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  1. Recently Asked Questions

    by , April 7th, 2018 at 12:42 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    With this entry, we answer a few questions recently received from USMS members.

    My birthday is coming up and I am going to "age up" into a new age group. When does my new age group take effect at USMS sanctioned meets.

    For meets held in 25-yard pools, your age group is determined based on your age on the last day of the meet. So, if you are swimming in a meet that ends before your birthday, you will swim in the age group that corresponds to your age before your birthday. If you enter a multi-day meet and just happen to have a birthday in the middle of the meet, you will swim in the older age group.

    For meets held in 25-meter or 50-meter pools, we conform to the rules of FINA (the international federation). Your age group for the entire year is determined based on your age on December 31. So, even if your birthday is not until December, you would swim in the older age group for the entire year.

    It can get a little confusing with the difference between yards and meters. The rule differences mean that you could potentially be swimming in two different age groups for a short time, especially if you have a birthday that is later in the year. When you enter a meet, the entry process should automatically put you in the correct age group based on your birth date and the rules in effect for that meet.


    Are straps, braces, and compression products (such as a Cho Pat®, AceTM Bandage, or other brands) legal in USMS Competition?

    These devices are not legal in USMS competition. In the rules we say that swimwear consists only of a swimsuit, googles, and cap(s). Anything additional is not permitted and we specifically say that armbands or legbands shall not be considered part of swimwear and are not permitted. In addition, we say that swimmers may not wear or use any device that aids in speed, space, buoyancy, or endurance. While it may be true that these devices might create additional drag, they provide physical benefits in the form of muscle compression or stabilization that would contribute to an advantage in terms of endurance.

    Having a doctor's note does not compel the referee to make an accommodation for these types of devices. Even with a doctor's note, referees are required to follow the rules and cannot waive any of these requirements. Referees can only consider accommodations for permanent, life-altering, physical disabilities.


    Does USMS permit video recording devices to be used behind the blocks?

    The rules do not address the use of cameras or other video equipment behind the blocks beyond provisions for video replay footage use by officials and the use of stationary overhead cameras as a backup timing system.

    Can we use automatic relay takeoff officiating equipment at USMS meets?

    Yes, automatic relay takeoff equipment may be used at USMS sanctioned meets if available at the facility. The automatic judging equipment consists of a sensor on the starting platform that can show when the swimmer leaves the starting platform in comparison to the touchpad in the water which records the touch of the incoming swimmers. If an overhead video camera system is available as a backup timing system, the automatic officiating equipment can show a potential infraction which is then confirmed by reviewing the overhead cameras. If the overhead camera system is not available, the automatic relay takeoff equipment may not be used to initiate a potential infraction. Early takeoffs are noted by the officials on deck and then confirmed by the automatic relay takeoff equipment.


    If I am entered in a 200-yard freestyle event, can I swim the first 50 of this event as breaststroke in order to earn a record and then complete the event swimming freestyle (or other strokes)?

    In freestyle events, it is permissible to swim other strokes. However, times achieved in a freestyle event may only count as freestyle times. Even if you swim another stroke legally, you cannot earn an official time for another stroke.

    So, in the situation described in this question, a swimmer could swim the first 50 of a 200 freestyle as breaststroke (or any other stroke) without being disqualified. The swimmer can then swim any other strokes desired for the remainder of the event. However, the swimmer cannot earn an official time for a 50 breaststroke event that would count for records, top ten, or any other form of official recognition. The initial 50 split time can only count as a time for a 50 freestyle. The final time, regardless of the length of the event, may only be used as a freestyle time.

    Note that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle is defined as any other stroke not previously swum, so you cannot repeat butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke during the freestyle leg of a medley event.
  2. How Do I know if my Swimwear is Legal?

    by , March 4th, 2018 at 12:41 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Article 102.12 covers the rules for swimwear in USMS competition. This article contains several provisions, so this month's blog post breaks down each provision, including type of suit, coverage, and other things that can or cannot be worn in competition. Note that article 303.7 covers the rules for long distance and open water which are very similar to pool competition, but contain a couple of key differences.

    102.12.1A says that the swimsuits worn for competition shall be nontransparent and conform to the current concept of the appropriate. The referee shall have authority to bar offenders from competition until they comply with this rule.

    Well, this one should be self-explanatory - no see-through suits!

    102.12.1B says that swimwear shall include only a swimsuit, no more than two caps, and goggles (a nose clip and ear plugs are allowed). Armbands or legbands shall not be regarded as parts of the swimsuit and are not allowed.

    A common question from swimmers is "can I wear something to help with an injury?" Typical questions include things like elastic bandages, knee braces, therapeutic bands, etc. The answer is generally "no" since these are considered an advantage in competition and not permitted under this rule.

    Article 102.12.1C has several rules:

    In swimming competitions, the competitor must wear only one swimsuit in one or two pieces. Does this mean that women can wear two-piece suits? Yes, but see below for some restrictions on coverage and fasteners.

