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High-performance suits banned in Illinois
Special to the Daily Herald

Full body suits such as the one worn by Cary-Grove's Michael Kinross in last season's boys swimming state meet at New Trier have been banned from IHSA competition effective immediately.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/12/2009 11:36 AM

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High-tech swimsuits that have been linked to record performances at all levels of competition the past couple of years were banned Tuesday for Illinois high school competition, effective immediately.

The National Federation of State High School Associations Swimming and Diving Rules Committee approved changes that will make the high-tech swimsuit no longer a legal suit for swimmers at the high school level. The committee's recommendations were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors, and the Illinois High School Association issued a release saying it would enforce the NFHS ruling.

Effective immediately, Illinois swimmers shall be limited to one swimsuit, which shall be constructed of a woven/knit textile material, permeable to water and air, constructed so as not to aid in buoyancy, and shall not contain zippers or other fastening systems. In addition, the suit shall be constructed so that the style/shape for males shall not extend above the waist or below the top of the kneecap and for females shall not extend beyond the shoulders or below the top of the kneecap, and it shall not cover the neck.

"These high-tech suits had fundamentally altered the sport and become more similar to equipment, rather than a uniform," said Becky Oakes, NFHS assistant director and liaison to the Swimming and Diving Rules Committee. "The rules of swimming have always prohibited the use or wearing of items that would aid in the swimmer's speed and/or buoyancy. The technical suits and styles had evolved to a point where there was little, if any, compliance with these basic rules."

The committee discussed the high-tech swimsuit issue at its meeting in March, but did not have enough factual information to take action at that time.

"With new developments in the swimming community, the committee knew that in order to preserve the integrity, tradition and heritage of the sport, as well as protect and enhance the interscholastic swimming program, these new requirements were necessary to promote fair play and the educational values of high school and could not wait for another year."

In the boys swimming state meet last season at New Trier High School, state records were broken in 8 of the 11 swimming events, an unprecedented number in the sport's modern era. A similar percentage of world records fell in the recent world championships, and the sport's international governing body, FINA, has also adopted a ban on a wide range of high-performance suits, though that ban will not take place until Jan. 1.

"The NFHS Committee met in March and we knew that these suits were a problem then," said the IHSA's Swimming Administrator, Ron McGraw. "The NHFS is not a testing organization, though, so we needed the support of some of the other organizations like FINA, the NCAA and USA Swimming to be able to make rule changes prohibiting the use of these suits.

"It is very close to the season to be making a major rule change like this, but we thought it was the best thing for the sport and important for our boys and girls to compete under the same rules this year. Many swimming organizations, including USA Swimming, will accept high school times as qualifiers for their respective events. USA Swimming was one organization who said they would not accept times from states who were still permitting these (now prohibited) suits this season, thus we avoided another possible adverse situation for our student-athletes in regard to this issue."