Disqualification - and how to avoid it
Most swimmers get disqualified at some point in their swimming career. Often young swimmers and their parents are unsure of the disqualification rules. Here is a list of the most common reasons for disqualifications.
DQs at the start
Moving at the start. After the starter has said “take your marks” swimmers must remain absolutely still on the block or in the water, until the starting signal has sounded. This includes fiddling with goggles. Get into the habit of looking at the water (or wall on backstroke) NOT the starter.
Swimmers should not leave the water at the end of a race until authorised by the Referee. If time pads are being used, swimmers must not climb out over them, but progress under the lane rope(s) and exit at the side of the pool. Swimmers must ensure they do not impede any swimmer in a race (as may occur in a relay) as this will be a disqualification.
• Swimmers must touch the wall at every turn (ideally with both feet) and with one hand at the finish of the race.
• Start & Turn – The swimmer must surface at or before 15m.
• Turn – The swimmer must touch the wall with some part of the body.
• Swimmers will be disqualified if they take or step/walk on the bottom of the pool, although they can stop and stand still if necessary.
• Any stroke can be swum, generally it is front crawl
• Start – Feet or toes must not curl over any gutter
• Start & Turn – The swimmer must surface at or before 15m, and some part of the body must break the surface throughout the race (until the next turn or finish).
• Body position – Must remain on the back throughout the swim (shoulders must not go beyond vertical), except when executing a turn.
• Non continuous turning action. Gliding, kicking or pulling into a turn is not permitted. EXCEPT a continuous single or continuous simultaneous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn.
• Turn; forward roll – here the swimmer rolls onto the front, takes one stroke then the arms pull them into the turn. There must be no kicking once the arm pull has been completed, and no gliding. This turn must be continuous, and is frequently the reason for disqualification in backstroke.
• Swimmers must have returned to their backs upon leaving the wall. Do not get into habit of pushing off on side.
• Swimmers must practice counting how many arm strokes to do from the flags into the turn and at the finish andNOT look for the wall.
• Finish – Must be on the back, not having the shoulders past vertical (onto the front).
• Incorrect start or incorrect turn.
After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to their legs. Their head must break the surface of the water before their hands turn inwards at the widest part of their second stroke.
A single downward dolphin kick is permitted followed by one breaststroke leg kick while totally underwater.
Turn & Finish – Both hands must touch together.
• All arm and leg movements must be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane.
• Body position – the swimmer must remain on the breast.
• The hands shall not be brought back to the hips other than at the start and turns.
• 2 handed touch, swimmers must touch the wall at the turn and the finish with both hands simultaneously.
• Feet not dorsiflexed - The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive phase of the kick.
• Incorrect kick - No alternating, scissor or butterfly kicking is permitted.
• Taking two strokes under water at the start or on the turns.
• Arms not clearing. There should be air between the arms and the water surface throughout the race.
• Arms must be brought forward together and brought back simultaneously.
• Alternating legs. Legs must move together and remain in the same relative horizontal plane. (no alternating kick)
• Incorrect touch. Swimmers must touch the wall at the turn and the finish with both hands simultaneously.
• Order of swimming - butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.
• Make sure you use the correct finish for each stroke ie, fly – 2 handed touch, backstroke – on the back, breaststroke – 2 handed touch.
• Do not turn onto the front when performing a backstroke to breaststroke turn, must touch on back and then rotate over onto front.
Relays – In general
• Strokes – These are as per the rules of each stroke.
• Take Over – The incoming swimmer must touch the wall before the outgoing swimmer’s feet have left the block. There may be movement on the block, but the feet must not leave before the touch.
• Medley Relay – Must be in the correct stroke order – Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle. Freestyle means any stroke, except Backstroke, Breaststroke or Butterfly.
The ASA disqualification codes used in results represent the best effort of the person encoding the infraction reported by the judge or other official. Sometimes this requires the use of a code which doesn't exactly match the infraction, but has been chosen as being in some sense 'near'.
SW Ref Start
2.3.2 Delaying the start
4.4 Start before starting signal
5.2 Did not touch wall at the turn or finish
5.3 Totally submerged (except for first 15m at start and turn) during the race
Head did not break surface at or before 15m mark following start or turn
6.1 Both hands not holding starting grips or standing in or on the gutter or bending the toes over the lip of the gutter.
6.2 Left position on the back (other than to initiate a turn)
6.3 Totally submerged, (except for first 15m following the start or turn) during the race or at the finish
6.4 Did not touch the wall during the turn
More than one single or double simultaneous arm pull used to initiate the turn or not performed immediately.
