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Disqualifications and Protests

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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.

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