HUGE thanks to everyone for your comments, phone calls, emails in response to the "can of worms" I opened up in the last post. I hope you enjoyed putting on your thinking caps...
I think for the most part people understood the dilemma the way I hoped they would - it was a challenge to provide enough detail and information, and to word that post accurately without leading (or boring the hell out of you!)
One Regret: There was the odd person who came away thinking I am not a fan of the Hoyt's. This is absolutely not the case! I felt I needed to give a real-world example of a "special-case" so that people could understand what I was getting at.
One Clarification: Disabled athletes, like myself, are not the "special cases" I was referring to - there is an established set of rules, established categories etc. for us. We are legit in the eyes of the triathlon official.
SO, HERE IS MY TAKE:
Firstly, let me offer an appropriate cliché: I don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" answer to this.
In the past I have usually been the harda$$ who would answer somewhat pleading athlete emails with:
"I'm sorry your [equipment/idea/situation] is not something that the rules of triathlon can accommodate right now. Perhaps you could consider a relay where you will not [use the illegal equipment/do anything illegal]."Coincidentally, more often than not these athletes were looking to be categorized as an AWAD (athlete with a disability), when usually they were not (by the official definitions.) Regardless, their equipment or proposal always lay outside of the rules.
Legitimacy in sport is won by having a level playing field - without that a sport struggles to gain acceptance. As a paratriathlete I want to see the rules applied just as strongly for our categories is it is for any others, lest we become some type of "Feel Good" Exhibition with loose standards. Often Parasport is a little too focused on the great "story" rather than the great performance or the validity of true competition.
The misgiving I had was that usually I really sympathized with the person and wanted to see them find a way to participate. It is really hard to say "no" to someone who is determined to overcome some big obstacles to complete a triathlon - some way, some how.
This year, in response to some passionate arguments from athletes, and in consultation with officials, administrators and various boards of directors we will try to offer a bit more flexibility and I think it is a great thing.
- Each case will be studied individually, no single case sets a precedent.- Equipment and athlete proposals will be inspected by appropriate officials, race directors and/or race sanctioning committees long in advance of competition to ensure safety- At a local level these special cases will receive consideration - beyond that, at Championship levels, they will not.
I think this is entirely appropriate, and am pleased with the new direction we have taken as a group. I know it will probably result in different issues - like "Why him and not me?" questions... but at least there are new athletes entering the sport and experiencing the benefits and joy of crossing a finish line.
Inclusiveness is one of triathlon's biggest strengths - the fact that elites, age-groupers and disabled athletes can all challenge themselves on the same course is special. Decisions like this one will only strengthen our sport's reputation.
So, I think Tri BC and Tri Canada have done well by treading carefully into these grey areas. Bravo.
P.S. Like everyone else I think the Hoyt's are awesome. Here they are at the Boston Marathon the other day: