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Australia coach flays FINA backflip

AUSTRALIA'S top swimming coach has criticized world governing body FINA over its decision to approve more than 100 bodysuits, including modified versions of those worn by Frenchmen Frederick Bousquet and Alain Bernard in unofficial record-breaking races, it had originally banned.

FINA said on Monday it had agreed to let competitors wear the suits at next month's world championships in Rome, Italy, after the manufacturers agreed to modify them.

However, Australia's head coach Alan Thompson, who was part of the committee that voted to ban the suits, criticized FINA's turnaround because it was detracting from performances.

Thomson said the issue, which has clouded swimming for the past 18 months, should have been resolved when the initial decision was made but the latest development means the saga could overshadow the world championships.

"It's disappointing because I felt we had made considerable progress on this issue when we first met in May and we were looking to move forward and get back to talking about athletes and not equipment," Thompson said in a statement yesterday.

"In the last three weeks we've had a number of meets in Europe and the US and everyone has been talking about swimming again.

"But now everyone is talking about swimsuits and taking the focus of what is really important in our sport, and that's athletic performance."

Although bodysuits have been used in swimming for over a century, they became a major talking point at last year's Beijing Olympics after a flood of world records.

Although world records never last long in swimming, critics claimed the latest were the results of extra buoyant, drag-reducing suits, while traditionalists argued technology was ruining the sport.

FINA examined more than 350 different suits this year, deeming 10 to be illegal, clearing more than 200 for immediate use and recommending a further 136 be modified.

FINA hopes the definitive list will restore order to the sport before the worlds begin July 26. A technological arms race was unleashed in the pool when Speedo launched its NASA-designed LZR suit 16 months ago, and since then more than 120 world records have been broken.


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