Race Rules USA Triathlon Disqualify Penalty Participant Run

You Can Get Penalized for WHAT?

Some of the USA Triathlon rules are common sense, even if you are a newbie. Tampering with another competitor's bike or cutting the course during the run is not only unsportsmanlike, it's just gross. Most of us participating in this sport are honest, hardworking athletes and would never think of cheating. 

But have we all read through the specific rules for these races? It wouldn't be too surprising if you haven't, the list is 32 pages! Allow us to break down the most common violations for you. 

General Rules

  • every race participant must be a USA Triathlon member or purchase a single race permit.
  • no headphones (or any other audio device) - sad news indeed, but Rihanna can't come along on your HIM, Sprint or IM. 
  • no littering - plan for a secure spot to put your empty GU wrapper, like the back pockets of your cycle kit
  • no outside help (other than race provided) - mom can't pass you a water bottle, and your BFF can't toss you a chapstick. But most races have plenty of aid stations if you find yourself in need. 
  • no pacing - similar to "no outside help", your coach can't shout out your times to you or race next to you for any period of time. 
  • no indecent exposure - hopefully, we don't need to explain this one...
  • no unsportsmanlike behavior - get called out for this and it could be an immediate disqualification. 
  • all participants must cover the entire course - no cutting (DUH) and it is your responsibility to know the course. 
  • no obstruction of another competitor's progress - because that's just mean!


  • swim around the buoys - practice sighting before the race and you shouldn't have any issues with this one. 
  • "excluding the bottom, a participant shall not use any inanimate object to gain forward progress." (teamusa.org) - standing on the bottom or hanging on to a buoy, rope or boat is fine if you're resting. But anything giving you that forward progress puts you at risk for variable time penalties. 


  • a helmet must be worn at all times while on the bike with chin strap buckled - this one can get you an immediate disqualification
  • no riding your bike in the transition area - mount your bike only after exiting
  • no drafting - you must leave at least three bike lengths between you and the person in front of you. When passing you have 15 seconds to get around them. 


  • "A participant who gains forward progress by crawling or otherwise violates this Section shall be disqualified." (teamusa.org) - stay upright while moving and you're good to go!

There are plenty of great triathletes who have accidentally ended up in the penalty box during a race. It may not be the end of the world, but becoming familiar with the rules can help you avoid it. 

Have you ever been penalized during a race? What happened? Tell us in the comments below!

Follow Tri Sirena on Instagram @tri_sirena_apparel 

The following sources were utilized in this article:

Darling, Mike. "11 Triathlon Rules You Should Know". Active.com. http://www.active.com/triathlon/articles/11-triathlon-rules-you-should-know. August 2017. 

USA Triathlon. "USA Triathlon Competitive Rules". https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/About/Multisport/Competitive-Rules. August 2017. 

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