It's official: Hawaiian Ironman athletes test clean
December 4, 2006
Valyermo, California (Slowtwitch News Service™)

After weeks of speculation it was much ado about nothing. All athletes tested "in competition" at the Hawaiian Ironman came out negative for doping.

Over the past several weeks rumors circulated -- which emanated from triathlon's world governing body, the ITU -- that at least one positive test occurred at the Hawaiian Ironman. The ITU followed this revelation with a statement saying an athlete from their own testing pool, caught out of competition, returned an adverse finding but, upon further review, the athlete was found to be negative.

Many questions remain unanswered about the incident. The UCLA anti-doping lab (almost certainly the lab to have done any testing at Kona) has refused repeated questions about which Kona test results were faxed to the ITU. Were they they in-event testing results? Were they results from an out-of-competition test, as the ITU claims? Or did the UCLA lab send all test results to the ITU, including those it should not have sent?

Also, WADA has refused to answer whether it has apprised the various WADA labs not to send any results to the ITU unless they are among the group of races the ITU has agreed to oversee.

Further, WADA has declined comment regarding how drug test information routing is to be handled, since triathlon alone among Olympic sports is without one over-arching governing body. And, does WADA consider the ITU's mention of this positive test -- which appeared to elevate the image of ITU athletes at the expense of another race organization's athletes -- a breach of WADA's privacy demands?

Finally, there is the curious question of "false positives," which have been found to occur multiple times annually at Ironman as well as shorter distance events. World Triathlon Corporation proclaimed that, "All top ten male and female finishers were tested and there were no adverse analytical findings (AAFs)." But, according to WADA's nomenclature, any positive A sample is an AAF. According to USADA, an AAF is something else -- it's a "positive" only after any mitigating factors are considered. What definition of "adverse analytical finding" was used when describing the Kona in-competition test? And, as might be expected, WADA will not even comment on the disparity between the various definitions of an "AAF" between itself and its daughter organizations around the world. Neither will USADA, the daughter organization in America.

While the news of no positives is good for the sport of triathlon, for its athletes, and for Kona's race organizer, every entity involved in the chain of drug testing and results management has left questions unanswered. This generates yet another question: whether the triathlon world can close the book on drugs and triathlon during the 2006 racing season.

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Story behind Hawaiian Ironman drug rumor revealed
November 16, 2006
Valyermo, California (Slowtwitch News Service™)

Over the last 48 hours news of drug positives in Kona -- triathlon's marqui event -- whirled through the sport, lighting up internet message boards.  The name or names of any athletes, and the class of drugs, were not revealed, only that there were one or more "positives" at the Ironman World Championship race.

Both USA Triathlon and the World Triathlon Corporation (the Ironman's owners) strenuously contended that the results had not been released yet by USADA, the testing authority for the Ironman. Who, then, would be in a position to know of a positive?

According to WADA's code, when a positive result occurs, the lab performing the test sends word to WADA; to the sport's international federation; and to the "testing authority." Such news had to come from the lab directly or from one of these entities.

Following the trail of those who'd heard of the "positive" led, in each case, to New Zealand, the final leg of the ITU World Cup, where American Andy Potts for the second time leveraged his superior swim to a victory over a top ITU field. Suspicion gravitated to the sport's world governing body, the International Triathlon Union, where many its leaders were encamped during the most recent weekend. 

Then one elite triathlete, remaining anonymous for the present, confirmed to Slowtwitch on the telephone and via email that he heard about a positive test directly from the ITU's president, Les McDonald: "There were four of us there, who heard him when he said it, including my manager."

Slowtwitch then contacted the ITU directly and spoke to its doping director, Leslie Buchanan. Queried about rumors coming from athletes of three adverse analytical results from the Ironman, and that "these athletes heard it from Les," Buchanan was surprisingly open about the positive results: "I heard that from Les this morning, but I heard it as, 'at least one positive test.'" Slowtwitch has since received confirmation of at least one positive in Kona from additional ITU employees and executives.

World Triathlon Corporation has, as stated, no knowledge of a positive result, and insists that the tests are not completed. The WTC got this information from USADA, which ordered the tests and managed the doping for the Kona race.  How could USADA, which gets the results concurrently with the ITU, hold to a different story?

It all pivots on what you call a "positive." USADA routinely omits mention of any positive test until its "results management" process is complete.  This includes matching up adverse findings against therapeutic use exemptions (provisional allowance of certain classes of otherwise illegal drugs, such as asthma inhalers).  The results management process also often moots other "positives," such as high testosterone-to-epitestosterone (T/E) ratios that are found to be naturally occurring in an athlete’s body.

Not only must this process run to completion before WTC would know of a positive test, a race promoter is not routinely among the entities immediately notified upon the generation of an adverse finding.  WADA Code does not specify that the sport's national governing body in which the event took place (USA Triathlon) or the event promoter be notified.  USAT would not be notified until the results management process is complete, and it would in turn notify the event promoter.

