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Sam Long opens up about penalty in St. George

"A five-minute penalty, in a 70.3 race - it's the end of your race."

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

After his runner-up finish to Gustav Iden at the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George, American Sam Long arrived in Utah for this year’s race as one of the pre-race favourites. Race day went completely awry, though, when he was given a five-minute drafting penalty. (As we reported, Long was penalized for “slotting in” as he tried to move through a large group.)

Yesterday Long released a video on his YouTube channel outlining his version of the day.

In the video Long expressed just how excited he had been heading into the event. After a decent swim, he was starting to move his way through the field.

“Things started to get complicated,” Long says in the video. “With the dynamics of the race there was two little groups up front. I think there was a group of five guys up front, and then a group of about four guys. Then I caught this group that had to be 25 to 35 people – it was just an absolutely massive group. I remember coming up to the back of the group and [thinking] ‘this is going to be an absolute nightmare,’ and I literally thought ‘figure out how to get to the front of this group without getting a penalty …'”

Related: The day in words and pictures – recapping the men’s race at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship

“I don’t want to get too much into that moment … everyone is going to talk about it until the cows come home,” Long continues. “Maybe there was an infraction on me, but here’s what I’ll say: if I was a ref over the course of this race and I could have given penalties out, I would have at least given 25 infractions out over the course of the day. And I feel like, in a 30-person group, with that much going on, even in that three-minute time frame, there were multiple instances of technical penalties going on. I was actually quite suprised I got it, because I’ve never got a drafting penalty before …”

“A five-minute penalty in a 70.3 race, it’s the end of your race,” he says. “There’s just no other way to say it.”

“The other point that I have is that, with the rules in the sport, we almost need a martyr, someone to go down for the cause and its so sad for me, but I do think we can use this opportunity collectively as professionals to try and see some rule changes,” Long says. “I think when there’s that big of a group, it’s a dynamic and fluid situation. Like I said, maybe I did do something wrong, maybe there was some type of technicality, but I can assure you there at least 20 technicalities within that time frame of five or seven minutes. If you’re going to penalize me, then two-thirds or three-fourths of the group would.have been penalized. Do you want to have 25 guys sitting in a penalty tent? If you’re going to penalize one person then you need to penalize everyone.

“It’s not just for me, it’s about making it so that anyone who dedicates their life can show up and get a fair race,” Long continues. “We maybe work on what we would like those rules to be as professionals.”

Long says he’ll compete in two more Ironman events this year – the full-distance race in Arizona later this month, and at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells in December.