My Response to WTC’s proposed new rules (and some other thoughts)

WTC’s Proposed New Rules

Thanks for giving us a chance to voice our opinion. I only hope WTC is going to listen to the athlete’s opinions and that the new rules WTC have proposed are not yet set in stone. I understand these new rules are only proposed rules and below are only my opinions.

To start with, I don’t quite understand the necessity for all these new proposed rules. I believe the sport certainly has to have more clarity in its rules, but the rules WTC has proposed seem to be more about somebody justifying their job by coming up with new rules than about common sense. The old system and rules from last year were not so bad . There seems to be far more complaints about the new rules introduced this year and new proposed rules than there ever were with the old rules.

Qualifying for Kona
The proposed rule makes qualifying for Kona too complicated. Under the new rule, athletes would not be 100% certain of their Kona slot until September 1st. By September 1st, athletes are already deep into their Kona preparation and training. Qualifying for Kona could be made very simple by using the same system you have now , with the 5% cutoff rule. Limit Kona to a 50 man field. If only 45 people make Kona, then that’s fine. You will know they are the best 45 in the world and the rest aren’t good enough at this point to race at a world championship. With this system athletes can still choose when and where they want to qualify for Kona or Clearwater. I don’t think it’s fair that WTC puts stipulations on how an athlete should prepare for a season. For example, making athletes who qualify in the top 10 in Kona validate their Ironman spot by racing another Ironman in the following year.

The new rule making athletes validate their Kona spot by doing another Ironman in a year
I don’t like this idea. It should not be the position of the WTC to dictate an athlete’s race calendar. If the athlete was good enough to make top 10 or win Kona, then they shouldn’t be made to race another Ironman in the year. Multiple top 10 Kona finishers choose to only race one Ironman a year. This system has worked well for many Kona champions. It’s the right of the athlete to choose his/her race schedule and some athletes have perfected this to a fine art. It’s wrong of WTC to expect them to change their season strategy and preparation for Kona.

Wild Card Entries to Kona
I think this rule should definitely not be implemented. Kona and Clearwater are world championships. You either make it or you don’t. You have a whole year to qualify. If something goes wrong, then that is the nature of the sport. There should not be a position where WTC can dictate who gets in and who doesn’t. (Sorry Mr. L. Armstrong, you are going to have to qualify like everybody else.) WTC has come up with all these guidelines on how to qualify, but on the other hand, WTC is making a loophole that allows them to let an athlete of their choosing get in to Kona. Who is to say that this wild card spot is not taking the position of someone who legitimately qualifies?

The new points system
I think it’s great that WTC wants to implement a points system. However, I don’t think it should be the tool to gauge whether an athlete is eligible to qualify for Kona or Clearwater. I think a points system can be used successfully to promote an overall long distance champion, if WTC can successfully work out a good and fair points system combining Ironman and 70.3. WTC could introduce a new title as the best long distance athlete for that year, and maybe even introduce a prize purse for the overall male and female champion. This could encourage athletes to race more Ironman and 70.3 races. I think this is a better way to encourage athletes to race more often. This way, it’s the athlete’s choice if they want to go for overall points champion or Kona/Clearwater champion. The bottom line is that it would be the athlete’s choice and they are not forced to do certain WTC races. (I have some more ideas about this if you wish to talk to me about it. You can always call me. I’m better at explaining this in person.)

Pro licenses
As much as I disagree with having to pay $750 for a pro license, I don’t see it going away any time soon. Given that, I think it would be good if there was an opportunity to sign up 2 times in the year (i.e. January 1st and July or August 1st). Both licenses would still run for a 12 month period. This would give athletes the opportunity to sign up later in the year and not have to re-sign again the following January. Also, I think pro athletes should have to be signed up a minimum of 2 months before their first race. This would give WTC the opportunity to drug test those athletes before they race. A second option would be that an athlete can sign up at any time of the year, with the license running for 12 months, but it should still be no less than 2 months before their first race.

The 1 day license
I think this rule goes against everything that WTC originally planned for with their anti-doping control. If athletes were able to get a 1 day license, there is nothing to stop them using banned substances in their build up for races and then coming off the drugs just prior to a race. The 1 day license would not protect the athletes who have paid the $750 for their in and out of competition testing. If WTC is going to charge athletes $750, then WTC assumes responsiblity for making rules that protect the athletes from competing against doping cheats. This new rule just seems like it would be a profit-making scheme.

