Deconstructing Lochte’s Underwater, and FINA’s Rush To Disallow It

Screenshot 2015-08-30 17.14.01

Although it’s not officially called the Lochte Rule, it might as well be. Ryan Lochte’s now famous dolphin kicking on his back on the freestyle leg of the 200 IM final at the World Championships is the only possible reason for FINA’s announcement that it will soon disallow it. You can see the race HERE as well as video highlights the underwater portion from a few angles.

What is unprecedented is the speed of this ruling. It took roughly 3 weeks from the time of Lochte’s gold medal 200 IM swim to the time FINA announced that they will soon be making dolphin kicking on the back illegal for the freestyle leg on individual medley races (and presumably medley relay races).

All of this raises a key question. What bothered FINA about this swim?

On the surface, it didn’t seem illegal. After all, according to FINA, during an IM the freestyle leg cannot involve any breaststroke, backstroke or butterfly.

FINA SW 5 Freestyle
SW 5.1 Freestyle means that in an event so designated the swimmer may swim in any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.

And since he hadn’t broken the surface on his back, it’s a real stretch to suggest that merely kicking while on your back underwater is synonymous with the stroke. And yet that is exactly what FINA seems to want.

But why?

If we look at past rule changes, there is some consistency and rationality in the reasons for the new rules.

The many breaststroke underwater rule changes have typically been about the inability to catch cheaters. The 2004-5 Kitajima rule was created simply because officials couldn’t adequately observe dolphin kicking by swimmers in the middle of the pool. Similarly the recent Dec. ’14 ruling was about …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog