Rule bars Lance Armstrong
The World Triathlon Corporation's board of directors has decided to leave in place a rule that suspends Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong from participating in Ironman events.
Under the rule, athletes "under investigation" for alleged doping offenses are suspended from competing in WTC-sanctioned triathlons.
The immediate consequence of the board's decision is that seven-time Tour winner Armstrong will not be permitted to race at an Ironman event June 24 in France. It also might end his bid to qualify for this fall's Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
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WTC imposed its ban Wednesday after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency informed Armstrong of its intent to file sweeping charges against him that could result in the loss of his Tour titles. Those charges are not based on a positive drug test or tests, but rather on witness testimony and other evidence stretching to the mid-1990s.
WTC CEO Andrew Messick said opinion among the professional triathletes on the circuit was split, and that there was serious discussion about reconsidering the rule. Ultimately, he said, the leadership decided it would be "inappropriate to change the rule in midseason."
"There were 815 athletes who agreed to the rule that is currently standing, and there's no ambiguity about it," Messick told ESPN.com Saturday. "Even if it has unintended consequences, (rescinding) it isn't the right thing to do for the integrity of the sport."
The rule, which was in place when Messick took over in July 2011, has been imposed at least once before, in the case of Austrian mountain biker-turned-triathlete Michael Weiss.
Four-time Ironman event winner Jordan Rapp is among the athletes who thought the rule should be scrubbed.
In an email to Messick earlier this week, Rapp wrote: "I ask myself, simply, would I want to be fired from my job simply because someone was investigating me for wrongdoing? And the answer is that I would not. And that is, basically, what I believe the WTC policy does. Suspicion alone should not keep someone off of the racecourse."
Messick said that prior to the opening of the USADA case, discussions had been ongoing about removing the rule in time for the 2012-2013 Ironman season.
"They decided that the greater equity was to keep things the way they were," Rapp said. "I disagree with that decision, but I respect the thought process behind it."
In February, several days after federal investigators dropped a nearly two-year investigation into alleged doping on his past cycling teams, Armstrong announced his goal was to compete in the Oct. 13 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Simultaneously, Armstrong's Livestrong foundation unveiled a partnership with the Ironman series that included fundraising for the foundation and Ironman's sponsorship of Livestrong events. Since then, Armstrong has competed in five half-Ironman events and has won the past two, in Florida and Hawaii. But under WTC qualifying rules, in order to be among the 50-man professional field at worlds, he must compete in a full Ironman event by the end of August, along with achieving a high-enough world ranking.
Armstrong still may compete in non-WTC-sanctioned triathlons.