FINA Rule Changes, Including Loosened Lochte Rule, Take Effect Today

FINA’s batch of 2017-2018 rule changes officially take effect today, including a softened version of the unpopular ‘Lochte Rule’ in IM events.

The Lochte Rule – so named after world champ Ryan Lochte – classified underwater kicking on one’s back as backstroke, meaning swimmers could not do it in the freestyle portions of IM races, which require exactly 1/4th of the race to be swum in each stroke. The rule had been in place since late 2015, and was the reason for a high-profile disqualification to NCAA champion Ella Eastin at U.S. World Champs Trials this past summer.

The rule had been forcefully applied to the extent that swimmers pushing off of a flip turn on their back, as Eastin did at U.S. Trials, were disqualified. But FINA voted over the summer to relax that policy so that swimmers merely need to be on their stomach before executing any stroke or kick to stay legal.

Here’s the full wording from the FINA rulebook:

SW 9.2 In Freestyle the swimmer must be on the breast except when executing a turn. The
swimmer must return to the breast before any kick or stroke.

That and the rest of FINA’s summer rule changes go into effect today, September 21, and the NCAA will adopt all FINA rules as well. Here’s a quick refresher on the other rules changes our own Braden Keith reported on back in July:


  • Update on the number of required timekeepers;
  • Redefinition of the Inspector of Turns’ role;
  • Removed redundant wording regarding underwater kicking in butterfly.  Underwater kicking is permitted provided that the body position is toward the breast.*
  • In medley swimming, on the freestyle section, the “swimmer must be on the breast except when executing a turn. The swimmer must return to the breast before any kick or stroke”. Moreover, each of the strokes must cover one quarter of the distance;
  • Timing to 1/1000 of a second is no longer a possibility;
  • World Records can only be established in water with less that 3gr/litre of salt.

*We’ve received clarification of this rule from USA Swimming. FINA considers backstroke to be swimming on the back up to, but not including, tilted to the side 90 degrees. That means that being on one’s front or tilted to the side up to and including 90 degrees is considered “towards the breast.” So in butterfly events, swimmers can be on their side up to 90 degrees for underwater kicking and remain legal, but any rotation past 90 degrees and towards the back is illegal.


  • World Records are only accepted if recorded by automatic officiating equipment;
  • Introduction of Mixed Team events in Diving and Mixed Duets in Synchronised Swimming;
  • Revision of the required elements in synchronised swimming routines;
  • Update on the World Record application form.

You can read the full swimming rulebook here.

All FINA rules are here.

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This rule makes no sense whatsoever-_- Very stupid.

tea rex

FINA’s ongoing quest to make the rules as clear as mud continues…


They still got it wrong.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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