**I apologize in advance if you’re sick of hearing about the suit debacle, but today I’m kind of pissed off and this is my blog so I’ll rant if I want to :) Generally the best thing you can do with a troll on the internet is to ignore it, and that’s what I usually do with Craig Lord over at SwimNews.com. Despite the name, his site is more about ranting against tech suits than actual swimming news. Today he did 2 things that really get under my skin 1) He caused even more tech suit confusion by posting what appears to be opinion as fact 2) He belittled masters swimmers in the process. -Rob D.**

Mr. Lord-

Your post this morning has been stewing in my head all day. It makes me mad that you would take pot shots at masters swimming and that you would spin what masters is doing in regards to the suit debacle in such a way that it makes masters swimmers more confused as to what they can and can’t do in the competition pool.

You said: “FINA has given suit makers a green light to press ahead with every technological experiment in the world of masters swimming. The conclusion is clear: in such a playground, the doping suit will be developed and the cost of swimming in masters for those who wish to remain competitive will soar.”

Really? Do you have proof of that? No one else has seen or heard anything that confirms this. If this exists some where in writing I’m sure we’d all love to see it. I would think Swimming World Magazine (who does see masters swimming as worth covering and does so proactively) would have said something about this if it were legit. Currently USMS is on hold waiting for FINA to make some actual decisions and in the meantime they are allowing previously approved suits to stay legal. Not really all that radical. It looks like German Masters are taking the same approach and various National Federations feel removing certain suits from their countries is premature because FINA isn’t done testing and approving suits. Can you imagine the mess we’d have if we had to outlaw suits and then just 60 days later they were good to go again? Not an effective use of time and energy. USMS has basically said once FINA steps up and actually bans suits then they’ll decide what to really do about all of this. They may still come in line with FINA’s directive, they’re just waiting for FINA to figure out what the hell it’s actually doing. Seems fair enough to me.

“SwimNews does not cover masters swimming. It is the equivalent of the fun marathon, in which level playing fields are very relative indeed. The purpose is fun, fitness, health and skills for life. Most approach it in that spirit. A minority take it very seriously indeed and vanity, disposable income and time-on-their-hands all play a part. It is to those people in particular that a playground of fast suits (and keep an eye on that price range aimed at the grey market in the US) may appeal.”

First off high five for disparaging a group that probably makes up a good portion of your readers, we find that endearing. Yes a good majority of us swim just for fun and don’t compete, but basically if we’re not elite we should just get out of the competition pool? Are we vain for enjoying swimming and racing? Is there something wrong with a masters swimmer wearing the same suits as the elite crowd? Do you really think we’re all out there because we have nothing better to do? I have to make time to go swimming, and I’m sure most other masters who are juggling careers and families with swimming have to do the same. If you ever spent some time around some masters swimmers you’d find them to be quite the opposite of what you’ve painted us as. It’s a group of people getting together to support each other in trying to swim as fast as they can for whatever age they may be. I’m sure our record holders take a lot of pride in the national and world records they have set but I doubt it is vanity that gets them into the pool to train.

“FINA, appears to be making it up as it goes along, under pressure from a vocal and wealthy sector of the masters movement in the US, where the governing body for masters is sponsored by the maker of suits that may no longer be used in the elite pool, and under pressure from those who refuse to give up hope that fast suits will remain a lucrative market for them. “

I agree that FINA has made a complete mess of the whole situation, but do you really think there is some kind of big money US masters swimming cabal that is silently guiding swimming towards “suits that interact directly with the central nervous system?” You realize that’s crazy talk right? USMS is a volunteer driven organization with a few employees dude, we’re not out there bullying international organizations into doing what we want. Oh and by the way… yes BlueSeventy is a sponsor, but not out only sponsor. Nike, Speedo, and TYR are also supporters of USMS. Tech suits are a lucrative market for all of them, not just B70.

I could go on and on, but here is the basic point to my little rant… Masters is a vibrant organization that has thousands of swimmers that are focused on swimming fast because they love it, not because they’re vain or have some kind of secret tech suit spreading agenda. If you really have strong feelings for the sport of swimming you wouldn’t attack an organization that provides opportunities for people to extend their love affair with swimming into their 90′s and beyond. Also don’t flame bait our community just for traffic. The article today is going to cause even more confusion and speculation around the suit issue that we don’t need.

I look forward to ignoring SwimNews in the future.

Your Friend,

Rob D.

13 Responses to “An Open Letter to Craig Lord from a Real Live Tech Suit Wearing Masters Swimmer”

  1. The Screaming Viking! says:

    Awesome letter, dude. It amazes me that one of the most respected swimming news site would choose words that alienate one of the largest and most loyal fan-bases the sport has or will ever have.
    Anyone who loves swimming and wants to see it grow has to think that Masters swimming is a great thing.

