Pan Am Masters 2013
Courtesy of: U.S. Masters Swimming
SARASOTA, Florida, September 26. AS the short course meters season gets underway in Masters swimming in the United States, some crucial rule changes are going into effect in terms of athlete membership and stroke legality.

A key rule change is the stipulation that a swimmer can no longer be a member of U.S. Masters Swimming but not a part of any club. All swimmers must represent an official USMS club, or none of the times performed in the meet will be approved by FINA as Masters world records or considered for the top 10 world rankings.

USMS has started taking care of this for all swimmers currently registered as unattached by creating a new club, called "Unattached." Every swimmer who is USMS registered but not affiliated with a club has been automatically put into the "Unattached" club. According to USMS, that number is 6,385, or 11 percent of the total membership.


Kathy Casey, the chairperson of the USMS Rules Committee, confirmed to Swimming World that meet directors will not have to alter registrations if they see an unattached swimmer sign up for a competition, and swimmers will not have to fret about an unattached swimmer sneaking into the meet and capsizing any hopes of breaking a world record or getting into the global top 10 rankings. Creating the "Unattached" club does not mean that all the unattached swimmers at the meet can participate on relays. They are still not allowed to do so, according to USMS rules.

Another chief rule going into effect regards turns and finishes for breaststroke and butterfly as approved by FINA for all swimming races. The hands can no longer be in a streamlined position -- one on top of the other -- when they touch the wall, as that often could result in one hand making contact with the wall a beat earlier than the other.

"At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands separated and simultaneously at, above or below the water level," the new rule states. Another clarification clears up confusion regarding the finish in breaststroke, stating that the swimmer can take one arm stroke without a corresponding breaststroke kick. This, however, has long since been accepted, but is now officially in the rulebook.

Also, the rule stating that swimmers cannot be completely underwater at the finish has been added. This is likely to be the most difficult rule to adjust to for swimmers, as many likely train to finish their backstroke races with a major lunge that puts them entirely underwater. Many top elite swimmers do this, and will also have to make adjustments, as this is a FINA rule that encompasses all swimming races.

Finally, FINA and USMS have banned the use of "power bands" and "adhesive substances" to the list of banned items not to be worn during competition.