Lochte Rule Modifications Approved by USA Swimming

Photo Courtesy: Kara Sekenski

As previously reported, there has been a rules clarification for the freestyle turn in individual medley races that USA Swimming will officially add to medley swimming rules on September 21, 2017. The change was made during the July 21 FINA Swimming Technical Congress in Budapest, Hungary, editing the so-called “Lochte Rule.”

Previously, at no point during the freestyle portion of an IM race could a swimmer be on their back. That rule has led to several controversial disqualifications, including several in the 400 IM at the most recent U.S. Nationals that left would-be qualifier Ella Eastin off of the United States World Championship team.

The new rules are copied below with the changes underlined:

“The stroke for each one-fourth of the designated distance shall follow the prescribed rules for that stroke, except in the freestyle, the swimmer must be on the breast except when executing a turn.

“Intermediate turns within each stroke shall conform to the turn rules for that stroke, except that in the freestyle turn, the swimmer must return to the breast before any kick or stroke.

Jay Thomas, the Chairman of the USA Swimming Rules Committee, had previously told Swimming World that this change was likely back at U.S. Nationals. In the interview, Thomas explains that rule change would allow “a swimmer to be towards their back, provided they are not kicking or stroking, to give them the time to roll,” Thomas explained.

You can see the official rules on the USA Swimming website here.



    • Beth McNutt

      It’s only named after him because he’s notorious for pushing off on his back on freestyle in the IM. It’s caused many disqualifications among my swimmers.

    • avatar
      Stephen gomez

      I agree!

      In summer league I was dq’Ed for this on a medley relay by an overzealous judge kicking off on my side in fly. My coach and my mom who was a USA swimming official at tge time and on the league rules committee were able to get it overturned. This was 1999. He was out to get me for years after that

      Now I’m in my 30s and he finally caught up with me!

      Seriously this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of

  1. avatar

    Once again, impossible to officiate… It’s freestyle. As in FREE-STYLE. Whose monkeys are these, and why are they in charge of our sport?

    • avatar

      In medleys (individual and relay), it’s any other stroke except the first three.

      • avatar

        Yes, that’s what the rule book says, buy why? Because some idiot decided to add a sentence to the rule book, and no one questioned how it would be interpreted by other idiots. Until recently, freestyle was exactly as named “free” style… if I wanted to joint the monkeys, I could star disqualifying people for over-water recovery in the manner of butterfly. Yes, one arm in traditional freestyle recovers over the water. Done. DQ everyone. A butterfly kick off the wall is also a DQ because it is a kick in the manner prescribed as Butterfly. Done. DQ everyone again. Swimming in a cycle of one arm pull followed by one leg kick? DQ everyone again because they just represented the manner prescribed as Breastroke… Don’t tell the monkeys.

  2. Sara Kent

    Damian Bawden …

    • Cheryl Zwijacz

      Who happens to hold the world record in 200 IM. Now that’s not shady but comments like this are

  3. avatar

    Does anyone know if this rule is being adopted by FINA too?

  4. Dave Hoover

    I don’t get it. This essentially ends “freestyle”. The old “front crawl” is perhaps a better descriptor of the stroke with this rule change.

    • avatar

      You do not swim “freestyle” in a individual medley or a medley relay. You swim any other stroke but the first three.

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Author: James Sica

James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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