But the raw data -- the adverse finding prior to results management -- is routinely sent to the sport’s international federation (IF), meaning USADA and the ITU would get such notice from the lab concurrently. 

Muddying the situation is that, in the particular case of this year's Hawaiian Ironman, there is no IF.  By act of its own Congress, the ITU elected in 2004 to dissociate itself from a large swathe of races, and no longer be the international federation of any events under the umbrella of Ironman, Powerman, XTerra, and Lifetime Fitness.  Specifically the resolution read:

"Therefore be it resolved that in agreement with WADA, ITU is not responsible for any item related to the above mentioned competitions, but most particularly matters related to WADA."

This provides a clue to why the ITU may be less circumspect in talking about Kona's adverse analytical result(s). Does the ITU consider itself at greater leisure to talk about doping resuts at events for which it is not the IF?  Buchanan was asked whether the 2005 resolution absolved the ITU from the privacy elements embedded in The Code. Her answer, specific to the comments McDonald made about Kona's positive doping test, was, "Les said it, and you'd have to talk to him."

The ITU's Executive Director, Loreen Barnett, addressed the question. "These results from Kona are frustrating for us," Ms. Barnett said, "and Les spoke about them only in the context of the preconception these races generate -- the press reports that we're fighting against." Ms. Barnett was alluding to WADA's 2005 report showing triathlon as near the top of Olympic sports in the rate adverse findings.

"We're trying to differentiate ourselves from the races we do not control," Ms. Barnett continued, but as regards McDonald's open discussion of these adverse findings, she stressed that, "We do not know the names of the athletes generating the adverse findings. We just know the numbers, and that the findings occurred."

What seems without question is that the ITU considers itself entirely out of the anti-doping loop when it comes to Ironman.  The athlete to whom McDonald is said to have confided the positive result(s) said, "Les told me the results were sent to him by mistake."

Buchanan herself put it this way: "I just got in from New Zealand, I haven't gone through my mail.  But I'll send it back to [the lab] and tell them it’s not our test…. these are not our athletes."

Slowtwitch apprised WADA of the ITU's Ironman-opt-out resolution in August of this year and, as one reads the resolution, the ITU claims to have kept WADA abreast of its decision not to be the IF for Ironman events.  In an email interview with WADA's director general David Howman in August, Howman was reminded that, "The International Triathlon Union has, by act of its own congress … orphaned elements of triathlon that include the World Triathlon Corporation."

Howman wrote back that, "We do not direct any International Federation to have control over events which do not fall within its jurisdiction."

What seems to have happened, in this case, is a disconnect between the ITU's view of its scope of governance versus that of WADA and its labs.  Is privacy, a key tenet in WADA's Code, respected given the current mechanics of information routing?  Under WADA's Code an accredited WADA lab must notify the sport's IF of a positive result.

But if the ITU is not -- or chooses to consider itself not -- the world governing body for much of triathlon, and if WADA knows this (which it clearly did), did WADA send out a circular to its labs informing them not to notify the ITU of positive results generated at an Ironman?   Either it did not, or the UCLA lab ignored any such notice.

WADA did email us regarding this issue, and its media relations manager, Frederic Donze, offered, "WADA conducted some out of competition doping controls prior to the event on athletes who are part of the ITU registered testing pool or who have participated in the past in ITU-sanctioned events. These controls were conducted by WADA on behalf of the ITU, and ITU is responsible for results management."

But if these results were those belonging to the ITU, and not those ordered by USADA, why did McDonald say, according to the elite athlete to whom he spoke, "We got these by mistake."? And why did Buchanan say, "I'll send it back to [the lab] and tell them it’s not our test... these are not our athletes."?

Whether or not WADA's labs are still sending all triathlon's results to the ITU, that's not where the information routing issue ends.   If USADA finds the result is generated by an athlete from outside the U.S., it now matches up the numbers and names of the test and the athlete and refers the result to, yes, the world governing body.  How many national testing authorities in which an Ironman, Powerman or XTerra event occurs still consider the ITU the IF for triathlon, and route positive results through that organization?  There are roughly 175 such entities worldwide and it is anyone's guess how many understand that although the ITU is the only triathlon IF, it is not the IF for many of triathlon's best-known events.

To understand the breadth of the issues at play it may be instructive to consider certain drug-related histories of the Kona race.  The Belgian athlete Rutger Beke, who finished fourth in the most recent Hawaiian Ironman, was found to have naturally occurring EPO that generates a positive drug result.  Ironically, Beke arguably must now produce a positive test as proof of his innocence.  But if the WADA lab were simply to send out the raw adverse analytical finding -- whether to the ITU, or WADA, or to the testing authority, without names attached -- whomever gets this test result simply sees a positive test for EPO absent the data available to a results management team.

