HOW TO WIN WITHOUT ACTUALLY CHEATING
Brent S. Rushall [07/14/2000] [With apologies to Stephen Potter for the title of this section.]
[FINA's decision to allow performance-enhancing bodysuits, has provided opportunities to fully exploit and extend what can be done with these devices to improve swimming performance. This section catalogs actions that are not outside FINA rules, for apparently no rules will be applied to body coverings that will assist swimmers.]
CONCEALING A STEAMER WET SUIT
The "steamer" ploy is particularly helpful for open-water swimmers, but also hedges against the problem of bodysuits becoming too wet in distance races.
Cut the sleeves off a full bodysuit midway between the elbow and armpit. Under the bodysuit, wear a steamer or modified neoprene wet suit. The bodysuit conceals the wet suit. No swimming official has the authority to look under a swimmer's suit.
A viable response to being questioned about wearing a wet suit under a bodysuit is to explain that it prevents allergic reactions to the materials/substances used in the bodysuits.
Particularly when bodysuits are dry, air is trapped in and between the fabric fibers, and in body cavities at various joints. After a while, the air in the body cavities is partially filled with water. The "cling-wrap" ploy is designed to retain trapped air and even embellish it.
Before donning any bodysuit (this ploy also works with sleeveless suits), the body should be comfortably wrapped in kitchen cling wrap (Saran Wrap, Glad Wrap, etc.). Before wrapping, a three to four feet length of thin plastic tubing, of the type used in oxygenators in fish tanks, should be placed along the front axis of the body starting at the crotch, and travelling directly upward over the navel, and between the breasts, to a position where it can reach the swimmer's mouth.
One layer of cling wrap should be brought upward between the legs in front of and behind the swimmer. This layer should also extend down the legs as much as possible. It should be quite a loose wrap. One layer of wrap should envelope each thigh overlapping the initial "between-the-legs" wrap. The next layer should overlap each thigh wrap as it encircles the lower part of the torso. Two or three more overlapping layers should extend up the body to the armpits. These layers should be pressed against each other to get a form of seal. While doing the wrapping, the swimmer should move as little as possible and be assisted into the bodysuit without disturbing the "undergarment" layers of wrap.
Once the bodysuit is on and zipped the cling wrap will remain sealed and in place. If it has been layered loosely enough, it should produce no feeling of binding on the swimmer.
Using the hollow tube that extends down the front of the swimmer, the athlete simply blows into the tube and creates a ballooning effect inside the cling wrap layers. The swimmer can virtually dictate how much added buoyancy is derived from this method. The air and plastic cover also create insulation, although not as much as a neoprene wet suit. The tube can be withdrawn or crimped and tucked to the side. If it remains on the swimmer, there is always an opportunity to reinflate the suit if the need arises, for example, after a false start.
DO NOT SHAVE
While shaving was an integral part of normal-suit racing, the opposite holds true for bodysuit racing. A swimmer should be as hairy as possible under the bodysuit. Asperities caused by the body hairs will increase the amount of air trapped under the suit, thus enhancing the bodysuit's buoyancy further. [One wag has opined that the next, most popular performance-enhancing drug will be "Minoxodil," a substance that increases hair growth.]
EXPANDED PROPELLING SURFACE
Sleeves on bodysuits have not proven popular. Two "modifications" are being tried to enhance the effect on propulsion produced by the sleeve area.
First, slits are being cut in the armpit. This "frees-up" the arms to move with almost no restriction. If the suit is tight enough, the suit clings to the body and the underarm and does not cause a hindrance to water flow around that region.
Second, inserts are placed inside the sleeves on the forearms. These inserts increase the surface area of the forearm propelling-surface by as much as 20%. Inserts are made of plastic film covered stiff foam. The effect is to create a "paddle" that is disguised as part of the suit. It is analogous to the attempt by Speedo to produce a resistance-increasing surface on the arms. The increase in surface area is estimated to be between 15-20% before the inserts start to bend or the sleeve cannot be pulled over the insert.
It is not known whether these "Popeye-arm" suits have yet been worn in a race. Masters swimmers at practice claim significant velocity increases and less fatigue when they are used.
Return to Table of Contents for The Bodysuit Problem.