Over the past 2-3 years the National politics of triathlon have been in the spotlight for those paying attention. The USAT executive director resigned. A new ED was hired, he came from USA Swimming I think. USAT and WTC(owners of all official IM races) split. The Global Tri-Group (GTG) was formed to sanction official IM races. GTG/WTC and USAT made up again. The ex-ED of USAT started his own venture to offer insurance for triathlons.
Triathlon really took off after the 2000 Olympic games when triahtlon was an event for the first time ever. 2004 didn't hurt either. Regardless of how much people argue that the Olympics really don't matter to triathletes, there was a distinct surge in membership post 2000. The Ironman has been televised forever, but after 2000, there was a noticable surge.
What does the change in the political climate of triathlon mean to the average Joe-Triathlete? Some would argue that it means a lot because without USAT your races are not going to be as safe, costs are going to go up or down, etc. etc. etc. Arguments can be made for both sides that without USAT officialling is going to be better or worse, safety is going to be better or worse, race quality is going to be better or worse. It all depends on who you ask.
But, you have to ask if Joe-Triathlete is really going to know a difference at all. I don't think that he will. If JT is going to do 5 races a year, he is most likely going to join USAT for $30 if at least 3 or 4 of his races are USAT sanctioned races. If he doesn't even know what USAT is, then he's probably going to pay a $9 daily fee to race so that if he does end up needing the insurance that USAT provides race directors, he can use it. He can't race if he doesn't pay the $9 fee, so he'll pay it. If she-JT does Danskin, which uses the new insurance venture, then she-JT will pay a built in fee so that there is insurance. If JT does an IM race that is sanctioned by the GTG/WTC, then JT is going to pay their insurance fee unless it is a north American event when they can use their USAT membership. Confused...probably so. Bottom line is that with all of the political schtuff that has been going on, the procedure that JT has to go through to race is probably not going to change a bit.
Personally, I like USAT. I haven't always agreed with some of the policies and procedures, but on average I think that USAT does a great job of helping race directors, giving athletes good events, and trying to develop a national ranking system that is at least some way of comparing your performances to the others in your age group. As a USAT elite with hopes of going to Olympic Trials, they have some pretty nice incentives for those who qualify for them...currently I don't! I think that the National Championship selection procedure and race could be improved upon, but maybe they're working on it.
Race officiating seems to be taking a turn so that JT is not always going to be DQ'd for drafting on the bike when he doesn't really know what that is. One problem in the past has been that in an effort to level the playing field, JT gets DQ'd for something he doesn't know he's doing. JT then has a sour taste in his mouth about triathlons so he might not do another one. As the popularity of anything increases and more and more new folks get involved, the relative knowledge of the sport in the field also decreases. People are going to violate rules they don't even know exist. Each athlete is ultimately resposible for knowing and adhering to the rules, but lets not take away their goal by DQing them for something they didn't know they were doing...maybe a stiff warning of some sort?
So, that's it. National Politics summary is this...a lot has happened since the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. Triathlon continues to grow. Change has occured at USAT. Change has occured outside of USAT. Triathlon continues to grow. New organizations were formed. USAT, thankfully, has weathered all of it. I like USAT and everyone (USAT/WTC/GTG/ITU) seems to be basically getting along. JT can continue to race every weekend if he chooses.
State of the Sport draft outline: Part 1: Generic State of the Sport. check. Part 2: National Politics. check. Part 3: Drafting vs. Non-Drafting...National again. Part 4: Austin Politics. Part 5: Signing off unless something else comes to mind.