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New Swimsuit May Lead to Protests

March 16, 2000

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ It was designed to help swimmers glide through the water like sharks. Now a new neck-to-ankle swimsuit has some officials worried it could hurt competition and lead to lawsuits.

Unveiled Thursday at the World Short Course Championships, Speedo’s new swimsuit claims to cut down on drag through the water.

``The swimsuit is not a cheat,″ said Joe Fields, president of Speedo International. ``It’s evolution, it looks revolutionary.″

But Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates expressed concern in Sydney on Thursday that swimmers could expose themselves to legal challenges by wearing the swimsuits during the Olympics.

Paul Phedon, international marketing manager for Speedo International, said the swimsuit has been approved by FINA, swimming’s world governing body. He claimed there should not be a problem with using it in the Olympics.

FINA later issued a statement in reply to Coates, saying bodysuits are not ``devices″ designed to make swimmers go faster, such as webbed gloves, flippers or fins that violate FINA rules.

``It is up to each national Olympic committee or national federation to decide the equipment such as swimwear, track suits or other uniforms their athletes will wear at Olympic Games or World Championships″ the statement said.

Coates said the Australian Olympic Committee had to advise athletes that wearing the suit could lead to protests by other swimmers. Each bodysuit costs an estimated $315, compared to $40 or less for a normal men’s brief.

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