“Doping on a Hanger”: Regulatory Lessons from the FINA Elimination of the Polyurethane Swimsuit Applied to the International Anti-Doping Paradigm

By Rachel MacDonald

In 2008, swimwear manufacturer Speedo released the world‟s first polyurethane competition body suit, the LZR Racer. Compared to “doping on a hanger,” the suit was an unprecedented leap in swimsuit technology, and more than 130 world records were broken in only the first seventeen months after the LZR became available to competitive swimmers. Upon realizing the polyurethane swimsuits stood to radically change swimming, the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) implemented regulation that swiftly and successfully eradicated the problem.

In contrast, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has yet to effectively control athletic doping. Focus on the international anti-doping regime intensified in 2014 upon the exposure of widespread, permissive doping among internationally competitive Russian athletes. Further, WADA statistics reveal doping remains a serious and growing problem.

Despite the different scopes and missions of FINA and WADA, there are several regulatory lessons that can be extracted from FINA‟s successful polyurethane swimsuit ban and applied to WADA’s struggle to eliminate doping in sports. The goal of this Note is to compare the international doping problem and the polyurethane swimsuit ban and then to ascertain how the successful FINA regulatory paradigm might be applied to the international anti-doping regime. Ultimately, FINA’s example suggests that WADA might benefit from making changes including: creating more specific regulations that can be articulated and then applied in a predictable and consistent manner, implementing a hierarchical bureaucratic scheme, effecting multi-tier monitoring and enforcement measures, enabling the establishment of independent oversight bodies, and a variety of other measures.

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