THe folks over at USA Triathlon, specifically COO Tim Yount were kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding the current and future state of anti-doping in our sport. I also included a question clarifying how an athlete like Lance Armstrong who comes from another sport without first building a current triathlon resume qualifies for a USAT Elite card. I was familiar with the rule, but several people not as familiar with the intricacies of USAT rules had asked me, and I wanted to confirm I was correct in my assumption.
As a side note, since my original opinion piece ran on my hopes and fears for Lance Armstrong’s foray into triathlon, I’ve been able to confirm both that the podium was not tested that day (thanks to Richie Cunningham who finished 3rd) and that USADA was responsible for the testing that did occur that day for the random pros below the podium (thanks again to Rasmus Henning). I have not yet been able to confirm how atypical the podium not being tested is, but from all indications it’s certainly curious, and numerous pros I have spoken with have said they were very surprised the men’s pro podium was not tested.
One last topic before I get to the responses, I’m extending the raffle ending 2 days to 3/2/12 so that it falls on a Friday and gives me a better chance to make the changes to the site I need to once it ends, as well as the weekend to contact all the entrants to determine which prizes they want their entries to go towards.
Now here are my questions and the responses from USA Triathlon COO Tim Yount.
As the sports governing body, does USAT currently provide any anti-doping training, guidelines, or regulations to race organizers? If so, can you describe them at a high level? If USAT does not, can you provide an answer as to why?
With USADA in place to manage the race-day testing process for USA Triathlon, race directors do not necessarily need to become technically proficient in the actual execution of doping control procedures at their events. For events in which testing will be present, the race director is provided an overview of what is expected of them in advance of race day. Expectations of race directors include: securing the testing area, providing sealed fluids (water, electrolyte drink, etc.) at the defined level, credentials for couriers to be in the finish chute to manage the process, allowing access to timers to identify selected athletes, etc. The fewer encroachments for race directors, the better. If there are race directors who wish to learn more on the testing process and race-day expectations, USA Triathlon will facilitate an introduction with USADA.
Does USAT provide doping controls at its championship events? If so, how are these carried out? Do they apply only to Elite participants or to age group athletes as well? If no doping protocols are provided at USAT championship events, why not?
All USA Triathlon members and sanctioned-event participants are subject to testing for performance-enhancing drugs by USADA both In-Competition and Out-of-Competition. This is addressed in the USA Triathlon Competitive Rules and in the participant waiver executed by all USA Triathlon annual members and every participant in a USA Triathlon-sanctioned event. It is important for all competitors to understand that testing is currently in effect and can include athletes of any level, from elite national team members to age group athletes to paratriathletes. USA Triathlon administered support in the testing of age group competitors at its Age Group National Championship for the first time in 2010. USADA works with USA Triathlon to develop a plan for testing, which at a competition can often include specific place finishers as well as random selections from the field. So, as an example, that plan may be the top finishers in given categories, and then places such as 10th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 25th, 42nd, 87th, etc. All athletes, however, should understand that they are subject to testing.
Can you describe the relationship between USAT and USADA?
USA Triathlon works closely with USADA to ensure that doping has no place in the sport of triathlon. USADA partners with USA Triathlon, as well as all National Governing Bodies, in its anti-doping efforts. USA Triathlon utilizes many of USADA’s educational resources throughout its varied communications platforms to provide its members with the most up-do-date anti-doping information. As stated above, USADA works with USA Triathlon to develop a plan for in-competition testing. USADA Doping Control Officers (DCOs) conduct all testing. As USADA Staff, DCOs conduct both In-Competition and Out-of-Competition testing of athletes involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Movement within the United States. Testing is administered under USADA’s mandate, under contract with the USOC, on a year-round basis. As a National Governing Body, USA Triathlon works with USADA and the other anti-doping agencies on an ongoing, indefinite basis.
Anti-doping is an expensive proposition, with even WTC as the most established (and expensive) race series adopting testing as recently as late 2009, and Rev 3 yet to begin testing even its pro field. With USAT bringing in roughly $6.5 million annually in revenue from just membership fees, does USAT have any plans to financially support the testing efforts for larger races allowing testing to occur without significantly raising entry fees for age group athletes?
At this time, no. However, USA Triathlon is firmly committed to ensuring that doping has no place in our sport. We will consider any options in the future that that help us work toward this goal.
Has there been any thought to tying the sanctioning of larger or signature events to a requirement that race organizers provide anti-doping protocols?
In the USA Triathlon event sanctioning agreement, we work to avoid forcing additional costs on race directors. However, USA Triathlon, in conjunction with USADA, is currently supporting the testing of events outside of WTC jurisdiction. Event directors are welcome to pursue testing through an independent team and may request that USADA test at their event. USA Triathlon is available to facilitate an introduction to USADA if an event director has such a request.
Before we get into the topic of what happened this past weekend at Ironman Panama 70, there seems to be a lot of confusion on how exactly Lance Armstrong was able to race as a professional WTC triathlete. WTC’s primary qualification is that the athlete must have their National Triathlon Federation (in this case USAT) elite status card. Can you provide which rule under which Lance qualified for that status with USAT?
Below is the USA Triathlon Elite Membership Qualification Standard met by Lance Armstrong. Armstrong finished fifth at the 2011 XTERRA USA Championship, and was a three-time U.S. Olympian in cycling.
Special consideration for exceptions to all elite membership rules will be granted by the Athlete Advisory Council, who will only consider exceptions for athletes who meet the following criteria:
Applying athlete has been on a USA Swimming, USA Cycling or USA Track and Field Olympic or Pan Am Team or National Elite Team (recognized by that NGB). And the athlete must have finished top-10 overall and within 10 percent of the overall winner’s time in at least one (1) USA Triathlon sanctioned event that occurred within the past 12 months and had at least 200 participants.
At Ironman Panama 70.3, it has been widely reported that no doping protocols occurred for the men’s podium, even though it has been WTC’s protocol to test podium athletes at 70.3 and 140.6. While this event falls outside of the jurisdiction of USAT as the race was not in US territory, US athletes (in particular Lance Armstrong) were involved. In recent years, several athletes with significant doping questions in their prior sporting lives have made a foray into triathlon. What does USAT hope its race organizers will do to help make sure that triathlon doesn’t garner the same stigma in regards to doping as say professional cycling?
Through its educational efforts and existing testing endeavors, USA Triathlon has taken a strong and proactive stance when it comes to anti-doping. We believe that our sanctioned race directors and annual members alike also are committed to competing clean, and we have full faith in the USADA doping control process in place in the U.S.
I want to thank USAT for taking the time to respond to my questions and I’ll continue looking into this issue hoping that the WTC will decide to respond to my request for a response to a few questions regarding their general anti-doping process and specifically the events in Panama.