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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for pool events, and the Open Water Committee Chair (email@example.com) for open water events.
USMS Rules Committee Chair