USAT Members: Before You Vote

USA Triathlon members are now asked to vote on a number of bylaw changes, and in all probability the membership will approve these changes. Why? Because the Board is advocating for these changes; USAT is the only entity that has access to its entire membership mailing list; and the election text does not contain a dissenting opinion to its proposed Bylaw changes.

USAT’s text advocating for the changes sounds reasonable. Readers will vote yes because they’re asked to vote yes, and there will be no obvious reason to vote no.

But I think members, were they able to hear the dissenting voice, would at least pause before voting. Let me be that dissenting voice.

First let me tell you about your Federation and about your Board. USA Triathlon is one of the very best national federations in Colorado Springs. There is not the whiff of scandal about this organization; the only time there has been a scandal is when bad forces acted badly and good forces prevailed; it is always financially solid; one of its athletes just produced an Olympic Gold Medal (and they only give out two per Olympics); and the Board works hard, tirelessly, and without pay.

What this Board wants with its proposed Bylaw changes is what every board, every elected official, every political organization, and every corporation wants: autonomy and lack of burdensome oversight. It wants to do its work, without interference, and without unreasonable disclosure requirements. Who wouldn’t?

Still, I have some issues with these Bylaw changes.

First, this federation has always been different than any other. It earns its money not from huge Nike or Under Armor or Adidas sponsorships. It earns its money from its members. You. The person spending the money (you) ought to know what’s going on that money, and ought to have some say in how it’s spent.

Second, the USOC wants Olympic medals. It is USAT’s biggest single customer. The USOC gives several hundred thousand dollars a year. So who do you think USAT is going to listen to? Still, in the aggregate you give (depending on the year) perhaps 20 times what USOC pays. That big USOC check talks and in part because of this USA Triathlon, which began as a race director cooperative, is now more a manufacturer of Olympic and world championship medals than anything else. This begets the question: Is there now, today, enough energy spent on age group racing?

If you’d have asked me that in 2012 I’d have said yes. But in my opinion (and I do have data supporting my opinion) the sport has lost competitors every year since 2012, at least in America. Meaning, 2016 saw fewer triathletes in the U.S. than in 2015, which saw fewer than in 2014.

Therefore, I think it’s fair to ask this question of focus today, and if the Board and the Bylaws and the transparency requirements are bent in favor of Olympic development and away from dependence on the average “shareholder” then I don’t know if that question of focus on everyday, everyman racing ever gets adequately asked, or answered.

When you vote, bear these things in mind. Should the USOC’s gravity bend the Bylaws toward how it would prefer them to read? Should the federation’s legendary requirement for transparency be scrapped, and replaced with,

USA Triathlon believes that prompt and complete disclosure to the membership and the public at large of a wide variety of information on USA Triathlon decisions and activities is a critical feature of good governance?

(The Federation has attempted to water down the Sunshine Policy before and if this is voted down I suppose it'll just come up for a vote again.)

I don’t know. Your choice. Your vote. I know you “do this sport for fun, to get away from all these serious questions.” I get it. I’ve so often gotten it I’ve hesitated even to write this.

But you never know about these things, so, I ask those of you annual members who will exercise your membership rights to consider the above as data points when casting your vote.