FINA Says Suit Ban Could Be Delayed

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

ROME, July 28 -- The world swimming governing body, FINA, hedged again.

FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu said the organization's promised ban on long-length swimsuits beginning in January of next year might not be implemented until April or May.

Marculescu also said Tuesday during a news conference at the swimming world championships that a scientific committee -- which has not yet been appointed -- would determine the definition of "textile" and set standards for thickness, buoyancy and permeability for new suits by Sept. 30.

"The rules will be applied in 2010," Marculescu said. "That can be April or May depending on our negotiations and understanding of manufacturers of the time they need. But we do want to do it as soon as possible."

The time lag means swimmers will be allowed to compete in the coming months in the controversial high-tech suits that have caused an outcry throughout the sport and contributed to the 15 world records set here during the first three days of competition.

Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps's coach, reacted with outrage at news of FINA's equivocation, saying he would urge Phelps not to compete in major events until the ban is in place.

"That would be my recommendation to him, not to swim internationally," Bowman said. "The mess needs to be stopped right now. It can't go any further."

Phelps said he would abide by Bowman's recommendations for competing.

"Bob chooses the meets I swim in, [based on] what's right for me, what's right for my training," he said. "That's his decision. I have one meet I'm looking forward to, and that's in three years," the Summer Games in London.

Marculescu said FINA's bureau, its highest-ranking officers, approved the decision of FINA's membership to allow only waist-to-knee suits for men and suits for women that don't extend past the neck, shoulder or knees. He also said only textile fabrics would be allowed in constructing the suits.

Jan-Anders Manson of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has been appointed to lead FINA's proposed technical committee, which Marculescu said will consist only of materials science experts.

"We need the approval of scientific people," Marculescu said. "What is the best definition to fulfill our requirements."

Soni Wins Gold

American Rebecca Soni missed her own world record in the 100 breaststroke by .09 of a second Tuesday night, but she won the gold medal in 1 minute 4.93 seconds. Russian Yuliya Efimova finished second in 1:05.41 and American Kasey Carlson surprised from Lane 1 with her bronze-medal finish in 1:05.75.

"Standing here as a world champion is a great feeling," Soni said. "Having Kasey on the podium with me is even better."

Record Set In Older Suit

Britain's Gemma Spofforth set a world record in the 100 backstroke final with her finish in 58.12, then celebrated the fact she had competed in Speedo's old-model LZR suit.

"I've said all along, it's not the suit, it's the swimmer," Spofforth said. "I think I've got the mental toughness to do it in whatever I'm wearing."

South Africa's Cameron Van Der Burgh set a world record in the 50 breaststroke in 26.74 seconds; Italian Alessia Filippi won the 1,500 free in 15:44.93 -- failing to take down the world record of Great Falls' Kate Ziegler (15:42.54); Japan's Junya Koga won the men's 100 back final in 52.26; and Italy's Federica Pellegrini set her second world record of the championships in the 200 free semis, finishing in 1:53.67.

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