France's Alain Bernard in the
controversial suit [AFP]
Top swimming officials are to have talks with manufacturers next month after a cascade of world records have been set using bodysuits.

From the United States to Australia via Eindhoven, 11 world records have been set since February 16 in Speedo's new LZR Racer bodysuit.

Frenchman Alain Bernard demolished the old sprint freestyle order in Eindhoven, breaking three world records in the space of three days in the Speedo suit.

With the Beijing Olympics looming in August, coaches and officials are worried the swimming world could be split into those who have access to the $550 suit and those who do not.

The latter could miss out because the suit may not be immediately available to all or because their national federations are contracted to other manufacturers.

Swimming's world governing body Fina approved the suit last year but has called for the meeting with manufacturers during next month's world short-course championships in Manchester.

Cornel Marculescu, executive director of Lausanne-based FINA, said there were two main issues: the thickness of the suit and availability.

Marculescu told SwimNews there were concerns about buoyancy issues.

"We have to review this. But there is no scientific test to say if a suit supports performance," he said.

"The number one priority is that all suits are made available to everyone at the moment of launch. Any innovation should be available to everybody."

Controversy

Bodysuits caused controversy from their genesis about a decade ago, with arguments over whether they broke rules outlawing buoyancy.

Fina gave the green light in 2000.

Massive sums are poured into the technology of suit development.

The Speedo suit boasts stabilising supports to maintain body position, panels to give a streamlined shape and reduce drag, and a strong, light fabric to reduce muscle oscillation and skin vibration.

Other manufacturers offer suits with special properties of their own and they too have had their successes, including victories at these championships.

Arena, with world and Olympic champion Laure Manaudou in their line-up, launched their new R-Evolution suit in Eindhoven, and adidas, the brand once worn by the mighty Ian Thorpe, will unveil their new suit shortly.

Bernard's French federation is contracted to rival manufacturer Tyr but, like some other federations, allows swimmers to make their own choice of suit.

Source: Agencies