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Speedy Speedo Swimsuit Source of Olympic Controversy

A new type of swimsuit developed by Speedo is raising Olympic concerns and helping smash world records in Olympic trials. VOA's Paul Sisco has more.

Speedo representatives say it is the most technologically advanced swimsuit ever developed. It is called the LZR Racer, and swimmers wearing it have already set numerous records in the run up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

American Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps unveiled the suit in spectacular fashion earlier this year in New York. Several other U.S. hopefuls and Olympic champions joined him on stage.

"I don't know how to quantify how much faster it's going to make me, but I do know it will reduce drag, and for the other athletes not wearing a Speedo in that race, they are at a disadvantage," says world record holder Natalie Coughlin.

Swimsuit maker Speedo scientifically tested the suit for drag, and it has, what the company calls, a "core stabilizer."

"That [core stabilizer] does two things," says Speedo researcher Deb Yeomans. "One, it reduces form drag when the swimmer is swimming. So form drag is making you as tubeless a shape as possible through the water, so it squashes things in. And two, it helps maintain the athlete's body position in the water."

The sport's governing body FINA has approved the LZR Racer for competitive use. But critics say FINA should reconsider before the Olympics, because they say the suit provides an unfair advantage. Swimmers wearing the suit have broken more than 20 world records since February.

"I've been through a lot of the design states - fantastic experience,” says British Olympian Liam Tancock.

“The seams are actually welded together, so there's no stitching whatsoever," adds Yeomans.

Speedo calls the LZR Racer the fastest in the world, and expects the world's best swimmers to wear it when they compete in the Water Cube, China's brand new Olympic aquatic center, next August.