Monday, September 19, 2005

Digest of USA Triathlon's, Skip Gilbert's letter

As I had mentioned in my "purpose of this blog site" presentation I stated that it would cover many topics and of course would have some triathlon stuff in it. Well after receiving the September, 2005 issue of USA Triathlon Times I felt that I had to make some digest observations of the over 1000 word letter, written to the membership from Skip Gilbert, the Executive Director for USA Triathlon, starting with the word, RULES. Please understand that this is not to criticize his letter, to the contrary I sent him a private e-mail after reading it commending him for the professional, comprehensive way in which he approached the subject matter. This letter is probably one of the best, if not the best, I have seen presented to the membership in a long time.

So, what's my beef? None really, I just felt that since most members do not read this rag(even worse this time with lousy paper, small print and over 1000 words) so I will offer a Reader's Digest version. My hope is that someone reads my site and will get the message this letter intended.

Digest. By Webster definition, condensation of a literary work; a collection of works. In light of this that is how I will present this letter. The only variance from that will be if I want to add my two cents worth and offer my own opinion on the subject, I will so note(MC).

As I mentioned this letter has over 1000 words in it, with 17 paragraphs not including the definition paragraph. The point of this letter was to cover in detail all of the rules issues concerning the well publicized split between World Triathlon Corporation(WTC), Ironman North America(IMNA) and USA Triathlon(USAT). While not a real big deal in the great scheme of things going on in the world, i.e. Katrina, NFL, Iraq, NBA, etc., it is a real big deal and very impacting to the world of triathlon.

Para 1: As the National Governing Body for the sport of triathlon USA Triathlon is responsible for establishing the rules of the sport, and training the officials that will uphold the rules in times of competition.

Para 2: Are rules meant to be changed? Absolutely. As the growth of the society or sport evolves the needs change. Time has a way of proving all things, both in life and sport. Self evaluation is always good and should occur.

Para 3: After attending a number of races since April it seems to me(SG) that some rules may need to be amended. Much time and effort has been put into the current rules, but there is always room for self evaluation and consideration for current trends.

Para 4: The entire staff just attended a "think tank" to brainstorm and think outside the box and look at ever aspect of the Federation. The goal was to emerge from that meeting with a new perspective and ideas for how the Federation can evolve to new levels. Details of this will be covered in future publications.

Para 5: Back to the rules. As many of our membership has heard the reason for the WTC/IMNA/USAT split concerns how the sport should be governed, not just the rules in question. My(SG) letter is to explain how this split occurred, from our perspective and what we are doing for the future.

MC: It should be explained now that World Triathlon Corporation and Ironman North America are totally separate and privately owned corporations. They have no mutual ownership and operate independently from one another. World Triathlon Corporation owns the rights to anything associated with the Ironman name and mark. Ironman North America is a licensee of the World Triathlon Corporation. While the IMNA races in North American has sancitoned with USAT in the past, WTC has nothing to do with the sanctioning or governance. To my knowledge WTC/IMNA has never had a beef about how the sport was to be governed by the National Governing Body. Their issue was simply about some of the rules, the conduct of some of the USAT officials, and the feeling by WTC that there is a need for a Global rule book. So, this conflict and split resulted after the rules became the primary issue and not about any other factor as far as the public knows.

Para 6: No one at USAT is happy about the split or the issues at hand. It will result in a reduced monetary stream to the Federation and has created some very negative overtures amongst our members. The separation is only in part due to the rules conflict.

MC: Excuse me Mr. Skip, that last sentence is really important. If there are other major issues then how about sharing them with your membership. For me I am annual member 039252 and I am not aware of any issues concerning this split other than the rules conflict.
Please enlighten your membership through your web site as to the other issues. You are double speaking here, fess up, what are the other issues?

Para 7: Discussions with WTC lead us to believe that they want to self-insure, self-govern, and self-officiate in all of its global competitions. We do support that business decision. Where we ran afoul was when WTC requested 15 rule dispensations for the Honu Half Ironman in mid season, we approved 14 of them and WTC said, "no deal and pulled the sanction request." One bit of interesting statistics should be noted, WTC-licensed races made up less than one percent of all races sanctioned by USAT, yet accounted for 18 percent of our reported incidents.

MC: Boy, I have never seen as much double speak in one paragraph in my life. First, if USAT could approve 14 of 15 dispensations why in heavens name couldn't both organizations come to some form of mediation on the rule. Since this action by both orgs supposing caused the split, surely they could have acted like grown ups here and resolved the matter. Just so we all know, the 15th rule dispensation concerned the "stand down" rule requiring athletes to stand down on the course after being penalized. Neither party would give on this, even though this had been done before in Kona. In relation to the percentage given on WTC license events this is really a bunch of double speak junk. First, while WTC license events only represent 1% of total races sanctioned, that is out of all races sanctioned by USAT totaling over 1500. These races have anywhere from 25 participants to 2000, while the WTC/IMNA license events have over 20,000 participants. Generally speaking these athletes within a 70% range, hold an annual license. So, the WTC/IMNA participation with USAT is significant and a huge loss. Second, of course the WTC/IMNA license events will have 18% of the claims. After all these are Ironman distance or Half Ironman distance races. Common sense tells me that if I am out on a course from 8-17 hours swimming, biking and running I have more of a chance of being injured than being out on a sprint course for an hour. Check you stats Skip, most races are in the sprint category. Third, what is the point here? Does this mean that USAT was considering not sanctioning the WTC events because of this or does this mean that USAT is such a compassionate organization they sanction events in spite of the risk. Anyway you answer it the double speak is bursting out all over the place.