  2. Kevin says:

    "The purpose is fun, fitness, health and skills for life. Most approach it in that spirit. A minority take it very seriously indeed and vanity, disposable income and time-on-their-hands all play a part".

    I've been swimming masters for a couple of years now and this statement doesn't seem inaccurate to me. Fun, fitness and health sums up exactly why I swim. And yes there are some who are a bit too serious. But fortunately they are in the minority. As a masters swimmer I am not the least bit insulted by his comments.

    Every adult oriented sport can be described this way.

  3. Rob D says:

    Viking – takk! Masters is such a mellow, friendly organization… I really can't imagine why someone who is supposed to be so into swimming would want to talk it down like that.

    Kevin – Thanks for sharing you view on the whole thing. For me, the first part: "The purpose is fun, fitness, health and skills for life. Most approach it in that spirit." I'm totally ok with. Upwards of 75% of masters swimmers in the US don't compete and that's cool, not everyone has the urge to race. However the second part where he takes shots at those of us that do enjoy competing and calling our motives into question I think was uncalled for. He's obviously never spent a weekend at a masters meet.

  4. Kevin says:

    I think you are using a bit of a landslide argument. If you compete you don't automatically fall into the later category of being motivated by vanity. And I don't think that's what he meant.

  5. Ahelee says:

    I know Craig Lord and have followed his swimming reports for many years. I have appreciated that he reports international news – not only American swimming news.

    That said, he does not know much about masters swimming or the athletes who participate in this vital piece of the swimming sport.

    I would like to hear CL deny that he believes masters swimming should have no role in the decision making process in regard to tech-suits in competition.

    But who cares really?
    Does CL have ANY power in the final decision on swimsuits?
    No.
    He is purely a journalist reporting as he sees it.

    Great letter Rob… very happy you will be a USMS delegate this year at the USAS convention. You have something to say and will learn how to direct the energy to make positive changes.

  6. Rob D says:

    Ahelee – I'm glad you're ok with my little angry letter… you're one of those swimmers that I think would dramatically change his perspective of masters swimming. When you're not busy setting your own records you spend tons of time motivating and helping others improve themselves. You've helped me out all kinds just because, you never had to you just did (thank you btw!). When people pick on masters swimming in broad strokes like that it gets under my skin because they're belittling all the good work people like yourself and others do all throughout the organization.

    I felt about like this once I was done writing yesterday… I even sent it off to a friend to read first to make sure I hadn't gone completely off the deep end. I'm generally pretty thick skinned but I felt like somebody had to say something in defense of the validity of masters swimming and the people that I race against on a regular basis. Either way I have the ranting out of my system and we should be able to go back to our regularly scheduled programming :)

    Btw – I am very stoked for the convention, I just made my room reservations yesterday!

  7. Ahelee says:

    Hey I am plenty ok with your letter Rob!

    In my note, I meant to say that at the USAS convention you will find out how things are done to make changes in our little piece of the swimming world.

    You have good and positive inclusive ideas.
    And you have made it your business to get around the various meets and workouts. You know who the masters swimmers are and how they operate at all different levels to support the sport.

    You can believe that swim wear companies care A LOT about masters and fitness swimmers. This group buys more swimwear than any other. Companies are always trying to get an in to this market.
    They certainly do not want to piss them off!
    I'm pretty sure Speedo does not like swimmers rallying petitions and FB groups against their products.

  8. Craig Lord says:

    Dear Masters.

    Craig Lord here. I have updated the "time to chose your weapon" article to leave no-one in any doubt that it is not my spin but FINA's position:

    Here is the first line of an e-mail response from FINA:

    "Your question is very easy to answer: the rules do not apply to Masters."

    How could that have been misunderstood?

    That out of the way, I'd like to make it clear: I think masters swimming is terrific. I love it that there is a vehicle for fun, fitness, health and even competition for those who no longer wish to race in the elite pool and for those who never got to race in the elite pool at the highest of levels for a whole spectrum of reasons. I think there is a vocal minority of masters who enter the masters fray with an edge beyond the fun, fitness, health etc reasons, and seem to claim some kind of ownership of masters. In pursuit of their fast-suit agenda they are prepared to leap on every word I write (and I write many) and make a caricature of it. So be it. But some things being written are simply false. The idea that I have never sat through a masters meet is ridiculous. I have even raced as a master. I don't make it a habit. I swim regularly to maintain a heart beat that wakes at 36 to this day after many years of 14 to 18km of training a day that I enjoyed and that took me to about the speed of Petra Schneider on a 400m medley. I have a lot of friends who race in masters swimming. Derek Parr, a Reuters corr and a winner at world level in the 200m 'fly a few years back, is among them. I look forward to hearing from him and what he's up to and where he's at. I love his attitude and approach to masters. He does it because it brings him great pleasure and keeps him healthy and fit and keeps him in touch with a great group of people. Beyond that, I love masters for the kind of things I have seen from Shane Gould: the example, the role model, the lifelong learning about water and water skills. Gould has so many lessons from which we can all learn, and from which the sport itself can learn, lessons that could help avoid repetitive strain injuries, lessons that could help kids learn about water in an enlightening way that helps them to become better swimmers and have more fun.

