Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bernard's Record and the FINA Process

Alain Bernard's world record 46.94 100m freestyle may not count as a record. We all knew he was wearing the new Arena X-glide, but it wasn't clear at first that the suit had not been approved by FINA. Australia's head coach Alan Thompson has spoken out to say that he doubts FINA will let the record stand and that it would set "dangerous precedent" if they did.

To quote from The Australian:

"There's a new world record application form that came out last month in which you have to list what suit was worn and whether all FINA rules were followed," Thompson said.

"I think it would set a dangerous precedent if this was approved, and everyone will be watching it. It's a bit like the situation when Libby (Trickett) broke the world record racing Michael Phelps and her record was not ratified. That was not an approved event and this is not an approved suit."

The X-glide could be approved for Worlds, I guess. I can't help but agree that FINA shouldn't let the record count, and it's not just because I don't like tech suits. Part of the problem with the suit revolution is that FINA didn't have a good process in place for approval. Their rules were too vague. They let things slip and made some mistakes. Now that FINA actually has an approval process and are being held accountable, it would be a huge mistake to let Bernard and Arena slip through. It would open the door to a whole new level of abuse.

Another part of the article that interested me is this:

FINA is conducting an independent testing process on competition suits, which should rule out those that offer unfair buoyancy assistance.

Thompson said he expected Arena's new polyurethane suit would pass the tests.

"The procedure has been very open, all the manufacturers know what tests will be done, and I doubt that any major manufacturer would submit a suit that wouldn't get through the process," he said.

I didn't realize that suit manufacturers were in the know about what tests were going to be used. I guess that was naive of me to think they were going to have to do guess work. To me, that means that Craig Lord's mission is doomed. That means that the Jaked, X-Glide, TYR Titan and the rest of the new generation that have proven to be better than the LZR are certainly here to stay.

I have been a little confused about phase 2 of FINA's suit plan. I should probably go back and read it again. I know that it, or ASCA's summary of it, said that suits will be expected to be designed to not trap air, and even said something about space between polyurethane panels, which made me think that speedo might have had a strong pull in the wording of the rules since that is the difference between the LZR and most of the next generation... but if suits like the Arena X-Glide are being put out there by companies who know what tests are going to be performed
, I guess it is a non-issue. Could it be that suit companies don't know the tests for phase 2 and don't care since they currently only have to worry about phase 1?