Thursday, April 10, 2008

Could the LZR Racer be Illegal?

I had promised my readers my next post wouldn’t be until the weekend because of work but this has to be addressed immediately. So despite everything else going on in my life I’m writing this as a rush. I must be crazy!!

I’ve been rather skeptical about the claims being bandied about the performance benefits from wearing the new LZR Racer. Still like everyone else I’ve closely followed any discussion on the hows and whys the suit works. As I’ve never even seen the suit, nor had a company representative explain to me the design concepts behind its success, I’ve been forced to accept the more than abundant evidence the suit just makes swimmers swim faster. Why it works apparently isn't really understood but the secret seemed to lie in the suit’s muscle compression. Trying to rationalize why this would improve performance I speculated it might affect the way the muscles metabolized oxygen and cellular waste. Later on reports started to trickle out saying the suit supported the core and consequently improved body position in the water. Figuring the typical Olympian would already have fairly well developed abdominals I was a little skeptical of this too. It was only when I read Craig Lord reprinting Swim Australia Ambassador Forbes Carlile’s open letter declaring the suit “prostituted” the sport did everything click into place.

It wasn’t the prostitution angle that grabbed me (though I agree 100% with Mr. Carlile on his assertions) but rather his almost casual reference to already banned swimming aids such as hand paddles, fins, and wet suits. It was when I read that sentence the other factors I had read concerning the suit came into place: datum such as Arena’s CEO pushing to have the suit banned as illegal; FINA’s almost slavish defense of its acceptance of the suit by saying it had passed the buoyancy test; and a swimmer saying the suit supported her legs as she raced. I realized with a start I had been misdirected by Speedo’s claims. Muscle compression is the key to the suit’s success but only incidentally, because the compression is not a design feature – it is merely a consequence of the design. The body fits into the suit rather than the suit fitting up against the body. It is a racing shell which is worn! Forget the fact the LZR Racer is made out of fabric. The suit is to all intents and purposes a racing shell – a boat, albeit a soft sided boat, but a boat nevertheless! And using a boat to reduce your drag is most definitely a swimming aid, and aids to swimming are specifically banned under FINA’s own rules. FINA was looking in the wrong place. The LZR Racer is illegal!

My Fault

My dog woke me up at 3:30 this morning wanting to play catch and it was my fault entirely. I had gotten out of bed a few minutes earlier for a trip to the bathroom, something I almost never do, and he promptly went off to find one of his tennis balls to play with me. By the time he returned I was already in bed well on my way to sleep, a blissful state he corrected with a couple of taps on my head with a paw followed by dropping his ball to my cheek, which rolled off my face on to the bed and thence to the floor. This I studiously ignored. What? No response? Then repeat as necessary. I sat up before he could drop the ball on me for the fourth time and the next five minutes tossed him the ball in the dark (I throw within a meter of him in the sitting postion and he tries to catch it before it hits the floor). What with work the way it is I haven’t been spending the time I usually do playing with him so I guess I owed at least this. The same goes for this blog. I’m stalled in the midst of three significant articles which right now require more hours than I can rationally even remotely consider putting in. I have my “The Ethics of Cheating” article almost completed, but because I think this post has the potential to be one of my better pieces I don’t want to rush it out before it’s ready. My Dara Torres post is still only in outline form and requires far too much work to contemplate at this time (I now understand why nationally syndicated columnists only write one article a week). Besides which, recent events have seemingly overtaken her and piling on yet more evidence of cheating doesn’t seem to be a particularly rewarding endeavour anymore. If individuals still believe Torres is clean in the face of what must be considered rational logic then some more indirect evidence isn’t going to budge them a bit anyways. So no rush there. I do have my end of season report card post virtually finished except for my comparison photos; but with very little accomplished this past season except for my near miraculous physiological transformation the pictures will become the post’s centerpiece. Consequently until I get them done that post isn’t going to see the light of day either. This leaves me with my current project possessing the working title “Fair and Balanced”, which will become the third piece of a three part exploration inadvertently started with “It’s Getting Surreal Out There” and its companion post “Believe”. I’ve committed myself to getting this one out but it still has some hours to go. It will be, with sincere regret, by far my most controversial writing to date and is yet another reason why my Dara Torres post languishes unfinished. I’m aiming to complete it, however, before the weekend is over so for those few who do read this blog thank you for your patience and hang around a little longer.