Ironman Austria drafting controversy highlights wider problems
It’s a fair bet that the vast majority of those crossing the Ironman Austria finish line at the start of the month were in joyous spirits and thankful to the organisers, World Triathlon Corporation, for providing a rewarding – possibly life-changing – experience.
Albeit unashamedly for-profit, as decreed by Wanda Group, its Chinese conglomerate owners, the brand consistently deliver world-class endurance events across the world, and for two decades Klagenfurt has been a particularly popular destination given its picturesque course, and potential for fast times and Kona qualification.
It’s provided some seminal moments in professional racing too, such as in 2011 when Marino Vanhoenacker won his sixth title in 7:45:58, a time that stood as an Ironman-brand record for five years.
So what’s this gripe of a column for?
Well, nothing, if you’re counting the Ironman coffers or deservedly admiring your bling while sipping a post-race Stiegl.
Yet for those at the sharp end of the race and trying to make a living from the relatively trifling prize money on offer, or for those devotedly – or perhaps deludedly – following Ironman racing and trying to believe in its viability as professional sport, there was quite a bit that went wonky.
Unfortunately, in a week in which cycling was mired in a debacle over whether Chris Froome would race the Tour de France, Austria delivered a podium half-filled with triathletes who can be linked to the stench of doping. They comprise men’s winner Michael Weiss, runner-up Ivan Tutukin, and women’s runner-up Lisa Huetthaler. Each sorry tale has its vagaries, and a quick web-search will send you down those rabbit holes if you choose, but it underlines how triathlon is not free of the stigma that blights so many sports.