A cautionary tale from Ironman Lanzarote

A cautionary tale from Ironman Lanzarote


Letter from Coventry Tri Member Joe Reynolds: Written to the British Triathlon Federation and published in Tri 220 Magazine

I want as many people as possible to realise that the cover from the BTF is sometimes less than that of the race organisers and that using a BTF card abroad can leave people at a dis- advantage.

On Saturday 17th May this year I took part in the Iron Man Lanzarote race. Unfortunately I got into difficulty on the second lap of the swim and had to be withdrawn from the competition as I had taken water into my lungs, probably as a result of being 'swam over'.
This resulted in me being admitted to the Lanzarote Hospital where I spent the next three days, the first night in Intensive Care. The care I received there was excellent and the prompt action of the marshals and medics on the course probably saved my life and I am grateful to the organisation.

My problems arose later. I was informed at the reception of the hospital that the Hospital Fees would be paid by 'Iron Man'. On the third day of my stay a member of the hospital staff informed me that this was not the case and that responsibility was with my Federation. After telephoning my Federation (British Triathlon Federation) they informed me that responsibility was with the Iron Man organisation. I telephoned the Race Organisers and a was told that as I was a member of the BTF, and therefore had not taken out a day licence, that responsibility lay with my Federation (BTF). This was later confirmed by e-mail that had I purchased a 'Day Licence' the Race Organisers' Insurance would be responsible but as I had a licence from my own Federation that the Federation's insurance should cover me. The hospital I was taken to was a private hospital and would not accept the E111 card.

On being discharged from the hospital I paid my own bill in full (€3561.20) as my travel insurance did not cover 'extreme sports'. After talking to a number of my colleagues most of them were unaware that they would require specific race insurance and all of them believed that they were covered by their race licence. I am fortunate in that the sum involved is not so high that I will endure serious financial hardship but it could have been a lot higher had I had an accident on the bike course requiring surgery and a longer stay in the hospital.

A lot of triathletes in the UK enjoy competing Iron Man races abroad but most of those that I have spoken to were unaware of the implications should something go wrong. The point of this letter is to make other triathletes aware of the situation when racing abroad as I do not feel that the race organisers or the BTF have made this clear. I would advise any athlete competing in Iron Man races abroad to forget about their BTF licence and buy a Day Licence from the organisers regardless. Very few of us read the 'small print' or the 'terms and conditions' when we sign up for races, and I accept that it was my responsibility to have done so, but when we enter a race we enter to finish and think that it can't happen to us. It does however raise the question as to whether there is any value in an 'age-grouper' triathlete buying a BTF licence. There were twelve other patients in the hospital who also had no insurance.

This was not my first Iron Man competition, I have finished four races over the distance including Lanzarote in 2011 and I have been racing triathlon for over twenty years, not only in the UK but all over Europe and also in the USA (A Day Licence is compulsory in the USA). The response of the BTF is that their race insurance covers me for £25.00 per night not including the first night. I have filled in the forms and am awaiting the result. I do not intend to resign or leave the BTF, it was not their fault, I just feel that the issue should be given more publicity.