    The rule also says that for men, the swimsuit shall not extend above the navel nor below the knees, and for women, shall not cover the neck, extend past the shoulder nor extend below the knees. (See below for the difference that applies to open water competitions.)

    All swimsuits must be made from textile materials. How would I know if my suit has a material that is not permitted? Well, we also say in 102.12.1D that only swimwear complying with FINA specifications may be worn in any USMS sanctioned or recognized competition. FINA evaluates and maintains a list of approved swimwear. If you purchase a suit that has been approved by FINA, it will have a sticker on it that says "FINA Approved Swimwear". All of these suits are approved for use in USMS competition and a complete searchable list is maintained by FINA here:

    http://www.fina.org/content/fina-approved-swimwear

    USMS policy is to also accept "legacy" suits that comply with FINA specifications even if they do not appear on the FINA approved list. Generally, suits that are made out of materials such as lycra, nylon, polyester, or other traditional materials are acceptable. Suits made from neoprene or other buoyant materials are not acceptable because they violate 102.12.1E regarding the use of devices or substances that enhance speed, pace, buoyancy, or endurance. Any type of surface treatment that closes the mesh structure of the material (suach as a coating) is subject to scrutiny, so it is the technical suits that we need to look at. A pair of "board shorts" or a beach suit for women made out of traditional materials will generally comply with the rule.

    General tip: If a suit is marketed specifically for triathletes or strictly for training, you may want to check the specifications further. Triathlons don’t follow the same rules and we have found some suits marketed to improve buoyancy that would not comply with the rule. Anything marketed with a thermal insulation material (e.g., a wetsuit) is likely not permitted.

    FINA also has a prohibition against zippers or any other fastening system, including ties. A waist tie is the only exception. For women, this means that a two-piece suit with a top piece that ties in the back is not permitted.

    The FINA approval process will also look at the thickness and permeability of the material used in the swimwear construction. If you really want to understand all of the technical specifications, you can find them here:

    https://www.fina.org/sites/default/files/frsa.pdf

    Now we go to article 102.12.1E which says that no swimmer is permitted to wear or use any device or substance to enhance speed, pace, buoyancy, or endurance during a race (such as webbed gloves, fins, power bands, adhesive substances, snorkels, neoprene caps, etc.).

    All of these great training devices that we use in workouts to help us train more effectively either by improving stroke technique, dealing with injuries, or making it easier to train are not meant for competition.

    What about watches? The interpretation on watches is that watches could be considered pacing devices, but only if they are used for this purpose. It is not necessarily illegal to wear a watch in competition, but if an official observes a swimmer using a watch during a race, the swimmer is subject to disqualification.

    Rule 102.12.1E also explicitly says that medical identification items may be worn. If you wear a medical alert bracelet, for example, you are not required to remove it for competition. Doing so could compromise safety and the ability to respond to a medical emergency.

    Rule 102.12.1E also addresses the use of tape. The rule says that any kind of tape on the body is not permitted unless approved by the referee. We get many questions regarding the application of the rule and an official interpretation, consistent with FINA and USA Swimming, was issued in 2016.

    The use of tape in competition is limited to situations involving verified medical conditions. The application of tape is intended to be for situations such as wound closure, taping of fingers or toes (no more than two), taping to secure medical devices, or other limited uses that would not provide any competitive advantage. The use of any kind of tape that purports to provide muscle compression; muscle, joint, or ligament stabilization; or other physical benefits, including therapeutic elastic tape or similar products, is never permitted in USMS competition.

    Finally, we have the following provision in article 102.12.1C(1): Exemptions to the foregoing restrictions may be granted to a swimmer, on a case-by-case basis, by the chair of the Rules Committee or designee. Exemptions will be granted for conflicts due to the swimmer’s verified religious beliefs, verified medical conditions, or other reasons as deemed appropriate by the chair of the Rules Committee.

    Medical exemptions are generally intended for permanent medical conditions that would preclude someone from complying with the swimwear rules and being able to participate in competition altogether. If you feel that you have a medical condition, a religious belief, or other circumstance that would merit an exemption, please contact the USMS Rules Committee Chair at: rules@usms.org.

    Article 102.12 describes the rules for pool competition, but the same rules generally apply for "category I swimwear in open water competition (i.e., not wetsuits) as described in article 303.7. The coverage rules for open water competition are different - both men and women are permitted to wear a suit that does not extend past the shoulder or past the ankles. For medical exceptions that cover open water competition, swimmers should contact the chair of the USMS Long Distance Committee at: LongDistance@usms.org.
  3. Swimwear in Training and Competition

    by , June 4th, 2017 at 12:41 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Questions regarding swimwear seem to be a constant for masters swimmers.

    The latest issue of SWIMMER magazine features the ROKA SIM PRO II Buoyancy shorts (page 40). The article stresses its use for learning swim skills and training. It is great to know that there are products available to assist swimmers with these all-important skills.


    However, the article omits the all-important, specific statement that the suit is illegal for USMS competition and highlights the need to remind swimmers that there may be many products suitable for training, but not approved for competition.

