Racer disqualified for using ChapStick?

I know that sounds like the worst clickbait headline, but you have to follow along with me on this.

In order to qualify for the top triathalon race in the world, the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, triathletes have to score well in various other triathalon races.  If they reach the top level in their age group or bracket, then their ticket to Hawaii is punched.

Matt Smith recently participated in a triathalon qualifier, the IRONMAN Chattanooga in Tennessee, and finished in second place in his age bracket.  That meant he could race at Kona.

Except… he was told later by race officials that, after further review, he was disqualified.

And the culprit… was a stick of ChapStick.

In order to compete in triathalons, there are several pages of rules that a competitor must follow.  Many of these rules forbid the use of outside help along the way, unless the help is provided by a race official or by a fellow competitor, and even then, only specific types of help are permitted (one racer can provide another racer with a tire patch kit if needed).

As for Smith, he came out of the swimming portion of the race, toward the bicycle station, and his lips were sunburnt and chapped.  As he cycled through the second stage of the triathalon, his wife – who was also on a bicycle and who would race to various locations to cheer her husband on – had a stick of lip balm on her person.  Smith asked for it to soothe his burning lips, she gave it to him.

That, friends, was considered “Unauthorized Assistance.”  It didn’t matter if Smith’s wife gave him lip balm or Gatorade or a cortisone shot, it was a violation of the rules.  The officials gave Smith a “yellow card penalty,” essentially stopping him for about a minute, while the referee explained the violation and warned Smith not to let it happen again.

Well, somewhere down the track, it happened again, and after Smith completed the full race – with  time, including the penalty, that would have qualified him for Kona – he was told that his time was disallowed and he would not advance to Kona.  As far as the officials were concerned, it wasn’t just the ChapStick that cost Smith the race – it was the unauthorized assistance from Smith’s wife throughout the race that caused the disqualification.

So yeah, any jokes about whether the ChapStick had some special HGH compound in it, or if it possessed super-secret energy compounds that could turn him from Tony Stark into Iron Man, yeah no.

Here’s more from Denver 7 about the disqualification.

And the thing is, the way the media spins this story, it’s almost as if the IRONMAN Triathalon people are being nit-picky over a simple tube of lip balm.  Quel courage, what if he dared to use Blistex instead of ChapStick?  Would that have been approved?

But it’s really not just that.  Athletes have to compete to the best of their ability, to put their body through everything possible to achieve the greatest of goals.  It’s not that Matt Smith was incapable of finishing the race without lip balm.  It was that he received the lip balm from an unauthorized source – his wife – who rode through various parts of the course to cheer him on – another violation – and who provided him with other assistance, maybe the location and distance of riders ahead of or behind him?

That’s a hell of an advantage if it was provided.  If you’re fighting for one of the top two spots in your age group, and you know that you’re in third place at a certain point in the race, do you burn off reserved energy to catch the guy in front of you?  Or if you’re leading in your age group, do you simply keep your pace, knowing that your competition for those Kona spots is well behind you?

That’s more than just a tube of lip balm.  That’s to the integrity and spirit of the sport.  So yeah, Matt Smith got disqualified for several things in the race.

ChapStick was one of the disqualifying factors … but it wasn’t the only disqualifying factor.

So I say to Mr. Smith – this is a life lesson.

And if you do want to find a way to make ChapStick work for your future athletic endeavors…

May I suggest around of ski ballet?

I’m sure Ms. Chaffee can give you some lessons.