Triathlon Rules and Penalties

| May 5, 2012

by Joella Baker (newsletter 5/29/12)
Triathlon season is here and it’s important you all know the rules and regulations.

USA Triathlon

USA Triathlon (USAT) is the sanctioning authority for most, if not all, triathlons you will participate in and they have rules. The USAT states that these rules are designed to “maintain consistency and order from race to race across the country.” You can download the triathlon rules, which include sections on membership, as well as rules of conduct for swimming, cycling, running, and transition.

There are also special sections on protests, hearings and appeals, and rules modifications for physically challenged athletes. However, the USAT has identified the most common rules violations for which triathletes are most often disqualified or penalized. The rules violated and the subsequent penalties are as follows:

#1 Helmets Only helmets approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) may be used in USAT sanctioned events. Helmets must be worn at all times while on your bike. This means before, during, and after the event. You can’t ride from your car to transition and not wear your helmet or you’ll be disqualified before you even start the race. Penalty: Disqualification

#2 Chin Straps Chin straps must remain buckled at all times when on a bicycle. You cannot unbuckle your chin strap, unless you are off your bicycle. You also need to keep it buckled in transition as well. Penalty: Disqualification on the course; Variable time penalty in transition area only.

#3 Outside Assistance Since triathlons are individual tests of fitness, no assistance other than that offered by race and medical officials may be used. Penalty: Variable time penalty

#4 Transition Area All equipment must be placed in the properly designated and individually assigned bike corral. Furthermore, the wheel of your bike must be down on the side of the assigned space. You must return your bike to an upright position in its designated bicycle corral. You cannot interfere with another participant’s equipment or impede the progress of another participant. All bar ends must be solidly plugged. And you cannot bring any glass containers into the transition area. Penalty: Variable time penalty

#5 Drafting You must keep at least 3 bike lengths of clear space between you and the cyclist in front. If you move into the zone, you must pass within 15 seconds. Always keep to the right hand side of the lane of travel unless passing; riding on the left side of the lane without passing anyone and interfering with other cyclists attempting to pass (also known as blocking) is not permitted. Once passed, you must immediately exit the draft zone from the rear before attempting to pass again. Penalty: Variable time penalty

#6 Course You must follow the prescribed course and stay within all coned lanes; cutting the course is an obvious violation and going outside the course is a safety issue. You cannot cross a solid yellow center line for any reason. You must obey all applicable traffic laws at all times. Penalty: Referee’s discretion

#7 Unsportsmanlike Conduct These are forbidden: Foul, harsh, argumentative or abusive language or other unsportsmanlike conduct directed at race officials, USA Triathlon officials, volunteers, spectators or fellow athletes. Penalty: Disqualification

#8 Headphones Headphones, headsets, Walkman’s, iPods, mp3 players, and other types of personal audio devices are not to be carried or worn at any time during the race. Penalty: Variable time penalty

#9 Race numbers You must wear a race number at all times during the run. Your number must face the front and be clearly visible at all times. Numbers may not be cut or folded or altered in any way. You also cannot transfer your number to any other athlete or take a number from an athlete who is not competing. Penalty: Variable time penalty for missing or altered number, Disqualification and 1-year suspension from membership in USAT for transferring a number without the race director’s permission.

#10 Wetsuits You are permitted to wear a wetsuit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees, but less than 84 degrees, you may wear a wetsuit at your own discretion. However, if you wear a wetsuit within such temperature range, you will not be eligible for prizes or awards. Above 84 degrees, wetsuits are prohibited. WTC events have a standard of 76 degrees as not being wetsuit legal. It’s important to check with the race officials to know if wetsuits will be permitted.

#11 Abandonment All of your personal equipment and belongings taken out onto the course must stay on on your person the entire time. No garbage, clothing, etc. is ever allowed to be thrown on the course. Penalty: Variable time penalty

There are a few rules violations a newcomer might especially be prone to commit. Here are a few:

• Listening to your Ipod may sound like a great idea for managing the run. Unfortunately, that would violate rule #8. Never wear an Ipod during a triathlon.
• Let’s say you unhook your chin strap as you are rolling that last 10 feet before you enter the transition area. You just broke rule #2. Chin strap must be fastened, even in transition.
• Maybe a mile into the run you decide you’d rather go shirtless. You pull off your top and toss it. You just violated rule #11.
• Perhaps you are a relatively inexperienced cyclist and basically unclear on the specifics of what constitutes a violation of the drafting rule #5. Not good!
• Something goes wrong in the transition area, and your sympathetic friend or significant other comes in to help you figure it out. That’s a violation of rule #3.
• Your race number is flapping around and getting on your nerves. You yank it off, fold it up, and slip it under your tri shorts. That violates rule #9.
• During the swim, triathlete #128 tells you to get out of his way and kicks you hard in the face as he swims by. Later, you pass #128 on the bike and as you do, you have a few expletives to share loudly as you drop him going up the hill. If someone sees it, you’ve just disqualified yourself on the basis of rule #7.
So, the moral to the story is: be mindful of the official triathlon rules, be smart while you’re out there.


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