer is, yes!

Hans Selye, earlier this century, explained the far reaching effects of stress in all its ugly forms in his learned book on this subject. Much later, Theodore Bompa (1983) delved into the stress factor in swimming with some startling conclusions – but no tangible proof, Billings, Parry et. al. (1992) attacked the subject with much enthusiasm and demonstrated that an inefficient immune system was the running mate of a broken-down athlete.

More recently some revealing evidence has arrived from the UK from one E.A. Newsholme who observed that a glutamine deficiency in the body of the tired athlete heralded the origin-in of the over-training enigma. (Nat. Coaching Foundation 1995) He offered this hypothesis for consideration.

Amongst all the cells in the immune system, the lymphocyte cell is the one identified as the catalyst that invokes a deadly response to the invading bacteria. Specifically lethal is the lymphocyte cell known as the T-helper. These cells are the little warriors’ which multiply rapidly to repel the intruding organism. The process that requires this defined increase in numbers is called synthesisation. In the presence of the amino acid, glutamine, new precursor molecules are formed inside the T-helper and these little trailblazers synthesize into molecules of RNA and DNA. In these optimal conditions, duplications of the new cells take place.

Our hero, glutamine, is in heavy demand during this process;indeed, it is required in huge amounts for the creation to occur. Furthermore, and this is an important link in the chain of cellular activity as Parry-Billings et. al. 1992, report: a decrease in the availability of glutamine will result in a low multiplication of cells and in consequence, a poor defense against bacteria and viruses.

As the demand for glutamine in the exercising athlete soars, it follows that storage of this substance is a necessity to deflect the ever present threat of illness. If it were stored in one area it would require an organ the size of the liver to house it.

Now, glutamine generally enters the body from the ingestion of proteins but the intestines absorb most of these so further supplies have to be synthesized by the body. This action occurs, logically enough, in the skeletal muscle which also stores and releases it on an as-required basis. In view of this dramatic evidence, the muscle has to be considered an integral part of the immune system. Is the picture coming into focus?

Newsholme postulates that a lack of glutamine would produce a suppressive effect on the immune system if the athlete has entered an over-training phase. Inevitably, this is confirmed by a slow response of the lymphocytes to infection. Another victim of Glandular Fever bites the dust! In other studies supporting the theory of glutamine deficiency in the blood of over-trained athletes it has been shown that marathoners demonstrated reduced levels that remained low for several weeks after the event (Parry-Billings, Budgett, Koutedakis, Blomstrand, Brooks &Williams 1992).

Newsholme, likewise maintains that mental fatigue in the athlete also may be a product of amino acid activity. Among the 20 odd amino acids found in proteins is one called Tryptophan. When it enters the brain it converts to a neurotransmitter serotonin, known to medicine as 5-HT. These are simply chemical messengers and one of their functions is the control of sleep patterns.

The belief is, that during exercise, especially of the intensive endurance type, fat stored in the tissues releases free fatty acids into the blood. A chemical reaction then takes place in the brain releasing a marked increase of tryptophan which in turn results in increased proportions of 5-HT. The suspicion exists that unexpected brain fatigue in the active athlete may result from this procedure.

Still on the subject of amino acids, there exists a group of branched chain amino acid champions’ known as Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Sounds like Roman gladiators! These goodies’ compete with the baddies’ like tryptophan for entry into the brain. Now, if the blood levels of branched chain amino acids were elevated during training or competition there would be a marked decrease in the extent of 5-HT and Tryptophan. This, Newsholme assures, would counter the effect of fatigue.

There is research being carried out at this time to reduce the degree of fatigue by drinking certain fluids containing branched chain amino acids. (Newsholme, Leech Deuster 1994). It may be of interest that Australian swim teams on tour are advised by the accompanying sports scientists to ingest isotonic drinks not only in training situations but also during race swim-downs. The question is, do they contain the necessary branch chain amino acids required for recovery or are they simply loaded with carbohydrates?

So we have two possible scenarios involving stressing of swimmers that demand a normal restoration of glutamine and tryptophan levels. Simplified, one is the fatigue syndrome within the brain and the other, and perhaps a worse situation, an immune system dysfunction.

Both these problems are alleviated or even cured by rest and medication, but sometimes this can be a very real dilemma if the condition becomes chronic, requiring complete rehabilitation. Even a mild to moderate situation can result in loss of form and speed, so we need a simple and fast acting remedy.

Is it possible that the glycogen loaded sport drinks now being flogged’ can be of assistance? There remains serious doubt on that issue but it is probable that sometime in the near future a fluid of complex compounds will be marketed that can assist in keeping those glutamine levels normal.

