Suspend the Use of Electronic Relay Take-Off Platforms

PHOENIX, Arizona, June 2. IN the June issue of Swimming World Magazine, Publisher Brent Rutemiller calls for a suspension of electronic relay take-off platforms in this month's edition of A Voice for the Sport. The column is reprinted below:

Manufacturers claim that relay takeoff platforms accurately measure the relay exchange time between a swimmer touching the wall and a swimmer taking off from a starting platform. By rule, a swimmer may not leave the block to swim his or her leg of a relay until the person in the water finishes by touching the wall.

For years, relay takeoff judges worked together to observe legal relay starts visually. One judge is positioned next to each lane, and another side judge is positioned on each side of the pool during relays.

The lane and side takeoff judges must independently report infractions in writing without giving visual clues of an infraction by immediately raising a hand to signal a disqualification. A relay will be disqualified only if the lane takeoff judge has reported an infraction and the assigned side takeoff judge has confirmed the same infraction.

The manpower needed to observe legal starts could require up to 20 people in relays that require exchanges at both ends of a pool.

Around 2007, when manufacturers convinced officials that relay takeoff platforms could measure the exchanges accurately and efficiently—without the need for human observation and manpower—governing bodies accepted the manufacturers' claims, thinking that the technology was fail-safe.

Now, when automatic judging equipment is in use, the system race printout provides the only information to judge relay exchanges when a differential is between -0.09 and +0.09 seconds. Human input is explicitly not considered within this range, unless officially approved integrated back-up timing cameras are in use, to challenge or confirm the automatic system's results. If there is a conflict between the cameras and the automatic equipment, then a referee will have to determine which of the two confirmation processes will be accepted.

In other words, if a championship meet uses electronic relay takeoff platforms and cannot afford expensive backup timing cameras, the electronic printout makes the final call every time.

Despite the claims of manufacturers, the automatic judging system is not fail-safe, as seen by a number of controversial disqualifications both at the NCAA and high school levels. First-hand human observation and common sense video have repeatedly shown that significant errors in the automatic system occur.

A Stanford relay was disqualified at the women's NCAA Division I Championships in 2008, and, this year, two Texas high school state championship meets were tainted by what many believe was faulty automatic system results.

It is only common sense that a human system be put into place that works with automatic systems.

The NCAA has already started the process of reviewing its current rules when it issued a recent survey asking its members if they agree or disagree with the following scenarios:
• Eliminate electronic takeoff equipment and rely strictly upon human judging of relay take-offs.
• Allow a referee to deem that a malfunction of the electronic takeoff equipment has occurred in any one heat and to warrant the elimination of those electronic readings from the entire event.
• Allow for the use of electronic takeoff equipment solely to confirm or overturn a human decision rather than serve as the primary judge for readings that fall within +/- 0.09.

Until human judgment is put back in the process for judging relay takeoffs, the use of automatic judging equipment must be suspended.

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June 2011 Issue
Contents of The June issue:

Training during the winter months can be challenging and intense, but taking a holiday training trip can not only be beneficial for the team, but a lot of fun as well.
10 NEXT IN LINE by John Lohn
Following in a long list of exquisite performers from Hungary, Katinka Hosszu has established herself as one of the world's premier female swimmers.
Ohio State won the U.S. Collegiate Synchronized Swimming Championships for the third straight year and 27th time in the program's history.

6 A VOICE for the SPORT

In the Swimming Technique portion of the magazine you will find the following:

Greg Fastrich has coached three Olympic Trials qualifiers since moving to Hershey, Pa.
His latest protégé, David Nolan, recently set four national high school records, including a 1:41.39 200 yard IM clocking that would have won NCAAs.
23 HOW THEY TRAIN: David Nolan by Michael J. Stott
24 SCIENCE OF PERFORMANCE: Shoulder Warm-up by G. John Mullen
Shoulder exercises are provided that can help you improve your strength and flexibility, which can ultimately enhance your swimming performance.
26 DRILL TO THRILL by Michael J. Stott
Looking for the pathway to swimming excellence? Former Olympian Jeremy Linn sums it up best: "Drills is where it's at."

In the SWIM portion of the magazine you will find the following:

15 POOL'S EDGE: It's A Rock, Not A Roll by Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen
Smooth and effortless swimming should be the focus of every swimmer. Once you master the art of smooth shoulder swimming—and stop over-rotating—you'll be well on your way to fast swimming.
16 DRYSIDE TRAINING: IM Stroke Series (Breaststroke) by J.R. Rosania
18 THE WORKOUT CARD: Training with Santa Cruz Masters by Joel Wilson
20 LANE LEADERS: Jenny Cook, Southern California Aquatics Masters by Emily Sampl

In the Junior Swimmer portion of the magazine you will find the following:
Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics (New York, N.Y.) by Judy Jacob
31 AMERICAN RELAY by Judy Jacob
32 TYR AGE GROUP SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: Julie Kolar, NASA Wildcat Aquatics (Evanston, Ill.)
36 GOLDMINDS: Build A Bulletproof Brain and Swim Like Superman! by Wayne Goldsmith Here are some tips to help you become mentally tough.
38 DEFINING MOMENTS: YMCA Nationals by Jason Marsteller
Sarasota YMCA captured its fifth straight combined team championship at the YMCA Short Course Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., April 5-8. The meet featured 15 YMCA national records.

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