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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. Major Changes for 2017

    by , October 29th, 2016 at 03:59 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Several rules were changed by the House of Delegates during the USMS Annual Meeting in Atlanta in September. Here is a summary of the major changes that will take effect on January 1, 2017.

    Continuous Warm-Up: In pools of five lanes or more, a separate warm-up area must be made available to swimmers during the competition. However, if the meet is a dual-sanctioned meet with USA Swimming, this requirement may be adjusted depending on availability of warm-up space at the venue by agreement between the LMSC and LSC host clubs. If a continuous warm-up/warm-down lane(s) or area is not available in pools of five lanes or more, the entry information shall clearly state the availability of warm-up for USMS athletes. Once the entry information is published, changes which further restrict the availability of continuous warm-up/warm-down space are not permitted.

    Events: The order of events must be published in the meet announcement prior to the meet. Events may be repeated with the same stroke and distance as different event numbers at a meet.

    Alternative Formats: All short course meters events, long course meters events, and national championships shall be conducted on a timed-finals basis. Other short course yards events may be conducted on a timed-finals basis or another basis (e.g., preliminary heats and finals).

    Time Trials: Independent attempts to establish official times (time trials) are permitted only in USMS-sanctioned short course yards meets other than national championship meets. Time trials are not permitted in USMS national championship meets, short course meters, or long course meters meets. If time trials are offered, the meet announcement must state the events being offered and the format for the time trials.

    Event Limits: A swimmer may compete in not more than six individual events per day. A swimmer shall not compete more than once in the same numbered individual event. Any nonconforming events swum shall be included in the daily event limit. If events are conducted in formats other than timed finals that require multiple swims (e.g., preliminary heats and finals), the limit is three events per day. For events that require multiple swims (e.g., preliminary heats and finals), all swims (e.g., preliminary heats) are considered as part of the same individual event, not as multiple individual events. If time trials are offered in short course yards meets, any time trial events swum shall be included in the daily event limit. A swimmer may repeat, as a time trial, an individual event already swum during the meet on the same day or in the same meet.

    Place Judges: One or two place judges may be positioned on the side of the course near the finish to judge the order of finish of all swimmers. Judging may not be used to change the results produced by ranking the official times.

    Official Time for Malfunction on a Lane: Timing system adjustments to backup times for individual lane malfunctions have been eliminated. In the event of a lane malfunction, the official time is calculated using valid times reported by the secondary timing system (or the tertiary system) in accordance with 103.17.3B and integrated with the accurate primary times in determining the results.

    Requirements for USMS Records and Top 10 Times: USMS records and top 10 times may be established with a three, two, or one valid semiautomatic backup time in the event of an automatic timing system (touchpad) failure. USMS records may be established with two valid watch times in the event of both automatic primary and semiautomatic backup system failure. USMS top 10 times may be established with one valid watch time in the event of both automatic primary and semiautomatic backup system failure. USMS records may be established with two valid watches if the semiautomatic primary timing system fails. USMS Top 10 times may be established with one valid watch if the semiautomatic primary timing system fails.

    Splits: The referee may assign additional watch timers to record splits for USMS top 10 times regardless of the primary timing system. The referee may approve automatic recording of splits, with the concurrence of the meet host, without the need for a written request with the exception of backstroke events or initial splits within a backstroke leadoff distance.

    Fresh Water: USMS records and top 10 times can only be made in fresh water. No records or top 10 times will be recognized in any kind of sea or ocean water.

    Health and Safety Regulations for USMS Competition: Article 106 (medical examinations, medical equipment) is eliminated.

    Age Determining Date for Open Water and Postal Swims: In open water and postal swims, the eligibility of a swimmer shall be determined by the age of the swimmer on December 31 of the year of competition, except for 18-year-olds, who must be 18 on the day that they swim. This mirrors the birthdate rule used by FINA and USA-Triathlon. The relay age rules for open water and long distance/postal swims (303.1.3B & 305.6) remain unchanged.

