Where is the money?

Some of us are paid after two weeks of work, some of us are paid monthly. That lag in pay can be a lot longer for pro triathletes and in some cases they may actually not see the money at all.

Some pros, based on their comments to us, have not seen prize purse money from races run last year, and according to some of them this situation is not uncommon; rather, we just don't hear about it.

Brit Bella Bayliss raced TriStar222 in Sardinia last year and finished in second place in that event. She thus should have received Euro 1,500 for her efforts, but as of today she has not seen any of that money.

"I decided to go to TriStar Sardinia at the last minute. I did all the interviews, talked TriStar 'up' in front of cameras. I was happy to walk away with Euro 1,500 prize money for coming second. I could have come home the day after the Sardinia race, but did the right thing for the race and stayed for their awards," said Bayliss. "I was never given any paperwork for prize money at the awards, but that is usual for all races. I asked the organizers what is happening about prize money and they said they would be in touch.

"Well, this has gone on for months, they say they will pay me but they never do. I am hanging out for them paying me though, I really deserve my prize money," added Bayliss.

Bjorn Andersson, who raced both TriStar Estonia and TriStar Sardinia in 2010, also faced a delay in getting his money. Andersson reports getting paid for Estonia sometime within the last month, but is still owed Euro 1,500 for Sardinia.

"Some attempts at solving the situation have been made on TriStar's part, but everything takes an unreasonable amount of time. I don't know of many other professions where it's acceptable to stall payments for almost a year for work you already did," said Andersson.

Star Productions principals Laurent Gauthier, Georg Hochegger and Olivier Castelli were contacted for this story, and asked about allegations that some Pros who have raced TriStar Sardinia and TriStar Estonia in 2010 have not been paid yet. Castelli, COO of Star Productions SARL said:

"We can assure you that we're in constant contact with the athletes in our races and that includes athletes that have won a prize purse in our races. Everything related to that we handle and communicate directly to the concerned athletes," said Castelli in an email to Slowtwitch. Star Productions SARL is the company that owns TriStar, StarMile, StarRun and StarTour, and recently acquired Gran Fondo USA.

Bayliss may not concur with the characterization of "constant contact".

"Well, they never got in touch and when I started emailing I struggled to get replies from anyone. Eventually I would get a reply, but the man was rude, abrupt and not answering when I would be paid. I would email often but never get the answer I wanted, how I was getting paid," said Bayliss to Slowtwitch.

Pro athletes are often reticent about talking publicly about late- or non-payment because they don't want to bite the hands that feed them.

"TriStar are not the only ones to do this, but people don't hear about it because athletes are seemingly afraid to get on the wrong side of race organizations, so they stay quiet," added Andersson.

"I understand why some athletes would not want to raise their heads above the parapet, for risk of incurring the wrath of race directors, and not be invited to race, or given any support to participate in these races," said 3-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington. "In addition, many pros' sponsors have close relationships with race directors, and pros would not wish to criticize the race organizers, which their sponsors work closely with.

"Having said that,” Wellington continued, “I feel that honest, candid dialogue with race directors is crucial to galvanize change and improvements. It is a professional sport, and payment of prize money is crucial to ensuring that it truly deserves this title, and enables athletes to make a living."

Several pros interviewed for this story pointed to Revolution3 as a great example of a race organization that pays the pros as soon as they walk off the awards stage.

"Rev3 from what I remember gives you a check on the day, which is awesome," said Julie Dibens. "Not many, if any, other races do this. It is awesome, especially when we are struggling to make ends meet."

"Yep, Rev3 were great," added Rev3 Portland winner Graham O'Grady. "Also WTC events. I was emailed the day after Lake Stevens asking for bank details for payment. Vineman had drug testing so we had to wait for the results to come through before payment. I think that is what we all want though."

It’s easier to pay on the spot at races where drug testing does not take place. Some races delay prize purse payment until the drug test results come back, but even then we have heard about some extremely long delays.

"With the increase in drug testing one would expect the payment to take longer, and we need to accept that this is a consequence of the improvements in anti-doping, which are to be welcomed," added Wellington. "It is my experience that drug test results take between two to four weeks to be released, and after that prize money should be immediately processed."

"It is true that I—and I know one other athlete—was not paid for Kona 2009 until February 2010," continued Wellington. "I am able to survive on income other than prize money, but this is not the case for many other pros who depend on timely payment of prize money to pay their bills. I feel that the payment of prize money by the WTC has improved significantly [in terms of a reduction in the time taken to pay], although I know there can be issues when the race is not directly organized by WTC, and is still franchised."

The franchise issue also came up in 2009 when the Pros who placed in Challenge Barcelona-Maresme did not see the advertised Euro 50,000 prize purse and eventually caused the Team Challenge group to sue local promoter Roberto Mondejar and his Evolution organization and find a new franchise partner in Spain.