Not on back when leaving wall
6.5 Not on the back at finish
7.1 Single butterfly kick not performed during the first arm stroke or not followed by a breaststroke kick
7.2 Body not on the breast during the swim or when leaving the wall after a turn (except when executing a turn)
Stroke cycle not one arm stroke to one leg kick excluding the last single arm stroke prior to the touch at the turn or finish
Arm movements not simultaneous or not in the same horizontal plane
7.3 Hands not pushed forward together from the breast on, under or over the water
Elbows over water except for last stroke before the turn, during the turn or the final stroke at the finish
Hands not brought back on or under the surface of the water
Hands brought back beyond the hip line (except after the first stroke following the start or turn)
7.4 Head not breaking surface before hands turn inward at widest point in second stroke after start or turn or during stroke cycle
Leg movements not simultaneous (alternating leg movement) or leg movements not on the same plane
7.5 Feet not turned out during the propulsive part of the kick
Executed alternating or downward dolphin kicks (except after the start or after the turn, as in SW 7.1)
7.6 Did not touch at turn or finish with both hands or touch not simultaneous or hands not separated
Head not breaking surface during the last complete or incomplete cycle preceding the touch
8.1 Body not on the breast during the swim or when leaving the wall after a turn (except when executing a turn)
8.2 Arms not brought forward simultaneously or arms not brought forward over the water
Arms not brought backward under the water simultaneously throughout the race (subject to SW 8.5)
8.3 Movements of the legs not simultaneous or alternating movement of legs or feet
Breaststroke kick used (legal in Masters Competitions)
8.4 Did not touch at turn or finish with both hands or touch not simultaneous or hands not separated
8.5 More than one arm pull under water (following start or turn)
Head did not break surface at or before 15m mark following start or turn or not on surface during stroke
9.1 Incorrect individual stroke order i.e. (Fly, Back, Breast, Free)
9.2 Incorrect medley relay stroke order i.e. (Back, Breast, Fly, Free)
9.3 Finish of each stroke not in accordance with rules for the particular stroke
The Race & Relays
10.2 A swimmer did not cover the whole distance - DNF
10.3 Swimmer did not remain and/or finish in the lane in which they started.
10.4 No contact with the wall during a turn or turn not made from the wall or took stride or step from bottom of the pool
10.5 Walks during freestyle events or during the freestyle portion of the medley
10.6 Pulled on the lane rope
10.7 Obstruction or interfering with another swimmer - foul
Unauthorised use of tape, device or swimsuit aiding speed, buoyancy or endurance, power bands or adhesive substances used
10.9 Swimmer enters water during an event in which they are not scheduled to swim
Fewer than four in a relay team or team not (2 x men, 2 x women) or team members not registered with same club (MSW 4.1)
10.11 Swimmer's feet lost touch with starting place before preceding team-mate touches
10.12 Team member enters water during race not to swim their length
10.13 Team event swum in incorrect order to that previously nominated
10.14 Obstructing another swimmer or team when leaving the pool following completion of a race or relay leg
10.16 Pacemaking, plan or device or instruction given
The club results reports note cases where a swimmer has been disqualified and, where possible, includes details of the reason for disqualification. The fact of disqualification is usually indicated on results pages by annotating the result with 'DQ' or with a more specific disqualification code.
If a swimmer is disqualified then he will be given no time on the results. Any time recorded by the timekeeper will not be treated as an official time and cannot be used as a qualifying time for any event. This a bit akin to goal in Football being disallowed for offside in that although the ball crossed the line no goal is counted in the actual score.
The disqualification codes used in results represent the best effort of the person encoding the infraction reported by the judge or other official. Sometimes this requires the use of a code which doesn't exactly match the infraction, but has been chosen as being in some sense 'near'.
The SportsSystems SQ codes are more complex than the other disqualification codes; in addition to encoding the infraction they also tell us on which length the infraction occurred and details of any appeal.
Apparently these codes have been adopted by European Swimming Writers.
The code is made up of three parts:
• The disqualification reason. This can be one of T (turn), FI (finish), S (stroke), ST (start), O (takeover), FO (fouling), L (wrong lane), M (midconduct) or E (equipment). Reason S has variants SA, SH and SL for faults in arms, head and legs respectively, while reason O has variant OM for an error in stroke change.
• The appeal status. This is usually blank, but may be A for appeal made and X for appeal disallowed.
• The length code. This is the number of the length on which the infraction occurred, followed by "L". In theory code "1L" should be used where the length is not known, but the length code is often omitted.
A detailed graphical explanation of the SportsSystems SQ codes can be found here. Some examples of the more common SSSQ reason codes for being disqualified are listed below.
DQ ST Moving at the Start.
Under the ASA Technical Rules of Racing (SW 4.4) any swimmer starting before the start signal has been given, shall be disqualified. If the starting signal sounds before the disqualification is declared, the race shall continue and the swimmer or swimmers shall be disqualified upon completion of the race, if the disqualification is declared before the starting signal, the signal shall not be given, but the remaining swimmers shall be called back and start again.
DQ T- Did not touch simultaneous at turn or finish.
In Breastroke a common cause of disqualification is if a competitor touches the wall with just one hand during the turn. Under the ASA Technical Rules of Racing (SW 7.6) at each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously at, above, or below the water level.
In Butterfly, ASA Technical Rules of Racing (SW 8.4) at each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously, at, above or below the water surface.
DQ-O Swimmer #2 started before swimmer #1 touched.
Relay changeovers are valid when the feet of the outgoing swimmer detach from the board at least 3/100 seconds after the fingers of the incoming swimmer touch the wall. If the outgoing swimmer moves too early, their team is disqualified.
DQ-SH A 3L Stroke - Head, Appeal made, 3rd Length
For example in Breastroke ASA Technical Rules of Racing (SW 7.4) states that during each complete cycle, some part of the swimmer’s head shall break the surface of the water.