Further, Slowtwitch has learned that an elite racing at a North American Ironman event tested positive for a high T/E ratio, but it was determined that his or hers is a naturally occurring ratio.  It is quite possible that this athlete, if tested in Kona, generated the same result. But again, the raw adverse finding is sent by the lab to an entity without results management duties, with no name or explanation attached, and it simply looks like testosterone abuse.

There is also to be considered the therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs).  Certain drugs, such as asthma inhalers, are prohibited except when the athlete has a demonstrated need.  The athlete can apply for a TUE, and these are generally held by each country’s drug authority, and by the International Federation.  But according to the ITU it does not catalogue the TUEs of those athletes it considers not under its purview.  So, a positive test for salbutamol, or cortisone, might be mooted by a TUE, but the ITU would not be in a position to know this if the athlete is not part of the ITU's testing pool.

The ITU's motive, as expressed by the ITU's Barnett, is a laudable one. But through McDonald's discussing Kona's adverse findings in order to distance his organization from a doping cloud, there is an irony. Any news of a positive result in Kona, simply based on the raw adverse finding, might lead to misleading assumptions about the state of drug taking among Kona's athletes. This is the concern of WTC's president, Ben Fertic, who thinks the outing of any raw data, absent the benefit of results management, is wrong and a breach of WADA's privacy code.

"Any breach of confidentiality is bad for the race promoter and for the athlete," said Fertic.  "Any heresay is bad for the sport.  We all -- the ITU, WTC -- are signatories of the Code, and ought to abide by its privacy requirements."

Sources from USAT and from WTC, speaking on background, have heard from USADA that no athlete has yet been contacted regarding an adverse finding.  This tilts the odds in the direction of no actual drug violation occurring at this year's Hawaiian Ironman. But nobody disputes that there is still time for an adverse finding to make its way to an athlete's suspension.

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Ironman, ITU settle things at CAS
May 9, 2006
Valyermo, California (Slowtwitch News Service™)

On the eve of a hearing scheduled before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) the ITU, Triathlon's world governing body, and WTC, owners of the Ironman Triathlon, have settled their differences.

The upshot of the settlement, under stipulated court order from CAS, is as follows:

1. The ITU will no longer restrict its members from sanctioning WTC events.

2. WTC-licensed events will not be forced to seek a sanction, should it choose not to do so in certain countries.

3. The Ford Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Clearwater, Florida will remain a "self-declared" world championship.

4. The 1998 settlement agreement between WTC and the ITU is valid and enforceable, and WTC is in good standing under the agreement.

5. WTC has the right to establish regional championships. Ironman Germany has undergone a designation change, and is "Ironman European Championship." The ITU, like all sport federations, jealously guards these sorts of designations, and claims the exclusive right to award them. But this agreement allows WTC to grant its own regional designations.

Both sides distributed short and guarded statements. The ITU's release characterised it as follows: "Viewed neither as a victory nor a defeat by either party, the ITU no longer restricts its member federations from sanctioning WTC events."

That said, it appears the ITU peered into the abyss and stepped back from the cliff. The CAS hearing was high risk and low reward for the ITU, which has little interest in the Ironman and half-Ironman distance, and lost its key ally in the suit when USA Triathlon settled its differences with WTC. Further, USAT was actually obligated to come to the defense of WTC, its sanctioner.


It's hard to imagine what WTC would've wanted out of the hearing that it didn't get out of this settlement. But this agreement does not answer all outstanding questions. What of the Global Triathlon Group, that entity promising global rules at all WTC events? In point of fact, the settlements with USAT and the ITU appears to have rendered the GTG moot and that organization appears to no longer exist.

But the work accomplished by the GTG is to be going forward. All has been incorporated in the move toward what comes next, and that has been largely altered by the recent Ironman Arizona experience, where a new set of penalty boxes and colored cards seems to have worked satisfactorily, according to WTC sources.

The WTC, according to those interviewed, is still very motivated to have a single set of rules in play at all its events. A significant element in this move toward global rules is WTC's ability to put on a race without a sanction, should one or more countries prove unwilling to accede to the WTC's rulebook.

The GTG's head referee, Jim Riccitello, will reportedly act in that capacity, under the banner of USAT, at all Ironman North America events, as well as a lot of domestic 70.3 races. He is also reportedly in demand to train officials at federations in countries hosting Ironman licensed events.

It also seems shrewd of the Tarpon Springs group that it had CAS bless and enforce the agreement, because it's clear the ITU didn't think twice about testing the limits of the agreement it signed with the WTC in 1998.

The settlement appears to have cleared the path for WTC. In light of last week's events, one wonders whether there is a legal argument stopping WTC from coming out with an Ironman World Championship 32.1?

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Ironman and USAT are again brothers in arms
March 27, 2006
Valyermo, California (Slowtwitch News Service™)

Ending nine months of bad blood and dueling "federation-like" organizations, Ironman's World Triathlon Corporation and USA Triathlon—America's governing body for triathlon—have patched things up. Starting in June, all WTC-affiliated races in America will again be USAT-sanctioned, according to a statement expected to be released later today.

A source close to the negotiations said that, "Ironman and 70.3 races are going to use a combination of ITU and WTC rules. Any rule dispensations will be received a year in advance for review and if an agreement can't be met on them, a 3-person arbitration panel will make the decision so that another split doesn't occur again over rules."

Healing this rift will bolster the value in USAT's age-group rankings. As for those athletes taking part in pre-June races that are WTC-affiliated, "Any member can retroactively have the [Ford Oceanside] 70.3 race and Ironman Arizona count towards their ranking," the source said.

This rapproachment is only between the two American parties, USAT and WTC. There is still a worldwide ban, imposed by the ITU, prohibiting national federations from sanctioning WTC races. This ban was imposed at the Gamagori, Japan, ITU Congress, held last September. Technically, this ban prohibits USAT from entering into this sanctioning agreement.

Ironically, this worldwide ban was spawned by a fight between the same two entities who today pledge to work together. The ban was originally published only on USAT's website. Though USAT got this ban rolling, it doesn't seem able to stop it—at least not yet.

The USAT position appears to be that its (then) new executive director, Skip Gilbert, was unaware of a 1998 agreement between WTC and the ITU, granting the WTC certain World Championship naming rights, as well as other privileges. "Had he known specifically about it," said a source close to USAT, "he would not have endorsed the Gagamori resolution."

This places the USAT in a much more familiar position. It has historically sided with WTC in its battles with the ITU. As a result of this sanctioning agreement, expect the USAT to again be at odds—at least on this issue—with Les McDonald, the controversial head of the ITU.

There is a showdown looming in April, in the form of an arbitration hearing between WTC and the ITU, at the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS), in Lausanne, Switzerland. USAT can now be called as a witness for either side, but this new agreement means USAT is bound to be much more sympathetic to the WTC side than it would have otherwise been.

Several questions remain unanswered. The exact rules of competition for WTC-affiliated events are still in question. Are there going to be stand-downs? What about time penalties versus penalty laps and boxes?

Drug testing is also high on WTC's list, and was one of several issues leading to WTC's setting up its own quasi-sanctioning Global Triathlon Group. Prior to this agreement WTC had pledged to drug-test at all its North American Ironman-distance events. Coming under the USAT banner means USAT will certainly take the drug-testing responsibility from WTC. USAT, along with the USOC, would determine the scope of drug-testing at US-based events. It is unknown at this time what changes this will mean for drug testing at American Ironman events.

Also unknown is the fate of the naming status of the 70.3 championship race in Clearwater, Florida, this September. Much of the steam behind any ITU worldwide sanctioning ban goes away were the WTC to alter the name of its "Ford Ironman World Championship 70.3." The series has been a worldwide hit, and its 70.3 championship race probably would not suffer if called by another name. It is not known, however, whether WTC is seriously considering a change of this event's name.

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Ironman World Championship to move from Hawaii?
March 2, 2006
Valyermo, California (Slowtwitch News Service™)

Rumors that the World Triathlon Corporation could conceivably move its World Ironman Championship out of Kona have, as it turns out, at least some small basis in fact.  WTC’s head of public relations, Blair LaHaye, did acknowledge that other cities have been dangling tempting offers to the Tarpon Springs, Florida, firm, hoping to lure triathlon’s crown jewel.

WTC questions Kona’s commitment to keeping Ironman’s World Championship in Kona, and whether the relationship is symmetrical, according to a source close to WTC.  A conflict with a visiting cruise ship, forcing a change in the already-published race date for the 2006 Ironman, is emblematic of the hiccups in the relationship.

"The race date change was a snag," admitted LaHaye, "but this must be set against the backdrop of a healthy, long standing relationship. We are always looking for ways to further grow our partnership with the Kona community."

The honorable Harry Kim, not just mayor of the 40,000-person hamlet of Kailua-Kona, but of the entire Big Island and its 170,000 inhabitants, wants to make sure the owners of the Ironman World Championship understand Kona’s loyalty and affection for the Ironman. Mayor Kim was asked about the race date change and other issues gnawing at WTC.  "Is it a case of people talking past each other?" Kim was asked.  "Or a miscommunication?  Or has the city outgrown the race?"

"All of the above except the last," was the Mayor’s reply.

"I've been mayor for the past 5 years," Mayor Kim continued.  "I've attended three out of the five [Ironman events].  My daughter-in-law completed it.  I have never, ever heard any complaints from the community as mayor, as father-in-law, or in any capacity...

"...except in the area of traffic concerns," the mayor continued.  "We have to be sure the bicyclists are safe.  And motorists are aware.  But this is customary in any event of this type.

