Thursday, November 5, 2009


The other thing I was pondering that I was going to write about yesterday but decided to wait, is about an article in the Wall Street Journal concerning modern day materials used for racing swimsuits.

The latest rage in these racing suits are full-body (shoulder to ankle) neoprene or polyurethane suits that are more buoyant and less porous than traditional spandex suits.

In other words, these suits, which also are extremely tight, make it much easier to swim faster.

The controversy is over whether or not these should be legal. That's what I was pondering - just how much "aid" should be allowed when it comes to sports performance?

Track shoes today are better (I assume) than they were in the past, enabling runners to run faster. Is that fair? I know there are restrictions on what materials can be used for baseball bats, but how fair is that? What about when metal tennis rackets were introduced? I remember the novelty of them back in high school when they were introduced, when we all had wood rackets (and used white tennis balls).

I also remember when Speedos were first introduced to the student store at UCLA. We received a shipment of these little boxes, and inside of the little boxes were very little swimsuits. One of my curious coworkers tried one on and refused to come out of the dressing room.

"Come on out here so I can see what it looks like," I said.


"Why not?"

"It's obscene!!!"

"Oh." And then we all had the unpleasant task of trying to fit them back into the boxes after people took them out. They never went back in the same way and the boxes were all out of shape.

Since the material and the fit of these swimsuits is so critical, I am wondering just how fair it is to use them? And how then does a record set today using a neoprene suit fairly compare to records set yesterday with less techno-savvy suits? It's like trying to compare Babe Ruth's home run record in a season with less games than the seasons played by Mark McGuire or Barry Bonds. The bats were different, too (and so were the steroids). Is it the person who really set the record, or the improved equipment?

To be truly fair, don't you think everyone should be naked when they swim? That would even the playing field. But then they'd have to test for people inhaling helium before going in the water.

Then that carries over into the academic field - like SAT tests. Don't you think there is an inherent unfairness when some people are able to take prep classes for the SAT (even though supposedly you can't prepare for them) but some kids don't have that luxury? SAT scores should carry an asterisk to denote "prep aided" scores versus scores obtained without the use of a review course.

The SAT is supposed to level out the playing field to minimize differences in schools, classes taken, difficulty levels, etc., by administering a standardized test across the entire population. But if some kids have access to more preparation than others, then doesn't that corrupt the results?

It's like some kids have to wear spandex but some get to wear neoprene or polyurethane or polythene.

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