USA Swimming banned hi-tech suits for age-groupers at its annual convention in Atlanta today, according to the Washington Post.
About 65 to 70 per cent of USA Swimming's house of delegates, which consists of hundreds of voting members representing swim clubs at all levels across the nation, voted to ban suits that extend past the neck, shoulders or knees, the paper reported.
USA Swimming's Club Development Director Pat Hogan said that delegates were concerned that the Speedo LZR suits, among others, which can cost as much as $500, would drive promising youngsters who couldn't afford them out of the sport and possibly deter proper stroke development.
"We're in a position where we want to grow participation in our sport," Hogan said. "We don't need to have false barriers to participation. The cost of those high-tech swim suits, for a young swimmer, doesn't really make sense. We've helped protect and create a level playing field in 12-and-under competition where truly the type of suit you wear doesn't make a difference."
The decision follows Nike's withdrawal from the swimwear market, a decision taken because of the way in which the launch of the LZR Racer was allowed to create an unlevel playing field in the build-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing. Ultimately, a lessening of competition will hurt swimming and swimmers much more than Nike, of course.
USA Swimming's decision also has implications for world youth swimming. Will FINA respond accordingly, in keeping with its philosophy of even-handedness across the globe. If American youth cannot afford this suit, imagine what a $500 suit means to families in other parts of the world.