Creating ‘A’ and ‘B’ level races = 2 steps forward, 1 step back
Triathlon is now the fastest growing sport in the world. WTC has taken on the dominant role in the triathlon world. With the new rules, WTC is taking two steps forward and one step back. For example, introducing multiple level division races: an easy solution would be to increase the minimum prize purse for example to $30-35K or more and have no maximum cut-off. WTC is taking a stranglehold over all races and tying the hands of many race directors. For non-WTC races, I think race directors should be given the opportunity to post bigger prize purses if they wish and have more freedom to pursue larger sponsors. It’s every race director’s dream to put on a big race, so I’m sure they are going to do their best to seek sponsors and offer good prize money. Going to the new system would be one large step backwards. Offering $15,000 for a 70.3 and $25,000 for a full Ironman is just ludicrous. When that is broken down (for 70.3 ‘B’ race), that’s $7,500 split between male and female. If top 5 were paid, that would be a breakdown of something like $3000, $2000, $1000, $750, $250 (I don’t know if this is the actual breakdown, but I can’t see it being much different). With a breakdown like this, athletes would have to get 3rd just to break even. There is virtually no race you can go to where it doesn’t cost less than $1000 to get to. With flights, bike fees, car rentals, accommodation, and the $750 pro license, this would make it extremely hard to be a professional triathlete. This would also severely hinder any athlete looking to race internationally. Foreign athletes would be forced into doing only ‘A’ grade races. I understand there is also going to be the bigger prize purse races, which is great, but that is how all of the races should be.

Here’s a scenario where I think having ‘A’ and ‘B’ races will cause a problem for a lot of pros: If an average athlete chooses to race the $15K races throughout the year where the fields will be a lot weaker and this athlete manages to win 3-4 of those races, that athlete can then turn around to sponsors and say he/she is a multiple 70.3 or Ironman champion. He/She can potentially get better sponsors than a better athlete who chooses to race the bigger races and has a great season finishing top 5 but without a win. Sponsors are more inclined to go with athletes who have a 70.3 or Ironman title. This would overshadow the good athlete who raced well in the ‘A’ races. If the race director wishes to improve their races and put on more prize money, it should be their prerogative. It will only improve the sport and will encourage other race directors to improve their race.

Paying top 5
The new rule implemented this year for only paying top 5 in 70.3 and Ironman is another one of those backward steps. If WTC deems an athlete worthy to pay $750 to be a pro, then they are worthy to be eligible for prize money. I believe all 70.3 races should be a minimum of top 8 paid and Ironman top 10, even if 5th-8th prize money is just enough to cover the athlete’s travel expenses. This will encourage athletes to stay in the sport longer.

Race packets for age groupers
On a smaller note, this is not really regarding the pro rules or anything affecting me as a pro, but is something I thought was worth bringing to WTC’s attention. I’m only bringing this up due to the large numer of age group athletes who regularly complain to me about this. I really think WTC needs to put in a little bit more effort with the race package bags. As a pro I don’t care what I have in mine, but a lot of age groupers have come to me and complained how bad it is. They look forward to getting their race package and when they only have one bottle of eye drops in their bag after paying a large entry fee, they are very disappointed. Some of the athletes have said that even a 70.3 bumper sticker would be good.

Speedsuit rule
Triathlon has always been an innovative sport. The fact that WTC has decided to remove speedsuits from competition as of Sept 1st is another one of the backwards steps WTC is taking. Speedsuits are an even playing field for everyone. There is no real reason for these suits to be removed. All this did was hurt potential sponsors and remove profits from companies who have invested in our sport.

Asthma inhalers
On a closing note (I realize this is going to offend some people), I think WTC needs to have stricter guidelines on the use of asthma inhalers, especially the morning of the race (5+ puffs 15 min before the start). I seriously find it hard to believe that so many pros seem to have asthma and that doctors are telling them to take 5-10 puffs right before a race. I understand that this is a serious problem for a real asthmatic and I fully support everything that has to be done to avoid a real asthma attack during a race. I’d just like to see a better way of determining who has asthma, who doesn’t and who’s abusing the privilege of having an inhaler. (This comment does not apply to true asthmatics and they should not have a problem with my comments. If you are offended, you’re probably one of the people I am talking about.)