Governing body approves controversial high-tech swimsuits

After months of controversy, FINA, the international swimming federation, has approved "air-trapping" polyurethane suits, including the Jaked 01 used by Frenchman Frédérick Bousquet (left) when he broke the 50-metre freestyle record.


Five weeks away from the swimming world championships in Rome, (July 26-August 2), the International Swimming Federation, known by its French acronym, FINA, has at last given its seal of approval to some controversial swimsuits, most notably the Jaked 01 and Arena’s X-Glide.

The federation has decided to allow swimmers to use these suits crafted from polyurethane, a material that is thought to give swimmers an added advantage.

In so doing, FINA withdrew their earlier decision, made May 19, which had blacklisted 136 swimming-uniform types. Among the most controversial of these were the Jaked 01 and the Arena X-Glide. Since then, models like the  X-Glide were reissued in a modified version. The Jaked 01 was approved in its original form.

The federation said in a press release on its website that it “found that the evidence of ‘in use’ air-trapping effect is complex and that it would require considerable time to create and implement comprehensive control mechanisms and test methods which would permit to establish the effect with absolute certainty in connection with particular swimsuits.”

FINA was in the end persuaded by representatives of the Italian athletic manufacturer Jaked, which is the official outfitter of the Italian swim team. The manufacturer argued that the ‘air-trapping’ tests had to be conducted on the suits while being worn, which up to this point has not been the case.

Records and confusion

International swimming authorities, which have promised “new rules for 2010”, have not yet come up with an official position on the recent records set by athletes wearing the polyurethane suits.

France’s Frédérick Bousquet wore the Jaked 01 when he broke the 50-metre freestyle record with a time of 20.94 seconds. His record was considered illegitimate since the Jaked 01 was blacklisted at the time. Now, however, his record should stand uncontested.

Some doubt, however, lingers over the 100-metre freestyle performance of French athlete Alain Bernard, who clocked 46.94sec on April 23. The Olympic champion became the first person to break the 47-second mark, but at the time he was wearing the Arena X-glide, which had not yet been approved.

It remains to be seen whether FINA’s decision will lead to more records being broken in Rome.

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