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Speedo's Amazing Swimsuit Ready To Make Waves At Olympics

Friday, 16 May 2008 | 4:27 PM ET
CNBC.com


History is supposed to repeat itself. But I guarantee you, we have never in the history of the sports seen something like this Olympic swimsuit controversy. If you haven't been following this amazing story, here's the nuts and bolts of it.

Speedo, according to most accounts, has built the most amazing swimsuit ever made in its LZR Racer suit. Granted Speedo has better endorsers on the whole than anyone in the industry, but in the suit their swimmers have broken an absurd 37 world records in three months.

In its simplest terms, the suit basically has a girdle the company calls a core stabilizer that reduces drag and more importantly, helps maintain the athlete's body position in the water.

The first reaction to the swimsuit was that FINA, the sport's governing body, should ban it. That didn't happen. The next reaction was from swimmers who are not under contract with Speedo demanding to wear the suit. "The German swim federation has to seriously consider it, otherwise we will sink completely into mediocrity," Thomas Rupprath, one of Germany's top swimmers who is sponsored by adidas, said last month.

Then came the curiosity stage. There was an account in the New York Times about Nike athletes privately testing the Speedo suit.

I should note that I'm a little bit suspect that this occurred naturally. A New York Times reporter just happened to be in Austin, Texas right at the moment a Speedo representative was trying to tempt Nike athletes? We all get lucky as reporters in this business, but rarely that lucky.

And now, the lawsuit stage. Tyr, a competitor of Speedo, has filed a lawsuit against Speedo's parent company Warnaco, USA Swimming and its coach as well as swimmer who has changed brands, alleging that they have conspired to stifle competition.

As of now, here's how I'm calling it. Never before in the history of sports have we seen a legal technological advantage like this. It will now be a fun game to watch. Can Nike and the competition make a suit that's as good as the Speedo suit in time for a June 3 meeting with FINA to approve new suits? If not, will athletes work on trying to sever their contracts if they think it's the only way to win a gold medal?

It's not like you can fake this endorsement--there's no other brand that has a suit that even looks like the Speedo suit.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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