CORONADO, Calif. -
A local triathlon this weekend will welcome some major star power along with a bit of controversy.
Nick Bernal is getting in some last-minute training. Bernal, a veteran triathlete, will tackle yet another challenge this weekend, but that is only a part of his excitement.
"For me, I'm like a school kid," said Bernal. "He's definitely a long-time hero."
Bernal's idol, Lance Armstrong, will be competing in the 34th annual Superfrog Triathlon on the Silver Strand.
"We've been courting him for years, but we were pleasantly surprised when that call came in," said race director Mitch Hall.
Hall says Armstrong's presence has led to a record 825 entrants in the event.
Last month, Armstrong said he would not fight charges of doping that stripped him of seven Tour De France titles and left him banned from sanctioned events.
"I'm working under the assumption he's innocent until proven guilty," said Hall.
Organizers of the Superfrog event said they have received emails from athletes concerned about Armstrong's cloud of controversy tainting the event.
Also, the triathlon dropped its pursuit of being an officially-sanctioned event because of Armstrong's participation. That means other triathletes will not be able to accumulate points.
Matty Reed, a former Olympic triathlete coming to Coronado, was quoted in the "Wall Street Journal" as saying, "He got a drug ban and I would like to see him honor that and not race."
When asked if he was worried about a backlash from athletes, Hall responded, "I'm not worried about a backlash."
Hall said he has received 20 times more emails that are in support of Armstrong.