Athlete Jumps Up Late - What's the Penalty?
By Dan McAllen // Former Chair, Rules and Regulations Committee
SITUATION: The Deck Referee blows a short series of whistles directing the swimmers to prepare to swim. All swimmers move behind their block except lane three who is missing. After checking for the missing swimmer without success, the Referee blows the long "step up" whistle. When the swimmers are up, the field is then turned over to the Starter who issues the "take your mark" command and, when all swimmers are stationary, sounds the device to start the race. Immediately thereafter an athlete jumps up on the empty lane three block and dives into the pool. The swimmer is, indeed, the one who had been seeded into lane three. What should the Deck Referee do, if anything?
RESOLUTION: Unfortunately, this highly unsafe situation occurs too often in meets, and yes, a penalty, albeit not a disqualification, is in order on these facts along with an admonition not to repeat the unsafe conduct. The penalty is to treat the athlete as a "no show". Clearly, he was not at the blocks ready to swim when the race was started. The administrative penalty for a "no show" means that for this athlete the swim never occurred. Thus, no time would be recorded for the swim, and any administrative penalties for a "no show" would also be applicable.
A variation on the above facts is the swimmer who jumps up on the block late either during or immediately before the "take your mark" command, but prior to the start signal. That generally requires an investigation on the part of the Deck Referee to determine what occasioned the late response. If the excuse is a good one (couldn't make it through the crowd) the starting sequence would then be repeated and the late arriving swimmer should not be penalized. However, if the excuse is a poor one (I was talking to my girlfriend who wants to break up with me) then a delay of meet disqualification would be appropriate as opposed to a “no show” penalty.