    Water Conditions: Temperature guidelines have been amended for swimmer safety in swims with very warm water. A swim of 5 kilometers or greater shall not begin if the water temperature exceeds 29.45 C. (85 F.). A swim of less than 5 kilometers shall not begin if the water temperature exceeds 31 C. (87.8 F.). This mirrors the FINA general standard of 31 C, and the USA-Swimming exception to that rule of 29.45 C for swims 5-km or longer.

    Swimwear: For Category I open water swimwear, clasps and zippers are now excluded. This mirrors the FINA swimwear rule, and will make it easier for event staff to identify legal swimwear at each venue.

    Officials: The roles and authorities of open water event director, safety director and referee have been defined, particularly the authority to postpone the start, stop a swim in progress, and cancel an event.

    Independent Safety Monitors: The requirement to have a USMS-approved Independent Safety Monitor at all USMS open water swims has been removed. In its place, as part of event supervision, each sanctioning LMSC should develop oversight procedures to assure that the approved safety plan is implemented and that adequate safety precautions are in place for existing conditions.

    Solo Open Water Swims: Because USMS no longer sanctions solo swims, all reference to solo swims have been removed from the rulebook.

    1-Hour ePostal (OHeP): The Long Distance Committee is extending the closing date for the 2017 and future OHeP events to be the last day of February. This will give more people a chance to swim and minimize the impact of major winter weather.
  2. Time Trials

    by , February 28th, 2016 at 01:57 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    From time to time, we get asked if "time trials" are allowed at USMS sanctioned meets.

    Most people would consider a "time trial" to be something like an independent swim conducted at a meet or independent from a meet based upon an individual swimmer's request. Using this definition, the answer is no. Such independent attempts to establish official times are not permitted at USMS sanctioned meets. However, one of the difficulties in answering this question clearly is that we do not define the term "time trial" in the USMS rule book and people may have different ideas of what constitutes a time trial.

    The term "event" is defined in the USMS rule book, so we can talk about types of events, order of events, restrictions on entry limitations, and meet format. That will answer most of the questions regarding types of events that may be offered at USMS sanctioned meets. Many people may be surprised to discover that the rules actually provide a lot of flexibility to offer different and creative meet formats to serve the needs of masters swimmers, clubs, and LMSCs across the country.


    That rules say that.


    • You must have a published order of events in the entry information.
    • Events must be offered to all ages and both genders at any meet in which they are offered.
    • A swimmer may swim the same individual event only one time during a meet.
    • Individual swimmers are subject to the entry limitations stated in the entry information and USMS rules.
    • You cannot change the order of events or add additional events after publishing the entry information unless certain conditions are met.
    • Closed competition is permitted, so a sanctioned meet does not have to be open to all members of USMS.
    • Not all events defined in article 102 must be offered. (These are the "conforming" events for which we compile Top 10 rankings and keep USMS records.) A meet host may offer a subset of those events and may even offer nonconforming events subject to approval of the sanctioning LMSC.


    So, what about the following hypothetical situations?

    Could a meet host run a sanctioned meet offering only one event and have the meet open to only members of one club? Yes, as long as that one event is offered to both genders and all age groups. There are many examples of meets that only consist of a 1650 Free, for example, but there is no rule that wouldn't allow it to be any other event.

    Could a meet host run a sanctioned meet and offer the same event at multiple times (such as morning and afternoon, or Saturday and Sunday)? Yes, but an individual swimmer may only swim the event one time in a single meet and the results from all of the heats from the same event must be integrated and published as a single event in the results. (Compiling the results from all of the timed heats in a single event is the definition of "timed finals".)

    Could a meet host run an order of events and then offer to repeat the same order of events for people who want to swim an event later in the session or next day? Yes if that is published in the entry information.

    Could a meet host offer various creative event orders such as.....

    • The first three events will be all of the 200 yard non-freestyle stroke events. Swimmers may select only one event to swim and the events may be seeded together at the discretion of the referee. Yes, this type of order and meet format would be permitted.



    • The 100 Freestyle will be repeatedly offered between every other event in the meet. You can pick only one slot to swim this event. Yes, there is nothing in the rules to prohibit this type of format.



