The erstwhile winner of the Women's 30-34 division of the 2016 Oklahoma ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, held September 24, has been suspended for 2 years by her national federation.
Ms. Stretton was first across the finish line in her age group (30-34). She was initially disqualified by ITU race officials for recording a swim time (55:27) that was considered to be incorrect. Ms. Stretton appealed the disqualification and it was overturned.
ITU raised concerns with TriNZ in late September, requesting verification of Ms. Stretton's ability to swim the recorded time.
TriNZ conducted an investigation and concluded that it could not justify the recorded time. This was communicated to ITU in October but ITU initially decided to let the result stand.
Ms. Stretton's hard-to-accept feat was first brought to the attention of Slowtwitch readers in a forum thread one month to the day after the race, which noted that her swim split outpaced the male pro swim winner Dylan McNeice by 1:18 and the first female swimmer, Jodie Swallow.
TriNZ was not in a position to overturn the result. However, in early November, it resolved to form a Disciplinary Commission to investigate the matter.
After a period of information gathering, a hearing was held on 12 December. Ms. Stretton elected not to attend.
Prior to the hearing, ITU subsequently reinstated Ms. Stretton's disqualification, basing that decision on a failure by Ms. Stretton to appeal the initial disqualification within the mandated timeframe.
However, as there had been no full consideration of events, the Commission considered it should proceed to assess whether the swim time recorded by Ms. Stretton was genuine, and if not, whether her actions amounted to a breach of TriNZ rules.
The Commission found that Ms. Stretton's swim time was not genuine and that she either acted deliberately to obtain such a time, or subsequent to completing the event she has refused to acknowledge the inaccuracy of a time which cannot be right. Whilst it was accepted that Ms. Stretton might be a strong swimmer, and whilst she might have been capable of swimming the distance swum at Oklahoma in that time, it was clear from the evidence that it was not possible for her to do so on that day.
Further, the Commission considered it likely that Ms. Stretton acted deliberately, given the absence of any explanation to the contrary.
The Commision found Ms. Stretton's actions to be in breach of TriNZ's Code of Conduct, Section 2.1(a) of the TriNZ Rules, Clause 8.4 of the TriNZ Constitution and Clause 1 of Ms. Stretton's athlete agreement as her actions amounted to a failure to be honest, to take responsibility for her actions, to practice good sportsmanship, and to abide by the rules of the sport. Further, her actions have brought TriNZ into disrepute both with OTU/ITU and with the triathlon community more generally.
The Commission has accordingly suspended Ms. Stretton for a period of 2 years.
During that time Ms. Stretton will not be permitted to be a member of TriNZ, any triathlon club affiliated to TriNZ, or to any other ITU affiliated club, nor will she be entitled to participate in any TriNZ sanctioned activities or activities sanctioned by any TriNZ or ITU members. This includes representing New Zealand at either an age group or elite level.
Arthur Klap, TriNZ president said:
“TriNZ welcomes the decision of the Commission. It is vital to the integrity of our sport that competitors can trust that if they are the best of the day, they will reap the rewards. Hopefully this decision will send a message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in age group racing. We are bitterly disappointed that a kiwi athlete has let us down on the international stage and we wish to congratulate the true Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal winners of the 30-34 age group at Oklahoma.”
[Note: The image above is not from the OK City race; rather an open water swim file photo.]