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Rules Committee Blog


Questions about rules? Search the tag cloud to the right to find previous entries that might answer your question. Feel free to post questions via the comments tool in each post, or contact rules@usms.org.

  1. Changes in Meet Programs

    by , September 11th, 2016 at 11:43 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Under what circumstances can the events offered, order of events, starting times, or other entry provisions be changed prior to a USMS sanctioned meet?

    Occasionally, meet directors ask if it is acceptable to make a change to one of the entry provisions or details of a meet after the information has been published. Rule 102.11 governs change of program and postponement of events and meets. In 102.11, we say that the order of events, as stated in the meet announcement, shall not be changed. The announced arrangement of heats (for example, the announcement may state that heats will be pre-seed and swum slowest to fastest by time only) shall be changed. The only exception is that heats may be combined at the referee's discretion.

    But, what constitutes publishing the meet announcement? Before the widespread use of websites and electronic entries, this might have meant mailing a newsletter to registered members in an LMSC. Since most swimmers now get their information through electronic mail or other digital media, it might be possible to make small changes and re-publish the information.

    Clearly the intent of the rules is to ensure that swimmers are not surprised by changes to the program after they have made a decision to attend a meet and which events to enter. So, we have to apply some judgement and consider the specific questions involved.

    Consider the following situations:


    • There is an upcoming USMS sanctioned meet in which the meet director wants to add a 1650 Free and an 800 Free Relay in the middle of a meet. Doing so would cause about an hour delay in the projected timeline, so the 200 Freestyle will be deleted from the program. The meet director wants to make this change one week before the meet when most swimmers have already entered and the entry deadline is less than 24 hours away.



    • The is an upcoming USMS sanctioned meet in which the meet director wants to add a mixed 400 medley relay as the last event of the day. The entry information was already published on the website, but the meet is three months away and no swimmers have entered at this point.


    Case #1 is clearly unacceptable. It would cause a major impact to the meet and, had this program been published earlier, many swimmers may have made different choices regarding which events to swim. Since entries are about to close, it would be unfair to make such a change so late in the process, even if all swimmers were notified. Rule 102.11 prohibits this type of change.

    However, in case #2, it might be possible to make this small change and then "publish" the information again if electronic media is the primary means for publishing information. If it is feasible to notify swimmers of the change and they still have time to make plans well before the entry deadline, such a change might still be within the intent of 102.11.

    The best approach would be to contact the national office (since a change might require a re-issuing of the sanction) and the rules committee chair and we can provide guidance on how to proceed.

    Rule 102.11 also governs changes in starting times and other provisions with some further restrictions. Let's take the following two examples:


    • Just prior to the close of entries, the meet host discovers that the projected timeline of the meet is much longer than anticipated. The meet host has negotiated with the facility to end before a specific time due to another event scheduled later in the day and the only way to conduct the entire meet is to start an hour earlier.



    • The pool manager calls the meet director in a panic two days before a scheduled meet and says that there is unexpected maintenance issue and the pool is to be shut down indefinitely. There is another venue a few miles away willing to accommodate the meet, but only if the meet can be moved from Saturday to Sunday.


    Talk about pressure! Obviously, decisions to make significant changes are not taken lightly, but there might sometimes be unavoidable circumstances. Both of these examples might have a significant impact on attendance and the success if the meet.

    Rule 102.11.3 says that "the entry provisions and starting time of any event, meet, or portion thereof shall stand as stated in the meet announcement and may not be changed to an earlier time or date unless written notice if such change is delivered to all affected swimmers and their coaches". Electronic notice must be sent no later than the entry deadline or, if mailed, must be postmarked prior to the entry deadline.

    So, in the first example, the change can be made, but each and every swimmer must be notified prior to the entry deadline.

    What happens if the first case occurs after the entry deadline? 102.11.3 goes on to say that "if lack of time prohibits mail notification, all affected swimmers must voluntarily agree in writing that they have been notified and are in accord with such change. Affected swimmers or coaches may file a written protest with the referee prior to the running of the event or the meet if they do not agree such change in time or date." So, the change could still be made, but all swimmers must be notified and agree to the change. Obviously, if swimmers do not agree, then the meet host is faced with a decision to either proceed and invite protest(s) or find some compromise solution to make the best of the situation.