    I hope that makes it all clear for you. Enjoy the swim.

    Kind regards, Craig

  9. Rob D says:

    Craig – thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

    I'm glad to hear you have an appreciation for masters swimming, but the tone of your article wasn't very friendly towards it. As a general rule I don't agree with a lot of your opinions on tech suits, but I try not to get too wrapped up in that. You're not going to change my mind and I'm not going to change your mind on the topic, that's ok. However I took issue with the light that you painted competitive masters swimmers in. Masters has everything from 50+ year old beginners to current and past Olympians. Those of us that compete put forth our best efforts and a lot of us take it pretty seriously, but the competition always stays friendly and I think that's what makes it special. If I misread the meaning of your writing I apologize, but I'm not the only person that took it that way.

    I guess my biggest question is what is the context of "the rules do not apply to Masters?" Obviously we have some rules that are different (no drug testing, the ability to "butterfrog" in a butterfly race, etc.), but in regards to swimsuits we have been using the same rules as everyone else affiliated with FINA up until just recently. For example, I was at a masters meet in Southern California this weekend where officials asked swimmers to remove drag suits to stay in accordance with the 1 suit rule even though a drag suit doesn't offer any speed advantage. The correspondence I've had with people in USMS basically points towards masters falling in line with FINA once they make a clear and concise ruling, and I assume we will. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen and out of my control, but a scenario where masters is left open as a technological free for all is pretty unlikely.

  10. Craig Lord says:

    Rob, my question to FINA was worded in a way that it would be impossible to be understood in any other way: I was talking ONLY about suits.
    On the other matter, some seemed to have linked "SwimNews doesn't cover masters" with my take on a minority of masters. SwimNews doesn't cover masters because we only cover the elite race pool, and yes, there is a big gulf between those two worlds, as we all know. That is not to belittle any of the splendid things that go on in masters but nothing, in any sport, any activity, can compare with the highest plain in that world of activity. Like central government, FINA and a village committee, if you like: they're all politicians but they're not quite the same thing.
    I think in time, if masters gets to be the playground that it may become should the fast suit folk remain, you may come to understand better some of the issues I have given warning about over the past year.
    Kind regards, Craig

  11. Ahelee says:

    Frankly… I am a whole lot more worried about performance enhancing drugs in our sport than tech-suits.
    Illegal and career/life damaging for athletes.

    I appreciated the battles and the warriors of the cause that John Leonard and Craig Lord were in the drug war. Phil Whitten as well.

    Can't wait to hear FINA's final decision on suit rules so we can all move on to the serious issue that kills athletes and careers.

  12. Tony Austin says:

    Shane Gould is the greatest female swimmer ever. I am still debating whether she was even better than Phelps since she owned ever event.
    The jury is still out for me because Phelps is still swimming.

    Sorry Ahelee, I know you favor Shirley Babashoff.

    Shane Gould, according to wikipedia, "…is the only person, male or female, to hold every world freestyle record from 100 m to 1500 m simultaneously, and the first female swimmer ever to win three Olympic gold medals in world record time. …"

  13. Ahelee says:

    No argument from me about the greatness of Shane Gould!
    And she still swims…
    :)

    Here is a good story about Shane and the suits.

    In Perth at the FINA Masters World Championships last year, Shane and her husband Milt Nelms were both attending. Shane was competing.
    Many of us were having extended conversations about the new tech-suits.
    Milt Nelms is world renowned for coaching "body awareness" and very specific body posture for swimming. He hates the tech-suits. He explains that they have spent years coaching swimmers to swim with the posture that the suits create.

    Suzanne Bowen-Heim showed up to compete in one of the first B70 suits seen in masters competition. No one knew what to think since it sure looked like a wetsuit.
    But she was not denied use of the suit.
    Suzanne soundly beat Shane in all the freestyle races. By the final day, Shane was racing in, shall we say, a more body covering suit. Then finally won a gold medal in the 50 Fly.

    What competitive athlete can sit back and keep getting beat over and over again because they are not using the latest technology that the competition is using?
    Apparently not even one of the greatest or one of the critics.
    I can't blame her either…