BALTIMORE, JUNE 22 -- Triathlon -- a one-day competition combining bicycling, swimming and running -- is an event that finds itself in a quandary as the second world championships draw near and the International Olympic Committee prepares to meet to decide whether to include it in the Olympic Games.

The event's professional status does not significantly bother the IOC, but the athletes may find it hard to compete in the Olympics because there's no money to be won. Many of the top competitors avoided last year's first world championships in Avignon, France, because of what many considered minimal compensation.

"I'd be disappointed if the elite athletes don't try for the Olympics just because they're afraid of not getting a paycheck," said Jody Schmidt, a former professional (called "elite") triathlete who reverted to amateur status when she could not keep up with the demands of the event and her job. She is the defending world champion in the 30-34 age group.

"It's the same with the world championships," she said. "A lot of the pros opted not to go last year because they could make more money on the regular circuit."

CAT Sports, which will produce the world championship Sept. 15 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., held a news conference at the Sheraton Inner Harbor, as much to showcase the event as to inform the press and public on the progress of the 40-country championships.

One of the stipulations in CAT's contract to produce the meet this year is $100,000 in prize money, said Carl Thomas, president of CAT Sports, Inc.

"I'm sure that's why they had to have $100,000," said Schmidt, referring to the last year's professional flight.

The decision on the Olympics will come about a week after the world championships. And Les McDonald, president of the International Triathlon Union, said he and his colleagues are "keeping our fingers crossed, and not only that, we're doing all the right things.

"We've said from the beginning that people make a living at this and that won't stand in the way. But at the same time, we're cognizant some people in the IOC are still not happy with professional athletes and we advise everyone to use the word 'elite' and not 'professional.' It's just a reality of the times."

From the beginning 14 years ago in California, triathlons never pretended to be anything but professional endeavors. The number of hours necessary to train for the three kinds of racing requires full-time commitment.

"There's no reason to get paid to be in the Olympics. You get paid just being there," said Mike Pigg, 1988 triathlete of the year who acknowledged he could not feel that way about the rest of the season. "There's no conflict getting prize money one weekend and racing for the Olympics the next. {Prize money} is the way the sport evolved -- it's the only way to sustain elite competition. It's allowed us to put all our attention on training."

Pigg, Schmidt and other elite and amateur athletes (2,000 in all) will compete Sunday in the U.S. Triathlon Series race here. The swim portion is at Gunpowder Falls State Park and from there the athletes cycle and run to the Inner Harbor. The Baltimore stop is third on the 12-race series, culminating in the national championships in Las Vegas Oct. 20. Prize money is awarded at each stop as well as for accumulating the most points for the series. Pigg took top honors from 1986 to 1988.