More on Swimsuits


Now that 1/1/2010 has come and gone, we are on the new swimsuit rule from FINA, which is, simply put, Textile materials only, and suit silhouette is navel to knees for men, and upper body (nothing over the shoulder but straps) to knees for women. Essentially, we’re wearing jammer length suits once again.

A miniscule number of highly respected coaches (I only know of one, personally) are continuing to push that we go back to FINA and demand that we go to brief suits for men and remove the leg covering in women as well. This based on the FINA rule (also pushed through from USA Swimming in July 2010, and not existing prior to that, as it relates to swimsuits) that we ban anything that “may” aid speed and buoyancy. Well, suits over the legs “may” aid buoyancy and speed….so does suits over the torso, so if you follow that line of reasoning, our suits better get a “lot” smaller. Be careful what you ask for….

It is worth a review from a person who was involved at every live step of this fight in July, 2008, of what went down, and how, and why. Then its worth understanding what is at stake. I shall provide both hereafter.

In Nov. 2008, USA Swimming, driven by its coach led International Relations Committee, submitted legislation to FINA to insert the phrase “and swimwear” into the rule that discusses “may aid” etc. etc. etc. Without this insertion, there was no philosophical basis for changing FINA’s existing set of non-rules about suits. USA Swimming also submitted legislation restricting the suits to textiles and a shape that would mean suits “to the hips” in women and men….ie..briefs.

That legislation was before the Congress in Rome.

On Thursday, the Swimming Congress approved, by an overwhelming margin, the inclusion of the phrase “and swimsuits” into the rulebook. This set the stage. On Thursday evening, in an effort to understand the issues involved, FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu met with the head coaches of seven leading nations in the competitive swimming world, and myself. The discussion revolved around where we wanted the legislation to go the next day. All coaches supported the USA-proposal, with the modification that the length of the suits come to the knees….essentially jammers for men, and legs of similar length for the women. This modification was proposed by Coach Alan Thompson of Australia, and supported by every coach in the room.

On Friday morning in the General Congress, Mark Schubert, speaking for the USA, modified the existing USA proposal, (which was for briefs) in accordance with the agreement from the night before of the world’s coaches. The vote in favor of this Legislation was overwhelming, in opposition to the Bureau position, and that of the Executive of FINA.

Hence we arrived where we are today.

In the meantime, a few manufacturers have continued to insist that this is “an error” (whatever that means) and they want FINA to override the Congress decision and return to the plastic bag suits of full length.

To the Eternal Credit of new FINA President Julio Maglione, he is on written record as stating that the decision of the Congress is the ultimate authority of FINA and no further changes will take place until the next Congress, if then proposed and voted for. Executive Director Cornel Marculescu has made similar statements. This is wholly and completely compatible with the FINA Constitution.

We should all be very grateful that our President and our Executive Director accept the rule of law and constitution, and we have a democracy in FINA.

Calls for coaches to now go back and disrespect the decisions of its most significant group of national team coaches and the entire FINA Congress, and demand briefs, totally miss the point. Which is, we should all want the FINA Congress to be the ultimate authority within FINA, as the Constitution states, and the President has reinforced with his comments.

The alternative would be for a much smaller group, the Bureau, to be able to overturn a decision of the entire Congress, on a motion from within themselves. Of such movements is a totalitarian governance structure created.

Good governance is good governance. No Coach should be wishing to overturn good governance when it results in a decision they do not agree with. To insist otherwise, is to become the bad governance model that so many of us have accused FINA of being, for so long.

IF there is a problem with Jammers, and a poor decision was made in Rome, we will have opportunity to correct it at the next FINA Congress in three years. Meanwhile our athletes know what they will be wearing for most of a whole Olympiad.

Personally, since Jammers have been used in competition since approximately 1982, with no great surge in records until the advent of full body suits and plastic bag suits, I have serious doubts that there are any real concerns with suits to the knees being significantly performance enhancing. At least, no more than women covering their chests with their suits. I don’t think we’ll tackle that one, either.

Thank you Mr. President and Mr. Executive Director.

John Leonard

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