Within the last year an intensive study of the over-training problem was carried out by scientists from the University of Western Australia. (Rowbottom, Keast, Goodman and Morton Nov. 94) A wide range of parameters was measured on 10 athletes who were apparently suffering from this symptom. The data obtained makes for fascinating reading. So intense was the research that many parameters once considered responsible for distress within training schedules were claimed to be dismissed as likely candidates.

It was suggested that the OTS was unrelated to the traditional villains normally associated with over-training. Some of those little nasties found innocent of producing havoc in the immune system were: low ferritin concentrations and elevated uric acid and phosphokinase and cortisol levels. After eliminating these false prophets of doom as flawed material, they queried the possibility of decreased concentrations of glutamine as the real culprit. Using Newsholme’s theory that glutamine was a key substrate for cells of the immune system, essential for an immune response and therefore resulting in a defective immune function if the levels were inadequate, they clinically measured plasma glutamine concentrations in the OTS subjects.

The information revealed in this study showed that a lower concentration of glutamine levels could be a negative result of either excessive exercise or over-training and could lead to illness or burn-out. They concluded also that elevated levels in the well-trained athlete represented a positive adaptation to a well-balanced program. Now that opens up some possibilities! From this observation it would be reasonable to assume that auditing plasma glutamine production could be an excellent marker for future diagnosis of this condition. Yes!

Bompa (1983) described in some detail the concept of an optimal training, program. Simplified, it followed this format;Stress – Overload – Adaptation. If we followed that policy to the letter it means that the athlete would be in a constant state of stress as all the work would be hovering close to toleration limits, that is, just a tick or two outside complete breakdown.

Up until recently, it has been most difficult evaluating the predicament of decline. Sudden decreases in performance for no apparent reason are shell-shocking to all associated with the concerned person. The dilemma in obtaining a precise diagnosis when this occurred, was setting up a standardized test methodology to obtain information under laboratory conditions. Testing for a satisfactory result meant setting the anaerobic performance indicators at an intensity around 10% above their maximal lactate steady state and testing to exhaustion. This posed some problems. The idea of this exercise was to examine hormonal concentrations in the over-trained state. More later.

Experience tells us that some swimmers can endure more severe workloads than others. Those others often have good reasons why they cannot perform to the same standard. Astute coaches are aware of these people and modify the work so they can gain optimal benefits. Usually they have suffered a physical problem in the past such as a serious illness, or they simply just don’t have the innate ability to work to that high degree.

These swimmers need careful attention for it is often they who frequently fall ill. Blood tests sometimes tell a vivid story (viral, low iron etc.) but often not, and their inability to work hard may ever remain a mystery. We can all tell stories of swimmers who would certainly have reached the top but were prevented from doing so by unexplained sickness.

The workers, those who blast through every session in a big hurry to reach elite class, also need a cautious approach. When they fall, they go fast and fall a long way and usually take a long time to recover. The answer to all these vexing problems is to closely monitor and measure the swimmers’ profiles. What are the measuring devices?

Heart rate monitors can sometimes be a valuable tool in assessing a swimmer. Not only is it a measure of their fitness condition but can even detect infection or illness. A high heart pulse while doing medium work is a certain sign of a problem brewing in the immune system. A low response to a given workload may indicate an incomplete recovery. A readout remaining high for longer than normal is a dead give away that something is amiss. The old reliable stopwatch may be one of the best tools available. Couple times with the work response and only blind Freddie could miss the connotations.

Monitor the swimmer at all times for perception of stress and how they are handling it. View anything outside normal behavior with utmost caution. Evaluating your swimmer visually is almost an exact science – if you are attentive. In the water, check times for a certain effort, listen to the breathing, the color of the skin, their reactions to other squadies’ times and their emotive actions at critical speeds. Out of the water, look at eyes, personality changes, reluctance at entering water, mood swings etc. At home, parents can monitor sleep patterns, eating habits, irritability, low enthusiasm and school results. Any irregular conduct that remains constant for 3 or 4 days could be considered abnormal and require further investigation.

Probably the most critical factor in supervising progress is estimating sufficient recovery before advancing up the workload ladder. Recovery itself is often a time consuming exercise and one that has attracted little scientific research. Consequently the coach is much on his own in this area and each swimmer has to be appraised separately. Perceptions of soreness, fatigue, times for efforts, enthusiasm, heart rate responses and many more are the tools we have at our disposal. How we use them just about describes our success or failure at coaching. If you have the talent available and don’t succeed, perhaps this zone is the one to look at closely. Swimmers should be encouraged to keep log books. Often this can be a real pain in the ‘you know where’ if the squad is large but it is worth the effort even if only to gauge progress. If information on the swimmer’s body weight, diet and health is collected in this log book over a period of time, the coach can then discuss any present shortcomings, looming, problems and perhaps prevent a possible slide down the mine.’

