Hawaii triathletes react to Ironman illegal lottery

Hawaii triathletes react to Ironman illegal lottery

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

Ben Williams raced in two Ironman World Championships in Kona.

"It really is a world championship and the best in the world are there," he said.

The professional triathlete got in on sheer physical ability. But every year, 100 participants with lesser skills were chosen from a pool of people who paid a $50 lottery fee.

"I certainly didn't disagree with the ability to pay in $50 and do the race, especially if you're living in the islands," Williams said.

This year more than 14,000 people from around the world entered the lottery, including Roy Kanemitsu of Mililani.

"This lottery was designed to allow the everyday person like myself a chance to participate in this world class event," he said.

The Justice Department has ruled the $50 lottery illegal, saying "Ironman would have been permitted to give away the opportunity to compete in the race, but violated the law when it charged athletes money for the chance to win."

World Triathlon Corporation in Florida owns the Ironman. Lotteries are illegal in that state. The company doesn't admit guilt but will forfeit nearly $3 million in lottery fees from the last three years.

"We all just couldn't believe that these guys that are so professional have let something like this happen," Williams said.

In a statement WTC said, "Ironman chose to settle so that we can focus on our priorities - our athletes and our events."

Kanemitsu did race in three Kona Ironmans. He was selected in a free lottery associated with Hawaii's qualifying half triathlon called Honu.  He paid the $50 lottery fee every year from 1992 but was never selected as one of the 100 lottery winners. 

"To me $50 was a small price to pay just for the chance to do the Ironman," he said.

"I know several athletes besides Roy that have entered the lottery for years," Williams said.

For thousands of triathletes the $50 lottery fee was their only long shot of making it into the Ironman. The forfeited money will go to the federal government. The 100 lottery winners from this year will be allowed to race in the Ironman in October.

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