Trouble at 70.3 Miami

Terenzo Bozzone and Leanda Cave won the Ironman 70.3 Miami event a few days ago but the loudest noise about the event is not about the winners, but rather the runner-up in the women’s race – Austrian Pro Lisa Hütthaler who had the fastest bike split time of 2:14:50.

2010 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Jodie Swallow posted a rather angry tweet that day directed at Hütthaler.

Swallow though wasn’t the only one who seemed to have concerns along those lines. A few hours later Margie Shapiro who finished third in Miami, piped also in on Twitter with the following post.

"Whilst I was riding in second place at about 30 miles in Miami I was passed by a guy - number 40 and Lisa Hütthaler," said Swallow to slowtwitch. "I was incredibly flat so had limited resources to respond to their pass however this was further disabled by the fact the two were clearly operating as a two up. For the time I could see them riding away on the return leg. A fully functioning team, with the man looking back over his shoulder every turn of 20 seconds to protect the girl."

Hütthaler had made headlines in April of 2009 when she admitted to doping and also revealed all her contacts. She had been banned in October of 2008 for 2 years after failing a doping test in March of 2008 - the ban though was eventually reduced to 18 months. Hütthaler had also been accused at that time of attempting to bribe a laboratory employee and according to the paper was sentenced to 3 months probation on that charge. She returned to competition in June of 2010 and has since raced and won a few events this year including TriStar Monaco, Kufstein and Estonia.

Shapiro also described in more detail what she saw in an email to WTC Head Official Jimmy Riccitello, and she forwarded that email to us. Here is what she wrote specifically about the situation:

"Swim takes place with men starting 2 min ahead of women (too close in my opinion). We women (not the leading women, mind you) get out on bike course. Within 5 mi we are up on 2-3 of the men. 1 of them is dragging and looking back and then pulls off. He wears a Pro Tri Life jersey or something of the sort (Zach Ruble who dropped out right there – Ed). Another, in a red tri suit, is working hard legitimately and maybe just had a bad swim. The third, who I reach latest (maybe 20 min into the ride) is clearly not pushing very hard. He speeds up when I approach to avoid me passing. I push harder to pass. He lets me get ahead. Shortly after, he comes back and passes. I slow down to avoid the draft zone. Then he slows down to the point I have to soft-pedal. I soft-pedal and then decide to pass. I pass, so does a fellow female. Then he comes back. He passes, looks back, soft pedals. Clearly he is slowing us down (we have to drop back) and he is waiting for someone. We both pass him back with force, one at a time. Eventually he passes us yet again. This time he has a new female in black on his wheel. He is #40 (I take note) and she is #72 (I recognize that butt because I raced her at ITU many times before she was banned). I am angry now, seeing she is riding 1m or at most 2m back (not the 10m rule). I let them go as they are too fast. Then I rethink it and stand up to sprint to try to catch back up to the legal draft zone. I redline for 10 min trying to catch them but to no avail. Why? Because HE DECIDED TO START RIDING LIKE A PRO MAN."

Bib #40 is Austrian Pro Andreas Fuchs who dropped out after the bike and only did the Miami 70.3 event as a training effort for the upcoming Ironman Florida race in Panama City according to an entry on his Facebook page.

Here are the splits of Fuchs and Hütthaler at 70.3 Miami.

Male pros started 2 minutes in front of the females. Hütthaler’s total race time halfway through the bike was 1:43:15, to 1:45:12 for Fuchs, placing her 3 seconds behind Fuchs at that point. Hütthaler’s first transition took 1:50, while Fuchs’ time in T1 was 2:18. Fuchs might be slower in transition, but it lends credence to the charge made by Swallow that Fuchs intended to wait for Hütthaler.

Neo Pro Ed Donner was riding roughly the pace of Hütthaler and Fuchs and appears to be the guy in the red tri suit Shapiro mentions in her account. We contacted him and he told us "I actually didn't notice anything out of the ordinary out there other than a few large packs on the age group side. I went back and forth with a few people but appeared clean."

Lisa Mensink who finished fourth in Miami was another female Pro somewhat irritated with the situation.

"There was definitely some action that I would consider unscrupulous and orchestrated and it's too bad that officials didn't witness it. But this athlete has been known to alter the outcome of races to her advantage in the past (I was there in 2008 too…) so we shouldn't be too surprised," said Mensink. "I witnessed what I considered blatant drafting of a female pro off a male pro (who appeared to drop back to assist her). Since no officials witnessed the act, there is not much I can do about the incident but voice my concern and hope that in future races this doesn't occur. It is just disappointing to see unsportsmanlike conduct such as this that can potentially affect the outcome of races."

We contacted Hütthaler about these allegations and she replied in an email, "Please compare my strength on the bike with other races this year. The envious bunch does not rest, and in my case never. I know that everyone is waiting on my mistakes and thus I am extra careful to not make any, or do anything that could be construed as a mistake. I am a person that folks feel ambivalent about, but this talk has nothing to do with envy, but simply with stupidity."

"I didn't place in this race and have no incentive to make false accusations," added Swallow. "Sometimes people ride too closely with another athlete and I know that. What I saw was premeditated race tactics between a women racer and a man that eventually resulted in a silver medal. The drafting violation was not penalized because there were no draft officials. Whilst women start two minutes behind the men, in my opinion, there will continue to be incidents of this nature by individuals who don't mind breaking rules."

While looking through the Brightroom images from the Miami event we noticed that Fuchs and Hütthaler indeed came through some of these photo opportunity sections in close proximity, for example image 97728-005-23 (with #40) is followed by number 97728-005-26 (bib #72) with Reinaldo De Oliveira (97728-005-24) and Nina Kraft (97728-005-25) in between. The same athletes are also right there in the 97228-013-02 through 05 segments, but while we really do not know at what point those pictures were taken, it must have been reasonably early because Nina Kraft dropped out before the halfway point and De Oliveira had a slower bike split. We also noticed that Fuchs and Hütthaler posed together post race in their race kits with bib numbers in the finish area even though Fuchs had dropped out of the race after the bike. and a screen shot from the site is below. That though might be a regular theme now as both athletes posed together after her win at TRiStar Monaco.

Swallow, Shapiro and Mensink complained to officials in Miami before the awards ceremony took place, but since neither of the officials witnessed the situation no action was taken.

"Just to be clear – I have never reported anything to a race official before. This was sickening," added Swallow.