Ryan Lochte‘s new swimming technique coming off the wall for the final 50 meters of freestyle in the 200m individual medley, which he used to win the World Championship on Aug. 6, has been outlawed by FINA, the sport’s international governing body.
At Worlds, before FINA ruled it illegal, Lochte swam on his back while turning off the wall switching from breaststroke to freestyle, while everyone else stayed more or less on their belly. He debuted the technique this summer.
“I’ve never heard a rule saying that you can’t do that, but I think they’re going to start changing the rules now,” Lochte told Michele Tafoya on Universal Sports after his fourth straight World title in the event. “I took that chance tonight going into it. They said you might get disqualified.”
One month later, FINA announced an interpretation to its rules that will make Lochte’s turn illegal during individual medleys but not during freestyle-only races.
“Being on the back when leaving the wall for the Freestyle portion of the Ind. Medley is covering more than one quarter of the distance in the style of Backstroke and is, therefore, a disqualification,” FINA said Monday. “Backstroke swimming is only defined as being on the back.”
It’s unclear how much the technique benefited Lochte compared to the rest of the field in the 200m individual medley final Aug. 6.
Lochte won by a comfortable .84 of a second. It’s unlikely he would have given up gold with a more conventional turn off the last wall. His split time for the final 50 meters, which included the now-illegal technique for the first 10 meters or so, was second fastest in the field of eight men.
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