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Paul Geoghegan

I am a lawyer in the sports law team at Morton Fraser LLP and act for a number of UK-wide sports clubs and organisations. In addition to being passionate about sports (whether playing, watching or just talking!!), I also have a particular interest in how sport is affected by legal issues. This year's Olympic Games promises to be an unforgettable spectacle and I hope through my blog, I can share some of these interesting legal issues with you.

Olympic Countdown: Triathlon

Late to the party

Perhaps the only Olympic sport where how quick you can get your clothes off affects your chances of winning, triathlon is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. 

Despite having a suitably Olympic name from the Greek for trei (three) and athlos (contest), triathlon has only been part of the Olympics since Sydney in 2000 where an estimated 500,000 spectators watched the event.  

The sport is arguably one of the most gruelling tests of stamina with athletes swimming 1,500 metres then cycling 43km before finishing with a 10km run.  Even more impressive is that the winning triathletes in the men’s and women’s competition at London 2012 will be looking to complete the course in less than 2 hours without any breaks.        

Triathlon at London 2012

As with previous Olympics, the triathlon competition at London 2012 will involve a men’s and women’s race with each country being limited to 3 competitors in each race. 

The course at Hyde Park will be used for both races and as tickets are not required for 90% of the route, triathlon may well be the sport of choice for the more budget-concious spectator.

The use of domestiques

Team GB has good prospects for medal success in the triathlon competition with brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee and Helen Jenkins all ranked in the world top 10.

However, Team GB has caused controversy recently with its decision to select “domestiques” to give the Brownlees and Jenkins the best possible chance of winning a medal.

The term “domestique” (which translates as “servant” in French) is often associated with road cycling and describes someone who works for the benefit of the team.  Anyone who has watched the Tour de France recently will have noticed several domestiques from Team Sky working tirelessly to try to help Bradley Wiggins in his bid to become the first British rider to win the Tour.  The role of the Team Sky domestiques will change on a day by day basis but will often include forcing or chasing a breakaway group with Wiggins in their slip stream conserving energy.  

Whilst the use of domestiques in Olympic competitions is not prohibited by the International Olympic Committee, it is easy to see why it is a tactic which divides public opinion.  Of course we all want to see Team GB do well at this summer’s Games but is it really in the Olympic spirit to be picking athletes (many of whom are ranked considerably lower than athletes who have missed out on selection) for the sole purpose of improving the chances of our medal hopefuls?  

I often wonder what the domestiques think of being selected for London 2012.  Are they happy to just be part of Team GB or do they feel somehwat patronised that despite the years of preparation and training, they are not deemed good enough to compete for a medal and are instead being asked to sacrifice themselves for the “common good”?  Is performing the role of a domestique realling competing in the true sense of the word?

Regardless of your own views on the use of domestiques, if Alistair or Jonathan Brownlee and Helen Jenkins win gold this summer, they will fully deserve the adoration which their success will bring them.  However, if that does happen, let us not forget the selfless contributions which Stuart Hayes and Lucy Hall, the triathletes selected by Team GB as dedicated domestiques, will have made.