by Cambree Bernkopf
During a swim meet in Anchorage September 6, the female official disqualified a 17-year-old Dimond High School student who had just won a 100-meter freestyle race on the opinion that the seat of her swimsuit was exposing too much of her behind. This has added fuel to the controversy over the rules of female athletes’ bodies. A swimming coach who is a friend of the girl’s family told TIME she believes that the girl stands out only because she is “fuller-figured.” Many people find the call made by the official to be “ridiculous.” So where do we draw the line between a sport dress code and body shaming?
The Federation’s uniform rules say that girls’ swimsuits should “cover the buttocks and breasts.” The Federation also issued a memorandum on swimsuits in August, which said that there was a “trend” of female swimmers wearing their suits inappropriately. Some of the new rules may sound unclear to some and in fact, most swimmers have at least part of their behind exposed.
Shorts, swimsuits, spandex, and other athletic gear can shift during physical activity so where do you draw the line? Joey Caterinichio, a national official for USA Swimming, says that Alaska School Activities Association implemented the uniform rule last year, and the disqualification policy was put in place this year. She also adds that she’s been pressing the Alaska Association to eliminate the rule because it’s far too subjective, and puts an undue emphasis on students’ bodies. Former gymnastics coach Rhodes says, “You can’t make a call like that just because you don’t like the way the suit is sitting on their body.”
The Anchorage School District announced Tuesday that it is overturning the disqualification and giving back the team’s lost points. The district has also removed the official’s certification, and will suspend the swimsuit coverage rule moving forward. It is extremely hard to draw the line between was is appropriate and inappropriate. It could all come down to an official’s view on teenagers bodies.