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Record-breaking Speedo suit passes test at FINA meeting with manufacturers
[April 12, 2008]

Record-breaking Speedo suit passes test at FINA meeting with manufacturers

(Associated Press WorldStream Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) MANCHESTER, England_Speedo's record-breaking suit passed another test at a meeting between swimming's world governing body and manufacturers on Saturday.

"We always play by the rules," Stephen Rubin, the chairman of Speedo holding company Pentland, told The Associated Press. "As far as we're concerned, there is nothing wrong with our swimsuit, and it was agreed on at the meeting that it conforms with FINA's rules."

The meeting was planned before the swimsuit controversy began, with the stated intent to review future approval of new suits. But it turned a debate purely about the suit that has taken over the record books in less than two months.

There have been 19 long-course world marks set since Speedo's LZR Racer suit was introduced in February. Nine additional world marks have been established through three days at the short-course world championships. All but one of the records have come with swimmers wearing the LZR.

Critics of the Speedo suit cite illegal levels of buoyancy and call it "technological doping" since it combines a polyurethane layer with a layer of normal fabric.

FINA's rules say "different fabrics can be used in one swimsuit."

The argument of Arena Group CEO Cristiano Portas, the leading opponent of the LZR, centered on the word "fabric," which he took as prohibiting a polyurethane, or plastic-type, material.

"I have to acknowledge that the other manufacturers had a broader understanding," Portas said. "The most important thing was to clarify the rules. Now that we know fabric is the same thing as material, we will develop a new suit. We already have some samples, so it is not a matter of a long time. We were holding back to respect the rules."

Matt Zimmer, director of promotions for TYR, which also has a new suit that Arena has contended violated the rules, called the meeting "excellent."

"Anytime there is clarification and people walk out without getting bloodied, it's a good thing, and there were some heavy hitters in there," Zimmer said. "(FINA) want to go forward, not backward. And it would be counter-intuitive for the manufacturers to go backward."

Last week, Italy-based Arena published an open letter to FINA in several European newspapers demanding "urgent" action due to the "firestorm of publicly expressed concern" over the new suits.

A day later, FINA issued a statement saying there would be no changes to its rules because there is no scientific evidence supporting claims of buoyancy.

On Wednesday, another letter was sent to FINA by a coalition of manufacturers led by Arena _ including Adidas, Diana and Descente _ asking that three points on the swimsuit debate be added to the agenda for Saturday's meeting. FINA did not respond to that letter.

At the meeting _ which was closed to the media _ Speedo and TYR sat at one end of the table and Arena, Diana and Descente sat at the other. In between was Adidas, Nike and Mizuno.

"It was funny how it worked out," Zimmer said. "A lot of us had never met before.

"My sense is there will be a clarification of language in terms of fabric vs. material. It won't change anything. In layman's terms, fabric will become material."

"To me, the more important thing is clarifying the buoyancy rule. A lot of people say our suit and Speedo's are buoyant, but the fact is it's not buoyant, it's just really effective."

Zimmer said FINA has no test to determine buoyancy.

FINA was due to hold a press conference later Saturday.

Copyright ? 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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