- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) - Swimming’s governing body adopted new rules for the high-tech suits that helped produce more than 100 world records since their introduction just over a year ago.

The guidelines announced Saturday “revise the requirements for swimsuit approval” and will be in place for the world championships in Rome from July 17. FINA stipulated that swimsuits should not cover the neck and will not extend past the shoulders and ankles.

The suits will be limited to a maximum thickness of 1mm (0.04 inch) and with a restricted buoyancy effect. The new regulations ban external aids for the swimmer, such as pain reduction or electro-stimulation.

The suits can not be customized for individual athletes, according to FINA’s statement, released at the end of a three-day executive meeting in Dubai.

The debate about changing the rules governing swimwear resulted from the overwhelming effect that the introduction of high-tech suits such as Speedo’s LZR Racer have had on the sport.

There have been 108 world records since the Speedo suit became available in February 2008. The suits were designed and tested with help from NASA, and other manufacturers followed with their own high-tech designs.

Some swimming federations and athletes from poorer nations have complained that the costly suits offer an unfair advantage.

“FINA reaffirms that it will continue monitoring the evolution of the sport equipment with the main objective of keeping the integrity of the sport,” the FINA statement said. “FINA wishes to recall that the main and core principle is that swimming is a sport essentially based on the physical performance of the athlete.”

FINA was criticized for allowing the suits to be used at last year’s Beijing Olympics and failing to provide a clear distinction between an acceptable suit and one that enhances performance.

Opponents have said that the suits create changes in buoyancy levels and amount to “technological doping.”

Starting in 2010, FINA also said it will limit the use of non-permeable materials in the suits and only recognize results as world records achieved in swimwear it has approved.

Nov. 1 is the submission deadline for approval applications for suits to be used from Jan. 1, 2010, the statement said.

Future submissions will need to be made 12 months in advance of a world championship or an Olympic Games, with the approved models to be available at least six months prior to the events.

FINA will publish a list of approved models and these will be used in competitions starting Jan. 1, 2010.

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