For more than a decade, high-tech swimsuits that helped set hundreds of new records and led to lawsuits and bans have been a big bone of contention in the swimming community. And not only because they can cost more than $500.
“The availability of the expensive gear has created a cultural divide in the sport— between parents and coaches who want to provide every p ossible advantage to the young athletes in their lives and those who are concerned about the costs, competitive pressures and dubious benefits associated with the high-tech suits,” reports The New York Times. “The suits are believed to reduce times by about 1 to 2 percent for elite athletes but are not considered effective for most preteens, whose bodies and stroke mechanics have not developed enough to take advantage of the gear’s compression effects and hydrodynamic properties.”
In an effort to seemingly put an end to the debate once and for all, USA Swimming’s board of directors moved forward in mid-May on a proposal to limit use of the high-tech suits by swimmers younger than 13. The organization’s house of delegates will vote on the measure in September.
Some regional swimming organizations already have banned the suits, which are made with woven fabric and bonded seams and then treated with a water-repellent coating to enhance a swimmer’s movement through the water.
Last year, a poll of Swimming World magazine readers indicated a desire to restrict use of the suits by younger swimmers.
In 2009, when FINA (swimming’s international governing body) announced a ban on the high-tech suits, The New York Times noted the apparel was “likened to doping on a hanger”and that more than 130 world records fell in the first 17 months after the trend-setting LZR Racer and its imitators hit the market.