"As to the postponement of the event for a week, this was just total miscommunication.  I could not believe that something so important as this, for the Island, for the community, for the corporation, would come to this.

As to the postponement, this was "...strictly a relationship between WTC and the state [The Department of Land and National Resources manages the harbor]. I heard of it after it was resolved.  But I did wonder, wouldn't it have been easier to postpone the ship?"

While it is not known where the race might end up, should it ever in fact leave Kona, it is known where the race will not be held.  "There is only one World Championship in Florida," stated LaHaye, "and that is the new Ford Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Clearwater."

Nor will it be a rotating championship.  Were the race to be moved, it would be situated in a new, more or less permanent, locale.

While the moving of the event would cause certain disruption in the triathlon community, any consideration of a venue change would not be entirely negative.  Considering WTC's obvious commitment to a fairly contested bike course, a venue offering a more variable topography would not be unwelcome.

All this aside, LaHaye stressed that WTC’s clear intention is for the race to stay in Kona.  "We love Kona, we respect this event’s tradition, and our choice is for the race to stay right where it is," said LaHaye. 

The Big Island’s mayor concurs.  "The county has supported it, the community supported it, and we want it.  Not one email, phone call, not any member of this island, the chamber, not anyone has ever asked in the five years I've been here, 'Do we need this race?'  How can I be any more clear than that?"

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ITU's worldwide ban on WTC illegal?
September 20, 2005
Valyermo, California (Slowtwitch News Service™)

According to a key legal document, the ITU's apparent worldwide ban on WTC races appears to violate an Agreement signed by the ITU, USAT and WTC. The Agreement was executed in 1998.

This Agreement, ending a lawsuit between plaintiff WTC and co-defendants USAT and the ITU, affords WTC expressed rights. These include the ability to sanction its events in countries around the world, should such sanction be sought. From the Agreement:

VI. TRIATHLON RACE SANCTIONS (A).

"ITU shall not in any way influence nor adopt any rule or policy, whether written or unwritten, prohibiting the issuance of a sanction by any member national federation to World Triathlon Corporation for any of its Ironman races..."

The Agreement goes on to address (V) SELF-DECLARED WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS:

"ITU hereby acknowledges and recognizes that the Ironman Triathlon World Championship does not constitute a "self-proclaimed" or a "self-declared" world triathlon championship within the meaning of any applicable ITU rule or policy."

However, a press release issued by USA Triathlon, published on both USAT's and the ITU's website, says, "[ITU] nations unanimously passed a resolution to no longer sanction Ironman races." The ban itself is expressed in the final words of the resolution: "ITU members [may] not sanction any event attached to the World Triathlon Corporation (Ironman)." (Full resolution text.)

USAT's press release announcing the resolution contains language that appears to ignore WTC's right, as expressed in the Agreement, to declare world championships. From USAT press release:

"The International Olympic Committee and national governments have developed a set of rules and regulations to give national federations the exclusive rights to host national championships in their counties and for international federations to host world championships.

The WTC has ignored that policy by creating a world championship series for its Ironman distance race and a new series of half-Ironman distance races."

It is noteworthy that the only reference to the resolution published on ITU's website was simply a reprint of USAT's resolution. Skip Gilbert, contacted last Friday after the resolution had passed, had not seen a written agreement between the ITU and WTC, and was told by ITU sources, "the agreement may only be oral."

This begs the question, did ITU president Les McDonald, a signatory to the Agreement, allow USAT and its executive director to climb out onto an unsustainable limb? Was ITU's muted response to the resolution (publishing only USAT's press release on its website, some days after the resolution passed) a passive admittal to the resolution's lack of teeth? ITU's staff is on its way back from the Beijing World Cup and is unavailable for comment.

If USAT's Gilbert did not know of the Agreement, he did not know that USAT was a party to it. USAT's signatory, then-USAT-president Jonathon Grinder, is no longer involved in federation politics. USAT's executive director at the time, Steve Locke, is no longer serving in any capacity at USAT. It appears no one at USAT told Gilbert that such a written Agreement exists.

Does the new 70.3 World Championship abrogate this Agreement? According to WTC's Blaire LaHaye, the official name of this race is the "Ford Ironman World Championship 70.3." This appears to be tactical branding, as the Agreement expressly allows WTC to use the term, "Ironman World Championship," and does not specify a distance.

The Agreement also names the Court for Arbitration in Sport as having jurisdiction. While WTC's president, Ben Fertic, would not say that application to this body is his next step, he stipulated that, yes, it is CAS that the Agreement says must hear such a dispute.

But would CAS hear a dispute between two parties, if only one of them is part of the federation system? Technically, it should not. It might require the grievance to be brought by an entity seeking a sanction, assuming such sanction was denied.

