UCI truth and reconciliation

Tim Renowden Columnist

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    Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen’s attempt to intimidate crusading anti-doping journalist Paul Kimmage through legal action is a public relations disaster, and shows yet again how out of touch the sport’s administrators are with public expectations.

    It’s the latest in a series of embarrassing displays of tone-deafness and blatant arse-covering from an organisation that should be doing – and be unequivocally seen to be doing – everything in its power to improve the transparency and honesty of cycling.

    Unfortunately, the governing body’s credibility is evaporating by the day, under the withering heat of corruption allegations, exhumed doping scandals from the past, ridiculous decisions like handing the 2016 World Championships to Qatar, and nonsense red herrings like the suggestion that a “truth and reconciliation”process can resolve the ongoing ‘issues’surrounding professional cycling.

    The idea that past and present riders and team management would gladly come forward to confess their sins and absolve themselves of punishment is a wonderful ideal to hold, until you give it the ten seconds of thought it takes to think through the most basic ramifications of doing so.

    The riders that have given evidence so far (in some cases evidence and affidavits have not yet been made public) have only done so when they’ve been caught bang to rights, either by positive tests or on the evidence of others who have dobbed them in.

    Why would an unsuspected rider deliberately come forward to ruin his reputation and open himself up to possible civil or legal actions from rivals, team management and sponsors as a result? Out of the goodness of his heart?

    It’s a ridiculous notion that looks to me like a fairly obvious attempt to divert attention away from the real action, like a shonky magician pulling a cheap card trick.

    Maybe they hope the UCI’s responsibility in all this will just float away while nobody is watching.

    The big truth that the UCI needs to reconcile is that it has utterly failed, over a period of decades, in its duty to prevent doping and corruption in the sport it is supposed to administer. It has a duty to its fans, sponsors, the IOC and especially to participants, to provide a clean and fair competition free from doping.

    The breadth and depth of the doping allegations, admissions, and legal findings that are now a matter of public record illustrate how the UCI has manifestly failed to fulfil this duty.

    If it was a publicly-listed corporation, its executives would have been sacked (or worse) for incompetence (or worse) long ago.

    Instead we have the two men who have led this failed organisation since 1991 attempting to silence one of the few journalists who’s had the courage and determination to pursue the issue of doping in cycling since the 1980s. It turns out Kimmage was pretty much right all along.

    It’s not a good look for the UCI’s two biggest power-brokers.

    So far, the support for Kimmage in the cycling press and in financial terms has been strong: people have stumped up over US$46,000 at the time of writing. The fund is here if you want to follow its progress or donate.

    The Kimmage action is just the latest incidence of buck-passing, inaction, and strange decisions going back many years.

    The UCI recently received a slapdown from WADA over its misguided attempt to dispute USADA’s jurisdiction over the Lance Armstrong case. Questions have been asked about exactly why the UCI was so eager to claim control.

    If early reports of the contents of that brief prove true – and it is expected to be handed to the UCI this week – then perhaps it’s just a matter of more spin and self-preservation.

    British Sunday Times journalist David Walsh has claimed that the brief alleges that Armstrong told teammates that he had used his profile with the UCI to make positive tests at the 2001 Tour de Suisse disappear. This is apparently also revealed in Tyler Hamilton’s book.

    These are serious allegations indeed, that go right to the heart of the UCI’s already shakey credibility. Failure to stop doping is bad enough, but deliberately covering it up or looking the other way is a different thing entirely.

    Can the men who jointly presided over cycling for two decades, without preventing the widespread doping and corruption occurring under their noses, really be trusted to lead the sport away from its shameful past? Do they have any credibility left?

    Fat chance.

    It’s time for McQuaid and Verbruggen to withdraw their attack on Kimmage and walk away from cycling for good.

    Cycling can’t move on until its compromised administration is completely reformed, from the top down.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.