A talented 17-year-old swimmer at Anchorage’s Dimond High School in Alaska was disqualified after winning the 100m freestyle event on Friday night because the referee overseeing the swim meet said she had violated “uniform regulations.” The teen’s one-piece swimsuit had reportedly bunched up and was showing her “intergluteal cleft,” according to a report from Anchorage Daily News.
The disqualification was contested at the meet and drew immediate criticism. From the Anchorage Daily News:
Annette Rohde, who was working as an official at the dual meet between Dimond and Chugiak, said she “froze in disbelief” when she saw the disqualification decision by the meet referee, who has not been officially identified.
Rohde said she questioned the referee about it after the meet.
“I told her, ‘I need to know how you’re defining this, because this is going to blow up,’” Rohde said.
She said the official replied that the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’
South High coach Cliff Murray, a longtime swim coach, said at the beginning of the season that Anchorage high school coaches were told “that as far as the buttocks region goes, you should not be showing any part of the intergluteal cleft.” There is no reference to the intergluteal cleft in the national rulebook.
The Anchorage School District released a statement yesterday announcing an investigation into the disqualification:
ASD is reviewing the disqualification of a student athlete during the September 6 Dimond High School home swim meet. The disqualification appears to stem from a difference of opinion in the interpretation of the rules governing high school swim uniforms. Immediately after the disqualification, the Dimond HS swim coach filed a protest with the official to contest the decision. The coach’s protest was quickly denied at the meet, and we expect the coach to appeal. We intend to gather all the facts surrounding the disqualification so we can accurately address the matter with officials and take appropriate action to ensure fair, equitable competition and consistent application of the rules for this athlete and her peers.
Lauren Langford, a swim coach at a nearby high school, published a post on Medium about the incident. She said that the swimmer in question was wearing a school-issued swimsuit, the same suit that all the other girls on the team were wearing, none of whom received a violation. Langford called out racist motives as well, saying that the swimmer’s sisters had been similarly targeted:
This young lady and her sisters are being targeted not for the way they wear their suits but for the way those suits fit their curvier, fuller figured bodies. The issue has come so far unraveled that parents in opposition of these girls and their swimwear have been heard saying that for the sake of their sons, the mother of these young ladies should cover up her daughters. Talk about thrusting modern women back into an era in which men were never held accountable for their behavior! [...] Some will argue this has nothing to do with race, but when the same officials targeting these girls have been heard saying that so-and-so white girl also shows too much skin but has never been disqualified for a similar violation the racial facet of this issue cannot be ignored.
Last September, according to a timeline of events provided by the Anchorage School District, a swim team parent went so far as to take photos of the teenager at a swim meet and then send them to others to provide evidence of inappropriate swim attire. The school district said that “the assistant principal indicated to the parent who took the photographs that it was not permissible for him to take pictures of others’ children and that he should stop immediately.”
Langford told the Washington Post that the swimmer has even been accused of hiking her swimsuit up on purpose. “The fact that she’s been told she’s intentionally trying to draw this sexual attention has really crushed her.”
According to KTUU, the swimmer’s mother “wants her daughter’s disqualification overturned, her victory restored, and the referee they’ve had conflicts with to stay away from officiating her girls’ races.”
Update (Sept. 11, 8:50 a.m. ET): After Anchorage School District concluded their review of the disqualification, it concluded yesterday that the swimmer was targeted unfairly and sent an appeal to the Alaska School Activities Association. ASD said in a statement:
Following our review of the September 6 disqualification of a Dimond High School swimmer, to include interviews of multiple witnesses, the Anchorage School District has concluded that our swimmer was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body. We cannot tolerate discrimination of any kind, and certainly not based on body shape. This disqualification was heavy-handed and unnecessary.
Less than an hour after receiving the appeal, the ASAA decided to reverse the disqualification and return all points to the team, KTUU reported. It has not decided on whether to decertify the referee or whether to suspend the suit coverage rule.