Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beating the cheaters I

One thing needs to be said about Ironman racing in the US: Cheating is allowed. Be it by having very few races with doping control or the non-consistent enforcement of drafting rules, many athletes are taking advantage of the huge holes in the system to win in a fraudulent way.

The doping issue is particularly puzzling. From all the Ironman races this year in the US, only Hawaii had doping controls, or at least I hope it did. In a time when anti-doping makes sports headlines almost on a daily basis, the anti-doping practices in the Ironman circuit date back to the early 80’s. That is to say that since the inception of Ironman as a professional sport, the anti-doping procedures haven’t changed.

Who is to blame here? Even if Ironman races are sanctioned by USAT, you can understand why the Federation does not go in and test at Ironman races. Why would a Federation spend their own money to test a group of athletes that has no control over, and from which receives no benefit? The negative consequences of having any triathlete test positive would affect the whole sport, not just Ironman, with some of the fall-out landing on USAT. Going in and testing systematically Ironman athletes would be like entering a mine field, one that USAT would likely never come out in one piece. For the race organizers, having a positive test would be bad for business and it would hit their bottom line. It’s also expensive and time-consuming, so not having doping tests is a win-win situation for race organizers.

The enforcement of drafting rules is also a big issue, even if it doesn’t impact races the same way doping does. The biggest issue is the lack of consistency in the application of the rules, depending on the particular marshals working the race. It seems that things are different at different races, with head marshals many times worried about secondary questions and creating new absurd rules. I often get the impression that marshals are trying to be nice guys instead of simply enforcing the rules.

Is this situation changing in a near future? It certainly doesn’t seem likely. At the moment, in this society, the scale still tips heavily in favor of money, at the expense of fairness.

1 comment:

Morten Liebach said...

Is the draft rule enforcement better in the non-american Ironman branded races?

I've never raced an Ironman branded race (ironman distance, yes, but not WTC sanctioned) so I don't know how it is, but they're generally the biggest races with many people on the road at the same time, so it's only logical that they get the drafting problems. And it sounds like they should do more about it.

Same with the doping control, obviously.

But you're perfectly right, that since WTC and their Ironman brand is about the money, that is what influence their decisions.

I wonder what their new owners will do...