USA Swimming Distributes New Interpretation Regarding Suit Restrictions for Age Groupers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, January 21. IN a memo sent out by the USA Swimming Rules & Regulations Committee this week, USA Swimming has incorporated religious and medical issues into its latest suit restrictions for age groupers.

According to the memo:

The amended rule, which will become effective May 15, 2009, reads as follows:

102.9 Swimwear
.1 Design
A Swimsuits worn for all 12 & under age group defined competition shall not cover the neck, extend past the shoulder, nor past the knee.
B Swimsuits worn for competition must be non-transparent and conform to the current concept of the appropriate.
C The Referee shall have the authority to bar offenders from the competition until they comply with the rule.

However, since the initial ratification of the amendment by the USA Swimming House of Delegates, some questions came up regarding the potentially discriminatory nature of the rule. Additionally, some issues regarding medical conditions that require a swimmer to "avoid direct sunlight exposure" to the skin have been brought up.

USA Swimming has addressed these two issues with the following interpretation:

An exemption to Article 102.9.1 may be granted, on a case by case basis, to a swimmer who:

1. Based upon the swimmer's stated religious beliefs, is required to wear a suit that covers more of the swimmer's body than is permitted under this Rule; or
2. Whose medical condition requires more of the swimmer's body to be covered than permitted under this Rule.

This exemption does not extend to the use of any swimwear that has ever been promoted by its manufacturer as providing a performance advantage, or has otherwise been described as providing a technological advantage. This exemption applies to both USA Swimming's Rule and to any comparable rule adopted by any LSC and takes precedence over any determination by any member of an LSC.

All requests for any exemption must be submitted to the Chair of the USA Swimming Rules & Regulations Committee, or his/her designee. The request must be communicated in writing, including the use of e-mail, at least ten (10) days in advance of any competition for which the exemption is sought. The request must include:

1. The swimmer's name, registration number and the name of LSC in which the swimmer is registered;
2. A statement explaining that the exemption is made necessary by the swimmer's religious principles or for medical reasons;
3. A representation by the swimmer that the exemption is being sought for religious reasons and not to increase performance or, in the case of a medical reason, a written statement from a physician specifying the requirement to have parts of the body covered that are not permitted under this Article; and
4. A photo or description of the swimsuit the swimmer proposes to wear so the Rules Chair can evaluate whether any technological advantage has been advertised or documented for the suit.

The Rules Chair will then advise the swimmer and the appropriate LSC officials chair whether the exemption has been granted. The Rules Chair shall have the authority to grant the exemption on a permanent basis in his/her sole discretion. The decision of the Rules Chair can be appealed only to the entire Rules & Regulations Committee whose decision shall be final and binding on all parties.