Sports Law • Risk Management

September 29, 2010: Triathlon Risk Management: Part II---Cycling

While chatting with JJ Johnson, a certified USAT coach at Starbuck’s yesterday, I introduced him to our website and we discussed safety issues in sports. Since I’m the Regional Officials Coordinator for USAT for Hawaii, JJ often asks me about issues relating to the USAT Competitive Rules. We discussed our amazement that so many triathletes claim that they do not know or understand the rules. This seems absurd as athletes in every other sport---football, basketball, baseball, golf, and tennis---seem to be well aware of their sport’s rules. Why should triathlon be any different?

JJ reminded me that the typical training of triathletes involves cycling in a pace line with athletes riding their bikes close together---“drafting”. If triathletes primarily practice drafting during training rides, when are they practicing adhering to the USAT rule requiring that, “while on the cycling course, no participant shall permit his drafting zone to intersect with or remain intersected with the drafting zone of another cyclist…”?. See Rule 5.10 a. of USAT Competitive Rules.

You might question why I’m discussing the rules in a sports law/risk management blog. The competitive rules were established for fairness as well as safety. Cyclists increase the risk of collision related injuries when drafting close to one another. Because of this and because of the training advantage gained by not drafting, one would think that coaches might eliminate drafting from their training rides---or, at least minimize it. My suspicion is that an athlete that primarily trains by not drafting other cyclists will become stronger physically and would be less likely to incur a time penalty in a USAT sanctioned event. Also, the athlete would be less likely to be injured and the coach less likely to be sued in the event of an injury. This is certainly something to think about.