One scenario is for WTC to fax a copy of the Agreement, and its intention to follow WADA drug testing guidelines, to each of the 16 federations from which it might seek a sanction. Such documents might afford federations the political cover to do what many appear to want to do anyway, that is, grant the sanction and accept the funds such sanctions generate.

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ITU smacks down Ironman with a worldwide ban on sanctioning
September 13, 2005
Gamagori, Japan (Slowtwitch News Service™)

In the time it takes to cast a unanimous vote, triathlon's world governing body gave the Ironman Triathlon owners a worldwide face slap.

In the wake of WTC's decision to not seek a sanction for its five American Ironman races, "International Triathlon Union member nations unanimously passed a resolution to no longer sanction Ironman races," according to a press release sent out by USA Triathlon, the national governing body for triathlon in the U.S.

"the International Triathlon Union," continued USAT's press release, "stated that the WTC’s move threatens the integrity of sports’ national federations and replaces the focus of building sport participation and exposure with a revenue-generating model to turn profits," according to a USA Triathlon press release.

"We must protect our collective interests," the release quote ITU President Les McDonald as saying.

While there is no mention of this vote on the ITU's website, USAT reports that the vote was unanimous, and that "the ability for WTC to place races in many ITU-member countries will be significantly hampered," continued the USAT release. "Without the support of the national federation, host countries may not be able to secure government funding and insurance for individual events."

"We appreciate and applaud the global support of our actions against WTC,” said USA Triathlon CEO Skip Gilbert, according to his organization's release. "They are making a mockery of the basic organizational parameters of global sports and their profit-driven motives will ultimately destroy the developmental pipeline that triathlon and all sports need to remain in the Olympic program."

It remains to be seen whether the lack of a mention on ITU's website is indicative of a noteworthy posture, or whether the ITU will simply elect to wait for any mention of such a resolution until the congress minutes are ready to be posted.

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WTC bolts from USAT, will self-sanction from now on
June 12, 2005
Tarpon Springs, FL (Slowtwitch News Service™)

World Triathlon Corporation is set to announce a split with USA Triathlon, the national governing body for triathlon in the United States. The producer of the Hawaiian Ironman, and license bestower to all Ironman events and products worldwide, will release a statement sometime next week, according to WTC president Ben Fertic.

As of now the Hawaiian Ironman will not be a USA Triathlon sanctioned race, and at some point in the future neither will any of the other North American Ironman races, barring an agreement between WTC and USAT. The issues are several, and include race rules, drug testing, and insurance. Those competing in Ironman races worldwide will henceforth see a difference at the events they enter.

Most apparent and impactful of these differences are rules changes. Ironman has established its own set of rules, applied to both pro and age group alike, to be in force at all Ironman races worldwide. The testing ground for these rules was at the Honu half-Ironman in Hawaii this past weekend.

At the Honu race and henceforth, pro and age-group competitors will all race under the same rules, and will all receive a momentary stand-down when given a penalty. Drafting is the only infraction, however, that will carry with it a time penalty, such penalty to be served in the penalty box after the bike ride.

USA Triathlon and WTC have a slightly different view of whether the sanction was granted. WTC routinely asks for rules exemptions for its races, such waivers having always been granted. This time, USAT says it agreed to 14 of WTC’s 15 rule changes, but the 15th was, to Fertic, elemental to his rules strategy. USAT was set to grant the sanction only as long as WTC did not insist on this final exemption. WTC considered this a denial of the sanction.

The exemption that USAT did not allow actually has two elements. USAT would not allow stand-downs for age-group athletes, as this was a road hazard, according to USAT. Indeed, twice in Kona this past year, and once during Ironman Florida in 2002, such stand-down incidents resulted in accidents. WTC believes this potential hazard is mitigated by proper officials training, and is a bedrock disagreement between WTC and USAT.

The second element that USAT will not countenance is the on-course serving of time penalties. USAT feels that this short-circuits an athlete’s due process, because the officials do not have the opportunity to review the penalty prior to its implementation. WTC feels it's better to have the penalty given on the spot, so that an athlete has the opportunity to know where he or she stands during the race (as has been the case with pro athletes in Ironman competitions).

Not yet answered is when, and at what races, these new rules will be implemented. Ironman Couer d’Alene comes up in two weeks.

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What led to WTC’s decision to separate from USAT?
June 12, 2005
Tarpon Springs, FL (Slowtwitch News Service™)

Relations between USAT and WTC have been frayed for years, as the two sides have not been in agreement as to what the rules should be, and how they ought to be enforced. Events at the most recent race in Kona pushed WTC to the breaking point.

One such occurrence involved professional triathlete Olaf Sabatschus, winner of the 2004 Ironman Brazil. An official radioed in a three digit number as having gotten a penalty, but the third digit did not get properly communicated. The first two digits made up Sabatschus’ number, and the German pro was made to wait and serve a penalty though his number had not been physically marked while he was on the course.