Para 8: We believe that WTC should have a Global rule book, and we started a process to help them move in that direction. But, due to the checks and balances in our organization and the fact that WTC is privately owned we cannot move as fast as they can. The fact that WTC is privately owned and its focus on driving revenue allows it to make changes more quickly than the non-profit organization. We could not meet the demands that were presented to us in April by WTC and simply could not accept them.

MC: Double speak again, the only excuse USAT has for not being able to react sooner to any point of concern, not just this one, is the fact it is so muddled with so much bureaucracy it cannot make decisions like it should. I know for a fact that this issue of the rules was discussed in November, 2004, while I was the interim executive director at USAT, and I ask for a meeting of all concerned to start working out this problem. Due to many reason beyond my control it was never done, therefore missing our widow of opportunity for a mediation of this problem. Blaming this problem on a profit making organization is beyond comprehension to me. It should have never gone into the season, period. A report was filed by me to the new executive director and board president outlining the problems, but nothing was done. The process that Skip mentioned was a good one and well presented; however, it was a day late and a dollar short!

Para 9: We, in the sporting world, should hold our athletes responsible for the breaking of rules. The same model in society should carry over to the sporting world. Rules cannot be altered to appease the athletes whims and desires, to achieve a better performance. Calls must be made by officials as the infraction happens.

Para 10: USAT has been criticized for holding athletes accountable to the letter of the rule. People complain that the "intent" was not there. Simply stated, by calling the foul, the playing field level and fair, plus safer. If you run a race and do not call any penalties, you have destroyed the integrity of the competition.

MC: You only destroy the integrity of the competition if you see penalties and do not call them. The original statement appears to offer a "quota" system, meaning so many penalties must be called, regardless. In some circles USAT officials have be accused of the "quota" system.

Para 11: USAT will not change the rules just to appease the revenue-model philosophy or a knee-jerk reaction to the complaints of a select group of athletes. But, if you do have a complaint please contact us through our e-mail site, stating the problem and your recommended solution.

MC: This double speak is driving me crazy, I thought it was only reserved for the Federal Government. The statements about revenue-model philosophy are simply too much. Mr. Skip says write us with new rules recommendation, why they are good and needed, etc., but God forbid if you are a profit making organization please save the stamp. I am reminded of the enormous salaries that are paid the USAT staff, the $500m annual profits(I mean reserves) and the $2 million in the bank of this non-profit entity. Please note, and read my lips we are all revenue driven no matter the corporation makeup. If we are not we will be out of business(spank me for mentioning the b word).

Para 12: Our Board President Brad Davison will form an ad hoc committee to study the rules and rule changes. We will also work with the ITU to bring the national powers to a summit to work toward common ground.

MC: Couldn't hardly wait to get to this one. If USAT has any hopes of getting this problem solved DO NOT FORM THIS STUPID, WASTEFUL COMMITTEE!!! It will never get it done. The last committee that Brad form was called the "Re-think" committee for finding a site for the National Age Group Championship. It bombed in the worst way and ultimately caused a delay of over 4 months in determining the site. The site was finally acquired by the work of the staff. Then, bringing in the ITU will certainly not get it done. Boy, there is some big butt kissing going on here. Folks, the problem is with the largest organizations in the sport offering the premier events in the sport and USAT should be part of that. The ITU has no clue as to the needs of the age group athlete. Please remember they are the ones who drive the sport.

Para 13: There are rumors that our Federation are too militant in protecting our rules. My response is that we will use the dialogue from the ITU meetings, take a look at what our members send us and develop a strategic point of view.

MC: Double speaker, double speaker, read my lips, the ITU doesn't have a clue for the age group athlete. You are selling your soul to the devil of the sport!!!

Para 14: With more than 250,000 annual members and one-day license holders, more than 1,600 sanctioned races, countless volunteers, coaches, and officials USAT is the largest organizations serving the multi-sport needs of athletes on the planet. We have the safest and fairest rollback.

MC: Broken down, 60,000 annual members and 190,000 one day license members. USAT is not only the largest, but the only organization serving the triathlon/duathlon world.

Para 15: As the National Governing Body, it is our mission to create programs and initiatives to impact our sport positively. Rules are one of the most important elements and changes must come from a majority opinion and embrace many points of view. We will not make rule changes to enhance the bottom line, replacing the integrity of the competition for good television.

MC: Lip service bs Mr. Skip. You were sounding real noble until you got to the "good television" part. Your lovely org the ITU set the example here, everything they do with the presentation of triathlon has to do with television and revenue drive. Better re-think this statement.

Para 16: We stand ready, as we always have, to meet and discuss a common set of rules to be applied to long and ultra distance triathlon.

MC: This is confusing, the rules are the rules, having nothing to do with the distance of the race. Yesterday I did a sprint triathlon, next week I will do a half ironman triathlon. The basic rules will be the same, no-drafting, wetsuit based on water temp, mount and dismount line, blocking, improper abandonment of equipment, etc., etc. What do you mean relative to long and ultra distance? If you expect to get an answer from the ITU on this you are out of luck, since they never go over the Olympic distance and recognize the Ironman distance as cruel and inhuman.

Para 17: We invite the thousands of members to write us, consult with us at USAT, and we will take USA Triathlon and the multi-sport lifestyle to unprecedented heights.

End of letter and all for today, this took longer than expected but did reveal somethings to me I had not picked up before. This is a meaty letter, which also had more in it that I diagree with than I had originally thought. However, I still commend Skip for the letter even though I have some serious disagreements with some of it's contents. Hopefully, everyone will read it, either in USA Triathlon Times(not likely) or here. Comments are encouraged and expected.

Mike Greer

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Blogger Mark Livesay, Director Ultramax Events said...

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