But critics and media reports portray the organization as a group that overestimates its achievements. Its name also draws criticism as it invokes the network of safe houses and secret passages used by blacks to escape slavery.
OUR is run by Tim Ballard, who in 2019 was appointed by Donald J. Trump as a member of an advisory council focused on ending trafficking in human beings.
A New York Times Magazine investigation found that in February 2016, according to a court document, a Justice Department official condemned law enforcement against “engaging in, assisting or supporting operations with” Ballard’s group. More recently, Troy Rawlings, the prosecutor from nearby Davis County, Utah, confirmed to the Times that he has an open criminal investigation into Ballard and his nonprofit organization. No charges have been filed.
“OUR has complied with all laws governing nonprofits and intends to fully cooperate with any official investigation if required,” OUR said in a statement that addressed the Davis County investigation and other allegations.
There was no sign that the athletes who joined Lawrence knew of his support for the group, and he downplayed the charity, saying the challenge was about inspiring people, including himself, to push their limits in. a time of pandemic-induced limitations.
Hailey Ingram Jones, who attended after giving birth to her first child in January and had never done a triathlon, said she had heard of Operation Underground Railroad before, but was not drawn to Conquer 100 by the choice of Lawrence to charity. “It didn’t seem like anyone had ever talked about it,” Ingram Jones said. “I don’t think most people even knew it was a thing.”
For Lawrence, at first alone, challenges abounded.
In the first few weeks of Conquer 100, Lawrence traversed icy late winter roads, howling wind, blasts of snow and freezing rain. By June, temperatures had risen above 90 degrees and the crowds had swelled. The same was true of Lawrence’s lower lip. The sun and the dry air had burned it, swollen, yellow and scabby.