Also bothering WTC was the case of a woman finishing in the 15- to 16-hour time frame whose husband accompanied her for some distance during the last mile of the run course. She was also given a penalty considered needless by WTC.

Such mistakes and, to some, draconian officiating moved WTC’s president, Ben Fertic, to seek a different set of rules and a fresh look at how the rules were implemented. Fertic hired ex-pro Jim Riccitello to oversee the Honu race, and to explain to the USAT officials how the race ought to be judged. When USAT decided not to grant Honu all of its rules exemptions, Riccitello’s status changed from advisor to head referee.

Drug testing was also, “a big part of this decision,” according to Fertic. WTC is adamant that such testing occur at every one of its events. The protocol in America is for USA Triathlon to submit a list of prize money events the USOC, and the Olympic Committee then decides what races it will dispatch USADA to. For WTC’s Fertic, that wasn’t sufficient, hence the impasse.

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WTC Rules and Penalties changes
June 12, 2005
Tarpon Springs, FL (Slowtwitch News Service™)

Henceforth at all Ironman races worldwide the rules will be the same for pro and age-group alike.

The stagger rule, applied almost exclusively to pro athletes at American-based races, will no longer exist for anyone at any Ironman events. This is replaced by a 7 meter long by 2 meter wide draft zone for everyone, and drafting is the only infraction that will warrant a time penalty. All other penalties, including any position penalty, such as blocking, will warrant only a stand down.

All penalties, drafting included, will start with a mandatory stand down. Riders will be instructed to follow the motorcycle off the course, at which point anything but a drafting penalty will warrant a “P” written on the bike, race, and helmet numbers. A drafting penalty warrants a slash through these numbers, and two drafting calls will be signified by a slash in each direction resulting in an “X.” Each drafting penalty will carrry with it a 4 minute penalty box visit, to be served after the bike leg.

All penalties other than drafting, at least those occurring during the bike leg, will carry with them no time penalty, but each rider will be made to stop in order to have a “P” written on the athlete’s various numbers. This includes a violations such as chinstrap, crossing the dismount line, improper racking of bicycles, and the like. Three strikes, that is, any combination of “Ps” and slashes, results in a disqualification.

Most rules, including what constitutes a legal bike, activities that occur during the run, and so forth, are in concert with USAT’s rulebook. There are certain rules, such as riding an illegal bike, or unsportsmanlike conduct, that do carry with it a disqualification, irrespective of the number of infractions racked up.

One element to WTC’s rules that is certainly different, if not spelled out, is the approach toward proactivity and subjectivity. “lntent is a big part of it,” said Riccitello when asked about his approach to giving a penalty. “If I roll up on a pack, there is the intent to cheat. I wouldn’t hesitate to give a drafting penalty. And I did that at the [Honu] race. I rode up to a guy, watched it, he was drafting. And he got a penalty.”

But Riccitello also stresses considering the entire situation before giving a penatly. When commenting on USAT’s officials, and the degree to which WTC feels they are almost entirely objective and almost never subjective in their calls, Riccitello said, “They’re rendering judgments, but they’re not using judgment."

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It's Ironman China in 2006
June 12, 2005
Tarpon Springs, FL (Slowtwitch News Service™)

A full-distance Ironman on Hainan Island in China is set to be the newest addition to the Ironman family.

Though the news has not yet officially been released, sources close the race maintain it will take place on Aprl 23, 2006.

Hainan Island is not new to triathlon. The Hainan Discovery Triathlon, a shorter-distance event, was held on this tropical island in the South China Sea known for its tourism, both in 2002 and 2003.

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WTC institutes anti-doping guidelines
March 24, 2005
Tarpon Springs, FL (Slowtwitch News Service™)

The World Triathlon Corporation has taken the first of what may be two steps toward dispelling confusion and harmonizing policies worldwide. By launching its own anti-doping policy the WTC will dispense with the ambiguities and loopholes evident in two cases handled by the German Triathlon Federation (DTU).

The WTC's policy reads as follows:

If an athlete’s A and B sample shows positive results (or Adverse Analytical Findings) for any of the prohibited substances (S1-S5, The World Anti-Doping Code 2005 Prohibited List, International Standard) at a sporting event with a WADA-recognized testing facility, Ironman will issue a provisional suspension to the athlete beginning on the date the athlete competed and/or was drug-tested. Until a verdict between the athlete and their federation/national governing body (NGB) has been reached, the athlete will be unable to compete in any Ironman events worldwide.

"If an athlete is found guilty or accepts a suspension/penalty from their federation/NGB, Ironman will issue its own suspension based on WADA guidelines. For a first offense, the athlete will be suspended and ineligible for a period of two years from the date the athlete competed and/or was drug-tested. If an athlete receives a second doping offense, Ironman will issue a lifetime ban and the athlete will be ineligible to compete in any future Ironman event. (WADA Article 10.2, Sanctions on Individuals).

