I recently read an article about Speedo’s LZR suit. The suit was designed to address two major challenges faced by competitive swimmers: drag and bad form. The suit’s surface is designed to reduce drag (much like the way a shark’s skin reduces drag) and it has support panels that help keep a swimmer keep proper form even while tired.
Not surprisingly, there has been some controversy about the suit. Since it enhances performance via technology, some regard it as cheating.
While I am writing a longer article about this matter, my general inclination is that the suit is not cheating. The easy proof is that the suit is accepted by the relevant governing body. Hence, by the legalistic definition, wearing it is not cheating.
Of course, that still leaves the question of whether it is morally unacceptable.
While I am wary of technological enhancements in the context of sports, the suit seems to be on par with the use of spikes or racing flats in running. Spikes and flats are lightweight running shoes designed for racing. The lighter weight means that the wearer expends less energy in moving her feet, hence she can run faster than when wearing heavier shoes. Spikes, as the name implies, have spikes on the front part of the sole. The spikes provide extra grip, thus allowing the runner to run faster. While wearing spikes or flats can give a racer an edge, they cannot make a slow runner into a fast runner. Further, anyone can wear them and as such they do not provide an unfair advantage. Assuming that spikes and flats are acceptable, then it would seem that the LZR suit is acceptable as well.
However, the suit does seem to work a bit too well and, of course, there are other matters to consider as well. Fortunately, I’m a runner and not a swimmer; so, I won’t have to make a moral choice about the LZR.