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Olympics: Are the Swim Trials Fair?

An advantage nobody ELSE tells you about! - When the mainstream media talks about the winners of the Olympic swim trials, they don't mention that some of the contestants have an extra advantage. The big controversy at this year?s Olympics is the high tech suits being worn by some swimmers. This echoes the concern about the high-performance drugs being taken by some athletes. While the drugs are illegal, the high tech swimsuits (so far) are not.

Eight years ago, when the first generation of bodysuits was introduced prior to the Olympics, researchers concluded the suits had no impact on swim times, but in Beijing, it could be a different story. At the US swim trials in June (where the special suits were worn), exercise expert Joel Stager says that "the men swam faster than expected." If the high-tech swimsuits alter buoyancy, it would make a bigger impact with men because women generally are more buoyant. Or, because men swim faster than women, the effect of lowering drag might also be more obvious in male swimmers.

The majority of the swim coaching community is in favor of banning high-tech swim suits in age-group competition. The swimsuits' high cost raises equity issues, places an extra financial burden on athletes and school swimming programs. While Olympians do not pay for their own suits, some countries may not be able to afford them for their athletes.

Stager says, "The issue is half a million swimmers feeling forced into purchasing $500-plus swimsuits in order to be competitive?If all athletes are wearing these new suits, then what's the point? All we have done is artificially elevate performances across the board. The new suits are only effective if only 'some' athletes have access to them.

"?If the suits make a 10%, or even a 2% difference, as predicted by the manufacturer, it's phenomenally fast when compared to annual improvements of much less than 1%. What this forces you to do is to start asking, how fast would Mark Spitz have gone in 1972, how fast would Jim Montgomery have gone in 1976, if they would have had one of these suits? It places all the previous records sort of out of context."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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