    In the second example, since the starting time is being changed to a later time, it can still be made, but all swimmers need to be notified of the change. Rule 102.11.4 says that the meet committee can make a decision to postpone or cancel a meet if severe weather or other conditions preclude the possibility of safely or effectively conducting the meet. So, postponement for a valid reason is OK, but what happens if the meet host needs to move the meet from Sunday to Saturday to accommodate the change of venue? In that case, all swimmers must be notified and agree in writing to change. If all swimmers do not agree, then meet director must decide whether to cancel the meet or implement some compromise solution, such as offering a refund of entry fees to swimmers who cannot agree to change.

    In the case of significant circumstances, meet directors may contact us and we will do our best to provide guidance to meet hosts to assist in making decisions.

    And, now we see why meet directors have a lot of gray hair!
  2. Disqualifications and Protests

    by , May 2nd, 2016 at 07:48 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    A natural outcome of competition is that sometimes coaches and swimmers may disagree with decisions of officials. What provisions are in place to appeal or protest a disqualification or other decisions?

    Can I protest my disqualification?
    By rule, protests of judgements made by stroke, turn, and relay take-off judges may only be considered by the referee and those decisions are final (102.14.3). The rationale for this rule is that it is not very practical to overturn a call made on deck by the officials. Our system relies on human observation on deck by officials with review and approval by chief judges (for larger meets) and deck referees. This process is designed to ensure that swimmers are afforded the benefit of the doubt and lead officials can confirm that a good observation has been made by an official in the proper jurisdiction and we have a rule basis for the infraction. It would be impossible to second-guess these judgements after the fact.

    Protests concerning interpretations of the rules in part one shall be submitted in writing to the Rules Committee Chair within 10 days. (102.14.4) This is not a question about the observation, but rather asks if we got the rule correct. Before considering this route, make sure to get an explanation from the officials at the meet, preferably in writing. Most officials are glad to offer an explanation of the decision and the rule basis. If you have received an explanation, reviewed the rules (the rule book is available online), and still feel that there was an incorrect interpretation of the rules, consider asking a coach, club representative, or an LMSC representative for help in submitting a protest. A little homework will make for a more productive discussion!

    Any other protest arising from the competition itself shall be made within 30 minutes after the race in which the alleged infraction took place. If the protest is not resolved, the protester shall at that time file a written protest with the chair of the LMSC or the chair's representative having jurisdiction over the event. (102.14.4)

    My friend has a video on his or her cell phone. Can I send that to someone for review?

    Unfortunately, we do not look at video replays of races. We do get asked this question often, but understand that we cannot be assured that any video would at the same perspective of the officials on deck. What might look clear to someone standing at another position on deck or in the stands may look completely different to an official in the proper jurisdiction. Referees take great care to define positions and jurisdictions to ensure that each official has the correct viewpoint for specific infractions. This process necessarily relies on human observation and judgement.

    The rules do have a provision for video replay, but this provision was only recently inserted following advances within FINA and USA Swimming. Our sport has only recently begun to implement video review for elite meets, such as the Olympics, World Championships, and USA Swimming Senior Nationals. These video systems require underwater and on-deck cameras at several different angles and perspectives in order to be complete and to provide appropriate procedures for review. To date, we have not approved any such use in USMS. Technology may perhaps move us in that direction someday, but most likely we would only use official video cameras operated and reviewed by meet officials, not videos provided by swimmers, coaches, or spectators.

    It is understandable that, as athletes, we might disappointed in decisions by officials and outcomes from competitive events. We rely on experienced and dedicated officials who are committed to a fair and equitable application of rules. They are trained to spot legitimate infractions and scrutinize potential calls for compliance with the rules. Many calls are overturned by referees because there was a question about the observation, jurisdiction, or rules basis without swimmers ever knowing about it.

    If you have a question about a disqualification, the best advice is to ask the officials for an explanation, be informed about the rules, and work with your club or LMSC representatives if you still have questions. Our goal is to make completion fair, equitable, and enjoyable for everyone who participates.