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Triathlon group sues World Triathlon Corp. over canceled event

Wednesday - 7/25/2012, 6:01pm  ET

Washington Sports and Event Management LLC, producers of the Nation's Triathlon, have sued the World Triathlon Corporation for defamation stemming from the abrupt cancelation of the Ironman 70.3 National Harbor race that had been slated for August.

In early May, word began leaking out that the inaugural race, first announced in January, would be canceled due to lack of interest. In public statements at the time and since, the Tampa-based triathlon group has said WSEM cancelled the event.

But in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in D.C., WSEM says it had nothing to do with the decision to cancel. According to attorney Matthew August LeFande, the cancelation was the decision of a separate entity that had been created to handle the higher-risk initiative to create the National Harbor event from scratch, not WSEM.

WSEM and the separately created group have common owners and executives, he acknowledged, but the corporate distinction is meaningful.

"If you enter into a business relationship with one company, and don't like the way it worked out, you don't malign the other company you don't have a business relationship with," said LeFande, a solo practice lawyer in Arlington. "There has to be some respect for the corporate form."

WSEM is seeking at least $75,000 in punitive and actual damages as well as a judicial order stopping the Florida group from repeating its claims. It claims the false blame has been repeated numerous times in various media.

A World Triathlon Corporation representative did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

In February, WSEM sold the Nation's Triathlon to the Competitor Group Inc., but remains a local producing partner.