Using Abusive Language About Sporting Officials is Bull****

I’ve been struck down by COVID and woke up Saturday morning NZ time, to my partner getting struck down by the worst COVID has to offer. Fortunately, I’m a few days ahead of her but that doesn’t make it any easier. Eventually I got to the point of checking the news to see a massive headline “‘Bull****’: Kiwi appeals silver medal finish after controversial penalty” with a picture of Hayden Wilde.

This headline immediately disappointed me, abusing sporting officials in this way is never acceptable. I hadn’t even read the article nor knew what had happened to feel disappointment that sporting officials are being abused.

I know a number of sporting officials from rugby referees through to Technical Officials (TO) in triathlon (including some that are TOing at Birmingham). They all have a thank less task, yes sometimes they make mistakes they are human after all. But abusing them is never acceptable.

Before I delve into this a bit further I want to state I’m a huge supporter of Hayden Wilde. I love his give everything racing style. I’ve never coached, nor have I met Hayden and have no vested outcome in his result. I also want to commend his comments on social media and what he has said and how he has congratulated Alex Yee (who I also have never coached or met, and have no vested interest in his result).

The first news article I read on this came from the New Zealand Herald. They reported that “Wilde incurred a 10-second penalty in transition, being adjudged to have removed his helmet too early at the end of the bike leg.”

“The Kiwi triathlete took silver behind England’s Alex Yee but believed he had been denied a shot at gold by a questionable penalty call, describing the decision as “bull****” following the race.”

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/commonwealth-games-2022-controversial-penalty-as-hayden-wilde-wins-new-zealands-first-medal/RHNKSNHJAOEPL3WS5AR2WUQ7KQ/

Now for me other than the abuse of a race offical who made a decision is not acceptable, that in itself should rule out any appeal, but what does Hayden hope to achieve from all of?

  1. Abusing officials is never okay

Hayden makes it clear that he doesn’t want to take the gold medal away from Alex Yee who by all accounts is his mate and they have a lot of mutual respect for each other. He wants to share the medal with him, by getting his silver medal upgraded to a gold.

So if I get this right, you cross the line in second place, accept the guy that crossed the line in first deserved to win but you want to also have a gold medal. I’ll put that down to Gen X and Millennials, and leave it at that.

  1. Abusing officials is never okay
  2. You are not fighting over whether you would have won gold, but want to have a gold.

The World Triathlon 2022 Competition Rules (located here: https://www.triathlon.org/uploads/docs/World_Triathlon_Competition_Rules_2022_20220128_xxx.pdf) under Transition, General Rules specify

7.1 a.) “All athletes must have their helmet securely fastened from the time they remove their bike from the rack before the start of the bike leg, until after they have placed their bike on the
rack after the finish of the bike leg;

Further under APPENDIX K: PENALTIES AND VIOLATIONS, for rule 56 for Elite and Para triathlon it specifies a time penalty for “Wearing the helmet unfastened or insecurely fastened, inside transition area while in possession of the bike.

Before I refreshed my knowledge of the rule book my question is “Did Hayden remove his helmet before racking his bike?” but I couldn’t find any footage of T2 to confirm. When I did find some footage after I’d read the rule book, my questions had become:

  • Is Hayden’s helmet ‘securely’ fastened if he started to unfasten it?
  • Is Hayden still in possession of his bike if his hand is still on it?

I’m no Technical Offical but my answers are No and Yes.

Still images taken from video on Stuff NZ https://tinyurl.com/bk6bwawv

If that is the case and Hayden clearly reaches for the fastening buckle of his helmet before he racks his bike, I would argue that his helmet is no longer securely fastened. Technically a breach.

Was he unbuckling his helmet or was he just getting ready to unbuckle his helmet?

Interesting argument but one that could fly unless he doesn’t touch his helmet fastener after he racks his bike.

In the image to the right Hayden, wearing black trisuit and a white helmet with right hand on helmet buckle and left hand on stem of bike prior to racking bike.

Still images taken from video on Stuff NZ https://tinyurl.com/bk6bwawv

But the decision for the penalty isn’t about racking his bike it is about in possession of his bike and if his bike is physically in his hand still then I can’t see how it isn’t in his possession.

As you can see in the image to the right Hayden’s right hand is now clear of the helmet buckle and his left hand is still on the bike racking it into the stand.

Although the commentators on the video called it “harsh”, and “hard to call” and when you slow it down and confirm with the rule book the TO knew the rules and has made the correct call. Penalties are meant to be a deterrent and penalise people that breach the rules of the sport. Getting a silver when you were going to be in contention for a gold is a massive penalty, or as the commentator said harsh, but it is likely to be a deterrent to it happening again.

Unfortunately, it is a massive race to learn this lesson, but I believe the TO made the correct call.

  1. Abusing officials is never okay
  2. You are not fighting over whether you would have won gold, but want to have a gold.
  3. The TO made the correct call

Hayden Wilde displayed some great traits of sportsman ship to his fellow athletes, in particular Alex Yee giving him a congratulatory low 5 as he got passed, as well as how he has spoken about him post race. However, his words about the correct decision made by the TO are less than sporting, and our sport has no place for abusing decisions made.

I have no qualms with challenging decisions made appropriately which Hayden is also doing, but by calling the decision “Bull****” that is what gets my blood boiling.

Major sporting codes athletes/coaches have been fined significant amounts of money for similar comments undermining the decisions of officials. Ricky Stuart coach of the Canberra Raider’s has received over $125,000 worth of fines and lost his appointment as Australian Test Coach for that very thing.

UPDATE Post-Mixed Relay

There has been some very one sided messages coming my way, it was the heat of the moment, straight after the race, emotions where raw, it was a private conversation, it wasn’t meant to be heard by the media etc…. none of this is an excuse for being abusive about the call made by an official. To the people that have informed me it was a private conversation I say, if it was private how did the media get a hold of it. You can’t expect to have a private conversation with media present.

For me it isn’t the fact it was reported on (media are going to print the story to get their sales), it is the fact it was said in the first instance. We should not be abusive towards the decisions made. This is not the standard of sport I want or like to see.

Disappointingly, Hayden seems quite proud of his most recent achievement, singling out the official that made the call against him to deliver a death stare during the mixed relay. How do I know this? Because he has openly told the media so and has once again hit the headlines in New Zealand.

Headline from Stuff.co.nz published 01-Aug-2022 https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/commonwealth-games/300650609/i-gave-him-a-death-stare–hayden-wilde-recounts-first-encounter-with-official-since-controversial-penalty

Just so I wasn’t getting my wires crossed I looked up the definition of a “death stare“: a hostile or contemptuous look directed at a particular person. I don’t know Hayden’s intent but I hope it was more contemptuous than hostile.

Headline from New Zealand Herald published 01-Aug-2022 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/commonwealth-games-2022-triathlon-team-provides-hayden-wilde-with-vengeful-moment-despite-missing-medals/B4373JP7HUNK3MZBWM2LVQAS2I/

For the record “vengeful” means “seeking to harm someone in return for a perceived injury“. This made me wonder if I’d interpreted hayden’s use of Death Stare above incorrectly, but am aware that this was the word used by media not Hayden.

Regardless this is not the role modeling we want to see in our sport.

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