FINA votes to alter rules, soften "Lochte Rule"
FINA has voted to alter the rules that resulted in the disqualification of American Ella Eastin at the recent U.S. World Championship Trials and her losing a spot on the American team. At the FINA Technical Congress for swimming, several rules were changed, but the most significant of those was the alteration of the Lochte rule.
The new rules will go into effect 2 months after ratification – which means September 21st, 2017. The existing interpretation will remain in effect for the World Championships that begin on Sunday.
While FINA hasn't released the full wording of the new rule, they say that now, so long as the swimmer is "on the breast" before "any kick or stroke," they are legal. FINA's explanation:
In medley swimming, on the freestyle section, the "swimmer must be on the breast except when executing a turn. The swimmer must return to the breast before any kick or stroke". Moreover, each of the strokes must cover one quarter of the distance;
While not directly alluded to, this clarifies the rule that in the medley relay and individual medley events, a "unique stroke" must be swum from the strokes in the first three races. Prior interpretations said that turning off the wall on ones back in the closing freestyle leg, which most elite swimmers are taught to do, qualified as backstroke, which would result in disqualification.
The rule was rarely (never) used, until 2015, when Ryan Lochte started pushing this to the extreme – kicking several meters underwater on his back because he found that his underwater kicking was faster on his back than his stomach. Then, FINA emphasized the interpretation and swimmers began getting disqualified. Now, the interpretation is much more lenient, and so long as swimmers have rotated before kicking or stroking, they will be legal.
The other underwater change is more under-the-radar, but could be equally as significant. Swimmers are now no longer allowed to kick on their sides in butterfly. How FINA intends to determine the "side" from the "breast" seems to present another future interpretation.
Note that under new NCAA rules, all FINA rules will be adopted by the NCAA for technical stroke rules for the four strokes, IM, and relays. So whenever the new wording is released, that will become the law of the land in American college swimming as well.
The full list of rules FINA voted to change in pool swimming and master's swimming.
• Update on the number of required timekeepers;
• Redefinition of the Inspector of Turns' role;
• Precision on the butterfly rules. From now on, underwater kicking on the side is not allowed;
• In medley swimming, on the freestyle section, the "swimmer must be on the breast except when executing a turn. The swimmer must return to the breast before any kick or stroke". Moreover, each of the strokes must cover one quarter of the distance;
• Timing to 1/1000 of a second is no longer a possibility;
• World Records can only be established in water with less that 3gr/litre of salt.
• World Records are only accepted if recorded by automatic officiating equipment;
• Introduction of Mixed Team events in Diving and Mixed Duets in Synchronised Swimming;
• Revision of the required elements in synchronised swimming routines;
• Update on the World Record application form.