Like other sports, swimming has rules and regulations that athletes must follow so all races are fair for all competitors. Violations will disqualify a swimmer from the race. A disqualification (DQ) means the swimmer will not have an official race time and is ineligible for awards. Swimming competition rules are established by USA Swimming, our national governing body for swimming, and FINA, the international governing body of aquatic sports. Swimmers can be disqualified for actions that happen outside of the pool and during the race.
Swimmers are expected to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner in their personal lives. Violations of the USA Swimming Code of Conduct include:
- Being convicted of a felony or an offense against a minor or an offense involving sexual misconduct or drugs.
- Selling drugs to another athlete or using drugs. This set of rules covers illegal drugs and performance-enhancing drugs. Swimmers are routinely tested for drugs before and after races.
- Physically abusing an athlete.
- Violating the Sexual Misconduct Reporting Requirements.
Failure to follow the Code of Conduct can cause a swimmer to be banned from all competitions, not just one race.
Unsportsmanlike conduct before, during, and after a race can lead to a disqualification. Swimmers are expected to behave in a civilized manner at all times.
In addition to rules about personal conduct, USA Swimming and FINA have rules about swimming competitions. Not following these rules will result in a disqualification from a single race. This set of rules and regulations governs what a swimmer can wear, correct race conduct, and swimming strokes.
FINA has a list of approved swimsuits for competitions. The list has details about the swimsuit’s manufacturer and model; swimsuits should have a non-removable “FINA approved” label. Swimmers may wear swim earplugs, swim goggles and a swim cap, but swim gear that aids in speed, buoyancy and endurance are forbidden.
When the race is about to begin, swimmers will be signaled to take their starting positions either on the starting block or in the water. When told to “take your mark,” swimmers must assume their starting positions and hold the position. Once all swimmers are stationary, the starting signal is given. Swimmers who take too long to get to their starting positions or who start before the starting signal is given will be disqualified from the race.
During the race, swimmers are prohibited from walking on the bottom of the pool, pulling on the lane rope, and changing lanes. Also, swimmers must touch the wall during a turn, a part of their body must break the surface after the start and turn before swimming 15m, and must perform all swimming strokes legally.
- Freestyle: This includes strokes that are not backstrokes, butterfly strokes, or breaststrokes. Swimmers must touch the wall with at least one hand at the finish.
- Backstroke: Swimmers start in the water and must swim on their back except at the turn. At the finish, swimmers must be on their back and touch the wall with at least one hand.
- Butterfly: Swimmers must bring their arms forward together and both arms must break the surface of the water. Swimmers are not allowed to roll on their back. At the finish, swimmers must touch the wall with both hands.
- Breaststroke: One butterfly kick is permitted at the start and at the turn. Swimmers may not roll on their back. Swimmers must maintain the simultaneous arm and leg movements during the race. At the finish, swimmers must touch the wall with both hands.
If you are disqualified from a race because of improper swimming technique, learn from the experience and take the opportunity to improve your stroke.
The swimming rules and regulations set forth by USA Swimming and FINA are necessary to protect all swimmers and to guarantee a fair race for everyone.