    • A "50 Choice" will be offered at the end of the meet for anyone who wants to swim another 50-yard event. No, because "choice" is not a defined stroke and distance in the USMS rules. But, you could say that all 50-yard stroke events will be offered again at the end of the meet for anyone that would like to swim another event. The restriction is that swimmers may not repeat an event that has already been swum.


    Any of the above situations might look like a "time trial" to some people because they provide flexibility for swimmers to choose when they want to swim a specific event and could maybe even be constructed to accommodate specific swimmers who want a chance to swim a specific event at a time of their choosing.

    The rules cover each of the above situations, but not necessarily as "time trials". The justification is the definition of an event and the rules that require publishing the order of events, conduct of events as "timed finals", and restrictions on how many times you can swim an event within a meet. As long as the sanctioning LMSC approves the meet format and entry information, these types of creative formats are permitted.

    Could the host run a meet with a random order of events? Just show up, tell us what you want to swim, and we will run it for you? No, because you don't have a published order of events and the same events might not be offered to both genders and all age groups.

    Can the host repeat random events at the end of the meet/session at the request of individual swimmers, maybe offering this option to swimmers who didn't want to swim back-to-back events or showed up late? No, because events cannot be added after the order of events has been published.

    Can a swimmer ask to repeat an individual event in which he or she seeks a better time or wants to establish a record? No, because additional events may not be added and a swimmer may not repeat an event.

    The preceding three situations may also look like "time trials" but they don't conform to the other rules regarding order of events and entry limitations, so that is why they are not permitted.

    But, the rules actually allow for even more flexibility in short course yards (SCY) meets.

    In USMS rules 102.6 and 102.10.1, we use the term "trials/finals" to describe meet formats that be used other than "timed finals". The term "trials/finals" is always used together, so this language should not be interpreted as meaning "time trials".

    The language in 102.6 and 102.10.1 dates back several years and is intended to cover different ways of contesting individual events, which is permitted only in short course yards (SCY) meets. Normally, masters events are conducted as timed finals, but another common format (used in USA-Swimming championship meets) is to conduct preliminary heats and finals. The top swimmers from the preliminary heats advance to the finals and places are then determined from times swum in the finals. (Back in the day, the word "trial" was often used as a substitute for preliminaries or "prelims".)

    If a meet is conducted with preliminary heats and finals, why doesn't it violate the restriction on repeating an event if a swimmer swims the same stroke and distance in the preliminaries and then again in the finals? And, why can't this alternate format be used to justify including time trials in SCY meets?

    Because when preliminary heats are used, that process is considered part of the overall process of determining the results for a single event. Swimming the same stroke and distance in a preliminary heat and then in a final heat does not constitute repeating the same event. It is just a different way (contrasted to timed finals) of determining the overall places for a single event. This is not the same as a time trial, which is an independent attempt to establish another official time.

    So, now to test your thinking, what about the following creative hypothetical formats for a SCY meet?

    The entry information says: "After the conclusion of all of the events listed in the program, each swimmer will be provided an opportunity to re-swim any event. Events will be repeated in the same order, but may be combined at the discretion of the referee. The faster of the two times swum will be used to determine the final places for each event".

    OK, that must be illegal, right? Because you cannot add events and a swimmer cannot repeat an event. But, in this hypothetical scenario, the repeat swim is actually part of the same event. It is not a time trial and it is not another added event. The format defines it as another way of contesting the event and that is allowed. And, just like the scenario of swimming the same stroke and distance in the preliminaries and finals, both swims may be used for official purposes.

    What about this one? "The 100 IM will be open to the first 8 entries and swum in an elimination format. After each race, the slowest swimmer will be eliminated and the remaining swimmers will advance to the next round. The places will be determined by the order of elimination."

    OK now, that really must be illegal, right? The winner would end up swimming the same event seven times! Again, because it defines a different way of contesting the event and determining the places, it is actually legal (albeit maybe insane). Swimming the same stroke and distance multiple times is not repeating the event in this scenario because each swim is part of the overall process for determining the rankings in a single event.

    So, are time trials allowed? No, not using the most commonly accepted definition. But it is all in the way you define the order of events and the format for determining the results. For SCY meets, there is more flexibility than most people realize!