Not every multisport athlete is able to swim, bike or run without some accommodation due to injury, congenital health condition or disease. But the balance between allowing everyone to participate in “the multisport lifestyle” and protecting the competition from unfair advantage means that USA Triathlon (“USAT”), the governing body of the sport, must balance safety and sportsmanship.
Recumbent bikes have generally been outlawed, but if the participant has an ADA disability, then a recumbent or 3 wheeled bike is permissible. The increasing inclusiveness in the sport is evidenced by the recumbent tricycle, which was the last thing added. However, as a recumbent’s lateral movement is limited compared to regular bike, it may be less safe. Recumbents are also longer and faster, presenting less wind resistance, which becomes a significant factor in cycling (especially at speeds above 30 km/hour).
Rule 5:11 of the USAT Rules cover “Bicycle Specifications” While many participants have heard race directors and pre-race announcers state, “All handlebar ends must be solidly plugged to lessen the possibility of injury,” which is from 5:11(i), under subsection (j), “There must be one working brake on each of the two wheels.” Track bikes, bikes with a missing brake, if they cannot be fixed to be in compliance, must be removed from the Transition Area. To leave it in the transition zone would be giving it tacit approval and increasing the risk of unnecessary injury. The Rules specify, “All bicycles and bicycle equipment used in USA Triathlon sanctioned events must conform to the specifications set forth in this Section. Any participant using a nonconforming bicycle or otherwise violating this Section shall be disqualified.” Of particular note is section 5:12 “Non-Traditional or Unusual Bicycle Equipment.”
Any unusual bicycle construction or equipment to which the specifications in Section 5.11 cannot easily be applied shall be illegal unless prior approval is received from the Head Referee before the equipment is used in the event. Any violation of this Section shall result in disqualification.
So what if an athlete has a disability that does not fit into the existing categorization for competitors ? USA Triathlon has revised its official rulebook to include a groundbreaking new Physically Challenged (PC) Open Division, meant to provide accommodations for those athletes who wish to participate in sanctioned events and do not meet classification or equipment criteria.
Following approval from the USA Triathlon Board of Directors, the PC Open Division rules will apply to participants at 2014 USA Triathlon-sanctioned events. The rules modifications will allow competition opportunities to athletes with Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) -defined disabilities who may not fit into a paratriathlon medical classification, or who are unable to follow the strict equipment usage rules of paratriathlon. Participation in the PC Open Division is available to athletes with a medically verified physical, visual or neurological impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Click here for the official rulebook.
Adaptive equipment used in the PC Open Division must conform to the equipment specifications listed in the Paratriathlon Rule Modifications or in Article 5.11 of the Competitive Rules with the following exceptions:
Participants with any disability that may affect balance may choose to use stabilizer wheels on the bicycle. The BIKE USA, Inc. Stabilizer Wheel Kit is an adult training wheel kit and it has been approved for use. For information and pictures of the product, click here. Recumbent style tricycles are allowed…Any request to use adaptive equipment not defined in the Paratriathlon Rules or in the exceptions above must be submitted to USA Triathlon at least 14 days in advance of the event.
Evidence tends to suggest that Physically Challenged athletes who want to participate and ride a recumbent 3-wheel bike will be permitted to do so upon advance notice to the race director and compliance with the other rules of the sport. Herndon Triathlete and injury lawyer Doug Landau notes, “the main concern is the safety of the participants so as to avoid needless injury (or worsening of the Physically Challenged athlete’s underlying condition).” For complete PC Open Rules, click here.