MANCHESTER (Reuters) - Top swimwear manufacturers are up in arms over a new space-age swimsuit its makers say has helped carve chunks off two dozen world records.
Speedo’s revolutionary LZR Racer suit has been approved by swimming’s world governing body FINA but rival manufacturers on Friday said it breached the sport’s rules on several counts, with outlawed materials used to enhance performance.
“It’s against the laws of the sport, everyone must follow the rules,” Francois Bertonazzi, global export manager for Italian swimwear manufacturer Diana, told Reuters.
“This is risky. If we continue in this direction, swimming will not be swimming anymore, it will be assisted swimming -- a totally different sport.”
Twenty-four world records have been set since mid-February by swimmers using the new suit, while scores of others who have worn it have qualified for this year’s Olympics in Beijing.
Speedo says the suit, developed with the help of U.S. space agency NASA, aids streamlining, minimizes drag and reduces skin vibration and muscle oscillation.
However, rival manufacturers adidas, Arena and Diana say the multiple layers and use of neoprene aid buoyancy and the suit’s rubber panels violate FINA’s laws on materials.
They say FINA has made an irrecoverable error by approving the high-tech bodysuit without proper scientific analysis.
“It’s impossible to go back on their decision -- swimmers have set world records in this suit.” Bertonazzi added. “We don’t want rules changed just because a mistake has been made.”
The use of bodysuits has been a controversial issue since they were introduced to the sport eight years ago, with critics claiming they broke rules outlawing buoyancy.
Guiseppe Musciacchio, marketing director for Arena, said other swimwear brands had paid a huge price by following FINA’s laws, with many swimmers breaching contracts with other companies to use the Speedo suit.
”We also had a lot of ideas on the table but we could not use them because FINA would not accept them,“ he told Reuters. ”We do not have to accept this situation just because FINA made a mistake.
“It seems that if you don’t respect the rules, you are an innovator -- where are the ethics here?”
Swimwear manufacturers are to meet FINA at the world short-course championships in Manchester on Saturday, where they will ask for a moratorium on the use of the Speedo suit to allow time for independent analysis.
They will also call for a clarification of the rules and the creation of an external committee comprised of experts to the analyze and test all suits from all brands.
“We should stop now and test these suits,” Musciacchio said.
“We are always pushing technology but if we do not have rules, we will have anarchy.”
Editing by Clare Lovell