This policy is not only effective immediately, it has been backdated to cover several cases now outstanding. The WTC's statement continued:

Due to the current status of cases with three professional athletes, Ironman has outlined next steps below.

• Katja Schumacher – Katja Schumacher is currently appealing her doping-related case and is in litigation with the DTU. Until the case has been resolved and matters of litigation have been finalized, Ironman will be imposing a Provisional Suspension.
• Nina Kraft – While the DTU reduced the ban from two years to one year, Kraft will remain ineligible from Ironman events worldwide until October 16, 2006.
• Rutger Beke – Rutger Beke is currently appealing his doping-related case and is in litigation with the Belgian Federation. Until the case been resolved, Ironman will be imposing a Provisional Suspension."

"By the time we've been apprised of a positive, there has already been due process that ought to satisfy any such concerns," said WTC President Ben Fertic when ask if there was any concern his new rules might run afoul of due process guidelines set by various national governing bodies. "Certainly we'll look at individual cases, however we're in absolute accord with WADA guidelines."

Anti-doping is not the only area in which the WTC is interested in mainstreaming rules, according to multiple sources interviewed at USA Triathlon, America's NGB for triathlon. Following much dissatisfaction among many elite athletes, the WTC is reviewing the rules of competition as expressed during the bike leg and will, along with representatives of USAT, try to hammer out a set of rules for the Kona event, though those rules may differ from what's in USAT's rulebook.

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And the official Ironman™ bike is...?

March 1, 2005, Valyermo, CA (Slowtwitch News Service™)

Whaddya gotta do to sell a tri bike in this town? So must think the honchos who matter at Cannondale.

There are lot of places one might go to see this company's fine Ironman™ triathlon bikes. Your local dealer, for example. Certainly you'll see them in the magazines that feature and carry advertisements for such products. And at expo booths at your local race. Well, maybe. This is where one enters the intricacies and verisimilitudes of a bike license.

There is one event at which you certainly won't see a Cannondale Ironman: The Ironman (if it's a North American Ironman).

Of course you'll see these fine bikes in the race, that is, being ridden in the race. You just won't see them for sale.

Isn't the Cannondale Ironman the official Ironman line of bikes? Not precisely. It's the exclusive Ironman licensee, which ipso facto makes it the official bike of the Hawaiian Ironman. But Kona's arguably the expo Cannondale needs to have its bikes at the least. It's those other Ironman races, where the great ignorant unwashed, unmarketed to flock to. It's at places like Madison, Couer d'Alene, Lake Placid and the Redneck Riviera that Cannondale wants to preach its gospel. Right?

Perhaps, but it's academic. As of last week Cervelo is the official, and exclusive, bike of Ironman North America. Cannondale is free to cut its deal with any of the various Anemiamans (fake Ironmans), or maybe if they stick an Ironman down-Mexico-way, but north of the Rio Grande the M-dot bike is bici-non-grata at the M-dot race.

"It is notable," said Cannondale's Bill Keith, "that Ironman Properties allows a licensee to license."

"You mean allowing the words 'official,' 'bike,' and 'Ironman' to exist in the same sentence?" Keith was asked.

"Succinctly put. But," Keith continued, "let me be honest and fair to Ironman North America. We were approached first. It's just that we're doing very well, after five tough years, and the license is very good for us. We do value primarily the Kona expo. It's the only place we can have an international stage. We can meet our customers around the world, and for a product manager like me, that's what I want, so that I can get the input needed when designing spec."

That Cannondale assigned priority to the Kona expo was apparent.

"I took Cannondale's tri bikes for a ride around the country last year, " said Inside Out Sport's Cid Cardoso, the sole retail entity at Ironman North America expos. "I did try to get Cannondale to show an interest in leveraging their investment in the Ironman license by getting their reps to come out to the Ironman expos. I understand it's a difficult commitment, four days at each of these races around the country. For whatever reason, their reps didn't see that as a priority. That is, until the last race in Florida, to their credit. That race they came to, and I think they saw then how important these opportunities can be."

All that is moot. Cervelo is the official, and exclusive, but not licensed, bike of Ironman North America, except in Kona which, though arguably in North America, is not North America for the purposes of this North American official designation, which is not a license.


BELOW:

Hawaiian Ironman athletes test clean
Hawaiian Ironman drug rumor revealed
WTC, ITU settle at CAS
Ironman, USAT again brothers in arms
IM moving from Kona?
ITU's worldwide ban on WTC illegal?
• ITU smacks down Ironman
WTC bolts from USAT, will self-sanction from now on
What led to WTC’s decision to separate from USAT?
WTC Rules and Penalties changes
It's Ironman
China in 2006
WTC institutes anti-doping guidelines
And the official IM bike is?

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