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Certain Open Water Swimming Rules Need To Be Amended

By Sergey Yurlov
Sports Law Researcher, sport judge and member of the Russian National Union of Sport Lawyers, member of the International Association of Sports Law (IASL)

This blog will consider the issue of physical contact in open water swimming competitions, and what measures should be taken to prevent further disputes, such as the one that occurred at the FINA 2015 World Championship in Kazan. There, Eugene Dratsev, an elite open water swimmer from Russia, took fourth place in the 5 kilometer race. He filed a protest alleging that he had been physically assaulted by another swimmer at the finish of the race. However, a panel of judges ruled that the competition had been conducted in due course.

According to the current version of FINA Open Water Swimming Rules (Rules) the following sanctions must be applied to a swimmer who intentionally contacts another one:
• For the first violation - competition officials show a yellow flag to indicate that the swimmer is violating the Rules; and
• for the second violation - by showing a red flag, competition officials disqualify the swimmer. (http://www.fina.org/H2O/docs/rules/2015/disciplines/FINAowrules_20152017.pdf)

Do these sanctions sufficiently protect the integrity of open water swimming?

It appears that the Rules should be amended by introducing new sanctions, such as adding seconds to a swimmer's time and bans for longer time periods, and by strengthening control over the athletes, as sometimes competition officials and judges cannot detect violations of the Rules. In those cases, the officials need to rely on the participants' reports as to what occurred.

Introducing New Sanctions

Article 6.3.1 of the Rules should provide for punitive seconds on a swimmer's time bans from one to three years, depending on the violation.

Adding seconds to a swimmer's time would be a penalty imposed for the first violation, along with the yellow flag. The time period it should vary from one minute to 10 minutes. Competition judges would have discretion in the length of this penalty. It is unlikely that a violator will continue infringing the Rules after the imposition of such a penalty.

The Rules should also provide for some types of bans, as it appears that the disqualification from a particular event has not been a sufficient deterrent. A violator should be banned from open water swimming competitions for six months for the first act, for a year for the second, and for three years for the third infraction. This penalty should be imposed along with the red flag. If a swimmer thereafter commits any further violation, then FINA should consider adopting a life ban.

Strengthening Control over Swimmers

In some cases, competition judges cannot exercise control over swimmers, and therefore are unable to detect violations of the Rules. It is clear that FINA should increase the quantity of the race judges (see Articles 3.27-3.30 of the Rules) supervising swimmers' compliance with the Rules.

At present, all violations are being recorded in writing only. Instead, the race judges should be provided with photo and video cameras to keep a record of a particular race. With this technical equipment, the race judges will detect more violations and have an opportunity to determine whether the Rules are violated.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 1, 2015 2:00 PM.

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