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!


m said...

An interesting point and well made.
Isn't the "cat out of the bag" though? How does the sport not recognize the times done in the Lzr?

Scott said...

If it is eventually ruled the suit is illegal it follows the times won't be recognized either. This has happened before when Libby Trickett (nee Linton) swam under 0:53 in the 100 free beside Michael Phelps which was eventually disallowed. By that time she had already collected the $10,000 or $20,000 prize money for setting a world record (repayment of which I believe was waived).

Joe said...

Illegal or not, I'd like to try it to see what it feels like. Does Speedo offer financing? :-)

Scott said...

Only if you can swim 50 free long course in under 22.50! Given the demand right now we mere mortals won't see a LZR until the Olympics are finished.

Tony Austin said...

Turns out some social engineering was at work. Mark Shubert, Coach of the USA team was on Speedo's payroll pimping the suit as the athlete's only alternative to possibly winning a gold medal. TYR is suing him and USA Swimming over this. Speedo too.