Competitors in amateur swimming races will be allowed to wear full body suits for the first time, as part of a rule change to encourage more Muslim women to take part in the sport.
The Amateur Swimming Association said yesterday that it was relaxing its swimsuit regulations to allow women to wear loose-fitting full body outfits, after a request from the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation.
Until now, full body suits like those worn by Olympians have been banned, as they help streamline the shape of the body and have performance-enhancing characteristics.
The new guidance, which will only apply to amateur competitions in England, states that competitors will not be allowed to wear any suit that a competition referee believes will increase performance.
Photographs published by the governing body suggested that loose-fitting outfits would be permissible, while specifically excluding body suits similar to those worn by elite competitors.
The guidance states: “Swimmers wishing to swim in such a suit shall present the suit to the event referee for inspection prior to their swim.
Suits which the referee believes would be capable of enhancing a swimmer's performance will not be permitted
Amateur Swimming Association
“Once the referee has been informed of a swimmer wishing to wear a suit, as described above, there is no requirement for the referee to question the swimmer further, the ASA swimming management group do not want athletes being asked why they wish to wear the suit.”
In a statement, Chris Bostock, chairman of the ASA sport governing board, said: “This is a very positive step forward for competitive swimming in England and one that we hope will encourage many more people to take part.
“We want everyone to be able to reach their potential. Representing your club at a national swimming competition is very special. By changing these rules we hope to encourage a new generation of swimmers.”
Rimla Akhtar, from the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, said: “Participation in sport amongst Muslim women is increasing at a rapid pace. It is imperative that governing bodies adapt and tailor their offerings to suit the changing landscape of sport, including those who access their sport.
“The MWSF is glad to have requested a review of competition laws in relation to full body suits by the ASA and are extremely pleased at the outcome.
“We thank the ASA for their leadership in this matter. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that this ruling is also adopted at the elite level both nationally and internationally.”