    The swimwear rules are covered in article 102.12. Article 102.12.1D says that only suits complying with FINA swimsuit specifications may be worn in a USMS sanctioned or recognized competition. Suits are now tested and approved by FINA for the material (they must be made of textile materials), buoyancy, and permeability in order to ensure compliance with FINA standards.

    A complete list of FINA approved swimwear may be found here.
    http://www.fina.org/content/fina-approved-swimwear

    In addition, there are several important requirements specified in article 102.12 for all pool competition.


    • Swimmers are permitted to wear only one swimsuit in one or two pieces.
    • For men, the suit may not extend above the naval or below the knee.
    • For women, the suit may not cover the neck, extend past the shoulders, or extend past the knee.
    • Swimwear may include a swimsuit, no more than two caps, and goggles. Ear plugs and nose clips are allowed, but armbands and legbands are not considered part of the suit and not allowed.


    Exceptions to these rules for verified medical conditions, religious beliefs, or other circumstances may be approved by the Rules Committee Chair on a case-by-case basis. With medical exceptions, we do our best to consult experts and determine the best solution for the swimmers. Therefore, swimmers seeking an exception are responsible for requesting such an exception and must allow enough time for an evaluation, which sometimes takes several days, up to a few weeks, depending on the circumstances. Asking for a medical exception the night before a meet is likely to result in disappointment!

    The rules for open water and long distance races are covered in 303.7.2 are similar for category I swimwear (i.e., no wetsuits). Men are permitted upper body coverage in open water races and the FINA list includes swimwear specifically approved for open water races. When category II swimwear is permitted, wetsuits, neoprene caps, or other heat-retaining swimwear may be allowed at the discretion of the event director if the water temperature is not greater than 78 degrees F.

    Articles 102.12 and 303.7.2 also mention the use of tape. There are many good products on the market to assist with training and recovery from injuries. But, again, many products that may be suitable for training are not approved for competition.

    USMS rule 102.12.1E (governing pool events) says that “Any kind of tape worn on the body is not permitted unless approved by the referee”. USMS rule 303.7.3C (governing long distance and open water event) also says that "Any kind of tape worn on the body is not permitted unless approved by the referee." The use of tape in competition is limited to situations involving verified medical conditions. The application of tape is intended to be for situations such as wound closure, taping of fingers or toes (no more than two), taping to secure medical devices, or other limited uses that would not provide any competitive advantage. The use of any kind of tape that purports to provide muscle compression; muscle, joint, or ligament stabilization; or other physical benefits, including therapeutic elastic tape or similar products, is never permitted in USMS competition.
  4. Therapeutic Elastic Tape in Competition

    by , June 5th, 2016 at 02:16 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Modern medical technology has created some fantastic products for adult athletes to use in dealing with injuries and the natural issues associated with aging bodies. However, with the growing use of these technologies, we have to consider questions about their use in competition. As always, our goal is to have a fair and equitable application of the rules that facilitate participation in competition. The rules are written to limit the use of items that provide for a competitive advantage.



    We have received many questions regarding the use of therapeutic elastic tape. While the use of the products may prove to be of great use for some swimmers recovering from injuries or in training, the use of many of these products creates a competitive advantage and are therefore not permitted in USMS competition.

    The current swimsuit rules date to 2009 and the premise of the rules are that substances which provide additional muscle compression; or anything that enhances speed, pace, or buoyancy are not permitted.

    USMS rule 102.12.1-E (governing pool events) says that “Any kind of tape worn on the body is not permitted unless approved by the referee”. USMS rule 303.7.3-C (governing long distance and open water event) also says that "Any kind of tape worn on the body is not permitted unless approved by the referee”



    Per USMS Article 507.1.13, the Rules Committee issues interpretations of Part One rules. Per USMS Article 507.1.7, the USMS Long Distance Committee oversees the rules and administration of long distance and open water events (Part Three).

    Therefore, to provide clearer guidance for officials, the following interpretation is issued jointly by the USMS Rules Committee and USMS Long Distance Committee.

    “The use of tape in competition is limited to situations involving verified medical conditions. The application of tape is intended to be for situations such as wound closure, taping of fingers or toes, taping to secure medical devices, or other limited uses that would not provide any competitive advantage. The use of any kind of tape that purports to provide muscle compression; muscle, joint, or ligament stabilization; or other physical benefits, including therapeutic elastic tape or similar products, is never permitted in USMS competition.”


    Examples of such products include Kinesio® Tape, KT Tape, Kinesiology Tape, Cho-Pat® and Spider Tech. But, there may very well be additional products and brands.

    Even in the case of disability accommodations or medical exceptions to the swimwear rules, we would not grant an exception that creates a competitive advantage. While these are considered on a case-by-case basis, this interpretation will remain the guiding principle. USMS is consistent with USA-Swimming in our interpretation regarding the use of these products.

    If you have questions on the use of a specific product, please direct those questions to the Meet or Race Referee, the Rules Committee Chair (rules@usms.org) for pool events, and the Open Water Committee Chair (openwater@usms.org) for open water events.

    Charles Cockrell
    USMS Rules Committee Chair