The effectiveness of the program can also be calculated if the swimmer notes the body and mind responses to certain sets and how it affected them. Correctly identifying negative thought patterns could be a plus. Perceiving progress in terms of times as a result of training intensity is vital for further improvement. If the program you have constructed on a “scientific” basis from dogmatic regimens in popular use is causing your swimmers to self-destruct by over-training, then it is time to change to a more common sense approach.

So what happens if your swimmer does come down with one of these symptoms? Most medics would suggest a period of rest and recuperation of not less than 6 weeks. That is, complete rest. There is however some evidence to support the theory that a diet of very light exercise may hasten recovery. The workload must not go beyond the aerobic stage and begins with just a few minutes per day. Of course, recovery depends on the severity of the condition but it could possibly extend to 3 months.

Some regeneration processes such as massage, hydrotherapy and relaxation techniques coupled with floating in salt water tanks shut off from all outside influences have been tried with success. It may be expedient at this time to summarize some of the factors that are suspect in the over-training, syndrome. These are not in order of importance.

Stress or competition

Intensive training of the interval type.

Sudden increases in the training load.

Long, repetitive, boring sets.

Stress at home, school or work.

Insufficient rest or sleep.

Incomplete recovery between hard sets or sessions.

Organ related complaints where no disease exists.

Early warning signs are:

(a) Poor performance – training or competing.

(b) Heart rate responses – active and resting.

(c) Mood changes

(d) Swollen lymph glands.

Log books, as mentioned previously, are certainly one way of maintaining a careful watch on a swimmer’s condition in this regard if notations of well being, thoughts and effects of certain sessions are entered. Another, possibly more effective method of detection of these symptoms is the completion of Psychological Test Questionnaires.

The biggest problem with these test sheets is obtaining truthful and honest answers. There is a tendency to answer the questions simply to please the examiner or to second guess the answer they think is required of them. However, if they are well constructed and most are these days, it is possible to observe patterns of abnormality emerging which may indicate an imminent plight.

Other studies abound on this subject of over-training. Urhausen, Gabriel and Kinderman entertained suspicions that hormonal disturbances had links to immune system break down. They speculated that the hormone heavies’ like adrenaline and cortisol were responsible for disruptive inflammatory processes in the exercising athlete.

Adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline have been shown to increase significantly as the aerobic/anaerobic transition is reached (threshold). The shorter and more intensive the exercise, the higher the ratio of Adrenaline/Noradrenaline.

The metabolic increase rates of cortisol levels appear to be important when the exercise is endurance oriented. Cortisol is suspected of having some chemical control on the release of fatty acids. It is also known that during the post exercise period, cortisol has a role in the resynthesis of muscle glycogen.

Much ado has been made over testosterone levels in both male and female swimmers and how it affects their supply of energy. Research data suggests that it does increase the muscle’s capacity to top up its glycogen storage in the anabolic process of recovery. Which, of course, means faster recovery.

With just these few paragraphs it can be seen that this is a well-researched area. It would be immensely difficult to detail to any degree the research into the pathways of the various systems in this brief article. These systems would include: Peripheral Metabolic, Immunologic, Hormonal and Neuroendocrine systems – way past this author’s capabilities to understand the biological vernacular let alone interpret them! However, it is known that some of the hormones under investigation would include, Testosterone, Cortisol, Adrenaline (epinephrine) and Insulin.

It would be safe to say that although there are indications that a hormonal imbalance is a well-known condition in the intensely trained athlete, it cannot yet be established that it is responsible for the over-trained syndrome or immunological disorder.

Intensive experiments have been carried out on humans and animals without any substantial conclusions on the subject. However, Urhausen et. al. ended their study with the explanation that the most likely cause of swimmers succumbing to infections is related to the complex interaction of both immune and hormonal pathways.

Even with this evidence there is still some thought that repetitive hormonal stressors could lead to a reduced glutamine synthesis in the muscles and this may have a strong bearing on the duplication response of lymphocyte cells.

One more item for discussion: the ground we have just covered relates almost entirely to the over-trained swimmer. But there is another problem that resembles the symptoms of immune dysfunction and occurs when you would least expect it. Probably every coach has experienced this frustrating impasse more than once or twice in their careers. It happens, at the beginning of taper: within a four to six day period of starting the taper. Mostly it is an upper respiratory infection, but often a gastrointestinal condition may also exist.

