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Last week, we learned that Lance Armstrong, who is banned from Ironman and USAT-sanctioned events, will compete in this weekend’s SuperFrog Triathlon as well as the Rev3 Half-Full Triathlon on Oct. 7. The races have decided to forgo USAT sanctioning to allow Armstrong to race in their events, which means they will not count toward the USAT National Ranking System and will be insured by a third party instead (read more about USAT sanctioning here). Both events are focused on a strong charity element: SuperFrog will raise money for the Navy Seals Foundation and the Livestrong Foundation, while the Half-Full benefits the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.
Following this announcement, there was a string of Twitter backlash from a few pro triathletes and forum chatter about Rev3 “supporting a doper” by allowing him to race in their event. Some even mentioned they would reconsider racing future Rev3 events as a result.
We talked with Charlie Patten, the owner of the Rev3 series, to get some background on the Half-Full and the decision to let Armstrong race.
Triathlete.com: Can you explain Rev3’s relationship with the Half-Full race?
Patten: The Ulman Cancer Fund has been our national charity partner for the last two years. They’ve produced the Half-Full triathlon for the last two years, and we’ve supported them—we’ve timed their races for free, we donated our bike racks, we provided our trucks, we did everything we could to help them.
Earlier this year we did the Run Across America to raise money and awareness for them. Through that process, we got to meet a lot of the survivors that have benefited from the Ulman Cancer Fund. Going into this year, they wanted to increase numbers at their race to increase awareness. They thought we could do that if we added it to our series of events, so we decided to turn it into Rev3 Half-Full. All the entry fees go directly to them—we don’t take a penny—but we supported it and tried to help it grow. Our staff is going to help to produce it, all of our trucks will be there, our timing will be there, our finish line will be there, our supplies. We’re not charging them for that, obviously, because we believe in their mission.
Triathlete.com: How did the decision to let Lance race come about?
Patten: It’s their race, and we support it. Ulman Cancer Fund COO Brian Satola called me and said, “So what do you think about this?” And I said, “Why don’t you give me a little time to digest it, but what do you think about it?” Satola said, “If he wants to race, we really think it’s going to raise the profile of our event, it’s going to allow us to become more visible in the eyes of people who don’t know us and what we do. It’s going to help us with awareness and help us to raise funds. We think more people will sign up to do the event as a result of it.” I said, “Well if you guys think that letting him is going to help with your mission, then I’m 100 percent for it.”
Triathlete.com: Were you expecting this type of reaction?
Patten: Honestly I didn’t even think about the PR negative or PR positive. And I’m being honest with you to tell you that I don’t care about the PR positive and PR negative. I don’t care one bit. Because I know personally people that have fought cancer that benefit from the Ulman Cancer Fund. I know people who are currently fighting cancer and are benefiting from the Ulman Cancer Fund. And that’s why we’re partnering with them—because what they’re doing matters. It matters on a whole different level than the sport of triathlon. I hate to say this, but I don’t care about the sport of triathlon when it comes to helping people. It’s inconsequential to me. I guess that sounds funny coming from me because we’re trying to make a living off of this, but ultimately our ability to help people is why we do Rev3. This fits perfectly with what we’re doing.
I have seen the impact of the dollar amount and awareness that’s been raised because of this announcement. And I know that money is going to go directly to support programs that help people fighting cancer, people that are going to fight cancer in the future. And to me, you know, life in general far exceeds the positive or negative PR we’ll get from this.
Triathlete.com: Are you going to allow him at future Rev3 events?
Patten: All of our races are sanctioned by USAT and will continue to be sanctioned by USAT. It’s important for people to know that it’s not our race. It’s Ulman Cancer Fund’s race. We just happen to support their cause. Obviously I take things personally—I shouldn’t but I do, because I’m so invested in it—and I sit back and say, “Knowing what we do now, would we have done it the same way?” Honestly the answer is yes. I feel bad that people jump to conclusions and automatically think what they want to think. I just wish people would put their opinions about Lance aside. In this one instance, it matters that we’re helping people. From the bottom of my heart, that’s why we made this decision.
People jump to conclusions and make statements that are damaging to us without thinking about that. To have pros that have raced with us come out and say, “We’re not going to race with Rev3 next year”—that damages us. In the public eye, that hurts us. Those are the things that we have to deal with, and I wish that they took a step back and realized, you know, racing as a pro means nothing. I don’t wish cancer on anybody. But it changes your opinion on things when racing as a pro triathlete doesn’t matter anymore because you’re fighting cancer. It’s not a profession anymore, it’s life or death. Sometimes seeing someone close to you face death, changes your perspective on the things that matter most in life.
I’m not claiming to be right or wrong in this whole thing. I’m all for a clean sport. I don’t want people doping or cheating. Obviously that’s not what we stand for. But it’s important for everyone to understand that this isn’t about sport. This isn’t about whether somebody cheated—it’s so much more important than that.
Triathlete.com: How did the Run Across America change your relationship?
Patten: Part of the reason we chose to do the Run Across America is because I wanted our staff to understand and appreciate why we support the Ulman Cancer Fund. In the past, we’ve talked about how the relationship was more of an on-paper relationship. The Run Across America was designed for our staff to be able to understand why we’re supporting them, and for me as well. Ulman was able to send survivors who benefited from the fund to fly out and join us on the run. It was just a major, major impact on me to see that it’s real. Millions of people battle cancer every year, and these were people in the prime of their life. They had their whole lives in front of them and were ready to conquer things. Your plans and what you want to do in your life is completely sidelined. It really had an impact on our staff to see how these people’s lives were forever changed by it and how important it is to continue to support them and what they’re doing.
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