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Friday, February 14, 2014
Updated: February 15, 10:42 AM ET
U.S. skaters go back to old suits

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

Frustrated by their failure so far to win a medal in speedskating, a sport that produced four U.S. medals four years ago, the Americans have changed their suits.

The team ditched the suits it wore in the first six events in Sochi -- in which no American finished among the top five -- and will wear earlier versions made by the same manufacturer, Under Armour.

The suits the Americans now will use are the same ones they wore at last month's World Cup in Japan. They are different from the newer suits in that they don't have venting in the back or the flow molding meant to give skaters an advantage by helping their bodies better cut through the air.

U.S. Speedskating president Mike Plant said the move will not affect the team's partnership with Under Armour.

"Under Armour provided US Speedskating with three different suit configurations in advance of Sochi, and we have full confidence in the performance benefits of each of them,"  Plant said in a statement. "We are constantly evaluating all aspects of race preparation and execution to help our athletes improve their output and maximize their physical and psychological advantages. Under Armour's mission is to make all athletes better, and they are working tirelessly with Team USA to ensure each athlete steps on the ice with 100 percent confidence so they are positioned to capture a spot on the podium. US Speedskating is proud of its long-term, successful partnership with Under Armour, and we all look forward to the upcoming races."

The International Olympic Committee had approved the U.S. team's request to wear the older Under Armour suits.

Ted Morris, the executive director of U.S. Speedskating, told ABC News that every member of the team will have to use the old suits. 

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal suggested that the inability of the Americans to get to the podium could have been a result of the vents, which are meant to dump excess air but might have created drag instead.

The complaints about the suits are strange considering that sources say American speedskaters were so thrilled with the suits when they got them in January that they purposely held them back at the World Cup so as not to reveal their secret weapons.

Morris told ABC News that he has not seen evidence the suits are to blame for the team's performance but that changing the suits was one variable his athletes could control. There are six speedskating competitions left in Sochi.

After Shani Davis, who was the two-time defending Olympic champion in the 1,000-meter event, finished eighth in the event in Sochi, the vents were ripped out and covered with rubber for the women. Still, the U.S. women, who had dominated at previous venues, finished seventh and eighth.

"We're confident in all three suits we designed for the U.S. Speedskating team," said Kevin Haley, Under Armour's senior vice president of innovation. "We are their partner, and if they think one of our other suits will benefit them more, we support them."

Another variable that hasn't received as much attention is the fact that the Americans trained at high altitudes on hard ice, whereas Sochi is at sea level and has softer, sloppy ice.

This isn't the first time this type of change has been made.

In 2006, U.S. skaters ditched the newest Nike suits provided to them and wore older versions for the Olympics.

It still doesn't appear to be anything like what happened in Beijing in 2008. Due to new rules, Speedo's swimsuits were so far superior to others that rival companies allowed their athletes to use them so they would have the best chance to win a medal.