Why this is so remains a mystery. Over the years dozens of plausible explanations have been offered, any of which could be accurate assessments but again – nothing proven. It appears to affect 10 to 20% of teams in training. Even at the highest level of National teams, with medical staff in abundance, swimmers still fall ill at this particular time. We really can’t afford such waste – at any stage of development and our hard working scientists should pursue this specific bogey with great alacrity. It has now been well-established that these complaints stem from over-training. Why then do they strike at a time when the athlete appears to be in adaptation? That is, when all recovery processes are in full cry? Has the immune system been badly weakened by over intensive exercise? Is it possible that the vital organs are in a kind of toxic shock?

What does the future hold? Research into over-training has to be an urgent priority. In the matter of hormonal measurements it is possible that the field of endocrinology may play an important role with a systematic plan of research. A simple diagnostic method of early detection of immune dysfunction is long overdue. Is it too much to hope for a non-invasive process? Or even a micro method of blood withdrawal? If this were possible, a more frequent examination and systematic form of standard testing could be carried out. The role of the sports scientist has never been under such pressure to perform.

It is this writer’s opinion that far too many years were wasted chasing lactate bunnies down their holes for too many dead ends. It still is a useful training tool but have we pursued lactate research as an exercise device as far as we need? Like all criteria of this nature, it requires frequent testing to obtain accurate data and to form a conclusion.

Coupled with the initial setup, it is still too expensive a process for the struggling squad. Nevertheless, it is known to be a profitable method of detecting abnormal lactate concentrations at certain speeds that could indicate an immune problem exists. Take care though, as muscle glycogen depletion also is believed to initiate this condition. Heart Rate monitors likewise, are not cheap and while providing more than helpful information, cannot always give an accurate, individual readout. For training purposes, hand timed counts are probably precise enough to give a clear picture. Much has been written and claimed about heart rate training programs. To a certain extent the claims on critical training speeds are questionable but in an over-training situation as detailed earlier, the monitoring results are priceless. There are other indicators that are alleged to divulge over-training;most are expensive and few provide proven or accurate measures.

Certain enzymes discovered in muscle tissue after heavy exercise were thought to be Indicators of tissue damage and a pointer that over-training was imminent. However, the belief is now that these enzyme increases may be just a harmless part and parcel of the normal training routine.

Other physical factors measured by researchers in an effort to discover the origins of the over-training syndrome include blood pressure, saliva, oxygen consumption and blood and urinary proteins. There is no confirmation that these measures were confirmed guilty of being part of any immune decline. Even more certainly, neither could they be considered as a quick poolside investigation during workouts!

Perhaps it is not only time to explore and medicate the more destructive developments of over-training but likewise continue to research for valid recovery processes – not just after sets and sessions but also micro and macro periods.

What else do we require? We need a better understanding of over-training and that means a reliable gauge, and that relates to an efficient and accurate model of assessing just where the swimmer’s tolerance limit of each energy system is. Experience is a great tool to possess when visually evaluating a swimmer’s condition but it is not infallible and we all make mistakes. We need to minimize if not entirely eliminate those errors. Perhaps someday


Nutrition: The Power of Protein

Nutrition: The Power of Protein
Reprinted ASCA News Vol. 96-4
Source: The Physician and Sportsmedicine
By Nancy Clark, MS, RD

Once upon a time, the “best” sports diets were based on steak and eggs. Supposedly, meat-eating athletes were stronger, more muscular, and more aggressive. Today, we know that strength and muscles are built with exercise (not extra protein), and that carbohydrates provide the fuel needed for muscle-building exercise.

But in the transition from a high-protein to high-carb diet, many athletes have eliminated meat-and have also overlooked the importance of protein. Some have taken the public health recommendations to eat less saturated fat to the extreme and are surviving on fat-free bagels and pasta. This type of diet may seem ideal, but in addition to being low in protein, it lacks important nutrients such as iron (needed to carry oxygen to working muscles) and zinc (needed for healing).

Many of these so-called “vegetarian’ athletes are simply non-meat eaters who have not bothered to replace meat protein with plant proteins. They may think they are gaining a competitive edge, but they are actually hindering themselves. They often have lingering colds, nagging injuries, poor recovery from workouts, and overall fatigue as dietary imbalances take their toll.

Protein has recently reentered the spotlight. Some sports nutrition gurus advocate getting as much as 30% of daily calories from protein, double the standard 12% to 15% recommendation. Confused? Join the club. Here are some protein questions and answers that should help.

