Unjustified suspension for triathlete Els Visser after missing a buoy during the swimming part of a triathlon

Date judgment: 29 May 2019


The judge of the Court Midden-Nederland ruled in an interlocutory procedure between Els Visser and the Nederlandse Triathlon Bond (NTB) and World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), the organisation of international Ironman competitions, that the triathlete was unjustified suspended from Ironman Maastricht which event took place on 5 August 2018.

The Ironman Maastricht is a triathlon which exists of 3,8 kilometres swimming, 180 kilometres biking and 42,195 kilometre running. The NTB had decided that the Ironman Maastricht would also be a Dutch Championship Triathlon 2018. So we could speak of a Dutch Championship during an International Ironman competition.

Visser won the Ironman Maastricht and is therefore Dutch Champion and won prize money. At the end of September Visser received an e-mail in which she was informed that she was disqualified and though was not the winner of Ironman Maastricht. The triathlete would not had swum the full swimming track.  The traithlete missed the last buoy. This also meant she was not the Dutch Champion and she was not longer entitled to keep the prize money.

Visser argued that she missed the buoy because she followed the instruction of a person in a boat of the organisation. She had to follow the other swimmers and needed to swim directly to the finish. The referees and the organisation knew already before the determination of the final results ánd the ceremony that she missed the buoy. Also the applicable regulations do not provide a ground for disqualification. Following the regulations a complaint must be submitted within 5 minutes after finishing. This didn’t happen.

The judge agreed with the argumentation of Visser because she prooved that missing the buoy was already known and the organisation didn’t hear both sides before deciding to suspend Visser. The judge was also of the opinion that the rule that atlethes should swim the whole track not preveals above the rule that athletes should follow instructions of the organisation. Instructions are only given when a situation requires.

Visser is still, provisional, the winner of Ironman Maastricht and the Dutch Championship and the prize money will be, provisionally, paid. Provisionally because this concerns a interlocutory procedure but the judge assumes that these claims will sustain in main proceedings.

You can read the judgement (only available in Dutch) on: https://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/inziendocument?id=ECLI:NL:RBMNE:2019:2376&showbutton=true&keyword=triatleet

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