By  on July 30, 2009

FINA, competitive swimming’s governing body, approved Tuesday the bylaw banning the use of buoyant, long-length swimsuits starting next year.

Instead of donning high-tech swimwear that covers their legs and backs, women will have to wear “kneeskins,” knee-length suits with open backs. As of 2010, their male counterparts will have to wear “jammers,” swimwear that extends from below the navel to above the knee.

Executives at Speedo, whose LZR Racer suit has been worn for 85 world record-breaking performances since it was introduced in February 2008, opposed FINA’s decision to ban bodysuits and claimed doing away with buoyant, nonpermeable fabrics would have sufficed.

Speedo’s senior vice president of marketing Craig Brommers said, “We’re rolling back the shape of suits to essentially what they were in 1976.”

But the swimwear maker will be working with leading athletes, coaches and experts to develop the most innovative swimwear it can, he said.

In addition to Speedo, TYR Sport, Jaked, Arena, Adidas and Blueseventy produce performance-oriented bodysuits for competition. Speedo’s version retails for $550 — well above the more traditional $150 swimsuits competitors wore before the LZR Racer was introduced. British swimmer Gemma Spofforth broke the world record for the 100-meter backstroke wearing a LZR Racer Tuesday at the world championships in Rome. But another LZR Racer-wearer, Michael Phelps, was less fortunate, losing his first major individual event in four years — and his world record for the 200-meter freestyle — to Germany’s Paul Biedermann, who sported an Arena X-Glide. Italy’s Federica Pellegrini has broken two world records in Rome and in the process became the first woman to break four minutes swimming the 400-meter freestyle wearing a Jaked bodysuit. All the world records broken by swimmers wearing the high-tech bodysuits will stand, regardless of next year’s ban.

For reasons still unknown to TYR executives, the company’s full-length PU suit, model B8, was not allowed in Rome while similar technologies were approved by FINA, according to cofounder Steve Furniss, a bronze medalist in the 1976 Summer Olympics. Earlier this month, TYR filed a complaint with the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Strasbourg, France, and has asked the court to nominate an independent legal expert to determine why some suits have been approved by FINA while nearly identical suits from TYR were not. “I feel for the athletes and the tough decisions they are facing in Rome,” said Furniss.

By the end of September, FINA will inform swimwear manufacturers of its definition of “textile” that must be used for competitive swimwear. That definition is being made by a group of scientific experts chosen by FINA and led by Prof. Jan-Anders Manson from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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