Why is protein important for athletes?

Protein is made up of chains of amino acids, some of which our bodies cannot manufacture. Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscles, as well as repairing the muscle damage that occurs during training. Protein is also needed to make red blood cells, produce hormones, boost your immune (disease-fighting) system, and help keep hair, fingernails, and skin healthy. Athletes who are protein deficient may complain about having hair that falls out easily and fingernails that grow slowly and break easily. Female athletes who eat a protein-poor diet may also stop having periods.

How much protein do athletes need?
There isn’t an exact number for athletes because protein needs vary, depending on whether an athlete is growing, rapidly building new muscle, doing endurance exercise, or dieting, in which case protein is used as a source of energy. Protein requirements for athletes are higher than the current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 0.4 g of protein per pound of body weight, which is based on the needs of nonexercisers. Protein recommendations for athletes are commonly expressed in a range to include a safety margin. If you do the math (1g of protein has 4 calories), you’ll see that you don’t need to have 30% of your calories come from protein.

Do bodybuilders need more protein than runners?
No. Per pound of body weight, bodybuilders actually need less protein than endurance athletes such as runners. That’s because protein, more precisely the amino acids that are the building-blocks of protein, is actually used for fuel during intense exercise, particularly when carbohydrates are not available. Protein can provide up to 10% of energy during exercise when a person is carbohydrate depleted. But here’s the catch: Even though endurance athletes may need more protein per pound of body weight, they tend to need a smaller total intake of protein because they often weigh less than bodybuilders. For example, a 200-pound bodybuilder may need about 140 g of protein a day (0.7 g of protein per pound), whereas a 150-pound marathoner may need about 120 g of protein per day (0.8 g of protein per pound). Most people can get enough protein through their diet, eliminating the need for protein supplements. Is red meat bad for athletes?

Lean cuts of red meats are not bad for athletes. The best choices include flank steak, London broil, eye of the round, and extra-lean ground beef. Besides being protein-rich, lean red meat is an excellent source of iron and zinc.

Some athletes are afraid of the cholesterol in red meats. But actually the cholesterol content of red meat is similar to that of chicken and fish. Yes, fatty hamburgers, pepperoni, bacon, and ribs are unhealthy and should be eaten only occasionally, if at all. But athletes can healthfully have about 4 oz of lean meat two to four times per week. In fact, a lean roast beef sandwich could be a healthier choice for the heart than a veggie sandwich packed with cheese.

Can athletes who choose a vegetarian diet get adequate protein?
Yes. Vegetarian athletes can eat enough protein to satisfy their bodies’ needs if they wisely choose plant proteins. Lacto-ovo vegetarians (who eat eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy foods but no meat) can most easily consume adequate protein because these foods are excellent sources of life-sustaining protein and contain all the essential amino acids.

The key for total vegetarians, or vegans (who eat no milk, eggs or other animal proteins), is to eat a variety of grains that have complementary amino acids. For example, beans and rice is an example of mixing legumes (peas and beans) and grains. Also, tofu is an excellent addition to a vegetarian diet. Tofu has made headlines because it is a high quality plant protein that contains all essential amino acids and offers the bonus of phytochemicals that protect against heart disease and cancer.

A word of caution: Although vegetarian athletes can consume adequate protein from their diet, they have to be willing to eat large amounts of plant proteins. This is often easier for men with hearty appetites than for weight-conscious women. If you are eating a vegetarian diet that consists primarily of grains, fruits, and vegetables, you are probably eating an unbalanced diet. You might want to consult with a sports nutritionist who can help you add the right amount of protein. For a referral to a local sports nutritionist, call the American Dietetic Association’s referral network at 1-800-366-1655.

Remember. You, your physician, and your nutritionist need to work together to discuss nutrition concerns. The above information is not intended as a substitute for appropriate medical treatment.

Where to Find Protein
Sources Protein (g)
Tuna, 6-oz can 40
Chicken breast, 4 oz 35
Pork loin, 4 oz 30
Hamburger, 4 oz 30
Haddock, 4 oz 27
Cottage cheese, 1/2 c 1.5
Yogurt, 8 oz 1.1
Milk, 1%, 8 oz 8
Cheddar cheese, 1 oz 7
Whole egg, 1 large 6
Egg white, 1 large 3.5

Baked beans, 1 c 14
Lentil soup, 10.5 oz 11
Tofu, extra firm, 3.5 oz 1.1
Refried beans, 1/2 c 7
Hummus, 1/2 c 6
Kidney beans, 1/2 c 6
Peanut butter, 1 Tbsp 4.5
Almonds, dried, 12 3