There are two distinctions as recognized by ITU (International Triathlon Union), those are ‘Elite’ and ‘Age Grouper’. These two terms are synonymous with the labels ‘Professional’ and ‘Amateur’, which are what the layperson would be familiar with and are commonly applied when talking about the sport and its athletes. The difference between the two is minimal, both can have sponsors, and amateurs can have as good or better times than professionals. The biggest distinction is that Elite athletes compete for prize money, whereas at best Age Groupers can compete for awards and non-cash prizes. This distinction is made with Elites holding licenses (sometimes called ‘cards’) from whatever their national triathlon federation is, for example Triathlon Canada and its provincial partners here in Canada.
Amateur triathletes are not pleased with the current situation in endurance sports events such as the Ironman, where no drug testing takes place. It is an unfortunate reality that in amateur and professional sports some athletes will go to any means to enhance their performance and give themselves a better chance of achieving a winning position. However, the difference is that in professional sports there are drug testing requirements for winners, as well as randoms, to confirm that they did not use any prohibited substances to achieve their win.
Currently the regulatory body which oversees doping in sports is the World Anti-Doping Agency which was started in 1999 as an independent agency with funding not only from sports agencies but also world governments. This agency created a code which integrates anti-doping policies in all sports, across all countries, as well as creating and updating the “The Prohibited List” which, as stated on their website, “… identifies the substances and methods prohibited in- and out-of-competition, and in particular sports. The substances and methods on the List are classified by different categories (e.g., steroids, stimulants, gene doping).”
A petition has been started on ipetitions.com calling for the testing of top 3 age group triathletes in the Ironman series of races, to bring accountability to the athletes and validity to the race and those who win.
As triathlete Daniel Clarke points out there are two different types of doping happening within the amateur community, those who don’t know they are doping and those who do. Those who do not know they are doping simply suffer from lack of information. There is much ignorance on the subject since there are so few parameters being set for the amateur athletes and so little information going out about what constitutes doping. Obviously those who know they are doping are doing so to achieve the goals they want, and know that there is no testing in the amateur field, so could feel very safe about their chances of being caught.
It is clear that doping is an issue as there have been numerous cases of it over the last few years, for example Holly Balogh, age-group (45-49 year) Ironman champion in May of 2016 received a four-year doping ban after testing positive for exogenous substances. She went on to race in another ultra-marathon, but running under her maiden name, in a race not governed by the World Anti-Doping Association rules. Earlier this year Kevin Moats a 60-64 year age-group triathlete accepted an eight-year ban for testing positive for exogenous testosterone at the Ironman world championship, his first offence was in 2012. Also, last year’s Ironman world champion in the 18-24 age-group tested positive for testosterone in a pre-competition drug test.
To find about more about doping rules and how things are run within Canada you can visit the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, they also have information about Cannabis in sports which is very pertinent with the upcoming legalization.