UCI truth and reconciliation

Tim Renowden Columnist

By Tim Renowden, Tim Renowden is a Roar Expert

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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.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • Roar Rookie

      October 3rd 2012 @ 10:16am
      Justin Curran said | October 3rd 2012 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      Interesting article Tim. I am not familiar with the hierachy at the UCI. Are McQuaid and Verbruggen answerable to anyone? How have they managed to stay at the top for so long? Is it some sort of dictatorship whereby they can stay in charge for as long as they like? Surely they must be answerable to a board of some kind?

      • October 3rd 2012 @ 10:26am
        Bobo said | October 3rd 2012 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        They people they are answerable to are cut from the same cloth.

        Listen to what board members of Cycling Australia have to say about those who ‘spit in the soup’. It’s clear there is no appetite for change in those who run the sport.

    • Columnist

      October 3rd 2012 @ 10:50am
      Tim Renowden said | October 3rd 2012 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      Look, nobody running a pro team or a national federation can afford to publicly criticise the UCI – not when that organisation controls allocation of Pro Tour licenses and race status (e.g. giving races World Tour status raises the profile and revenue-raising opportunity significantly). Speaking out would be career limiting, to say the least. Same for many journalists who rely on UCI access and accreditation to cover races and make a living.

      The organisation is an association of the various national cycling federations, which elect the management committee through its Congress process. So the management is elected, but it’s the classic “you scratch my back…” style of patronage familiar from organisations like the IOC, FIFA etc.

      Details here http://www.uci.ch/templates/UCI/UCI1/layout.asp?MenuId=MTk0Nw&LangId=1

      I really can’t see a way forward for cycling while the same old administrators are sticking around.

    • October 3rd 2012 @ 3:49pm
      SE Informer said | October 3rd 2012 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

      The David Walsh article (alson in the Australian) was a fascinating read. It points to allegations of Armstrong’s ex wife being involved in distributing steroid pills to the US team at the World Championships long before Lance’s first TdF “win”. It will be equally fascinating to see the UCI’s reaction when they get the “reasoned decision” from USADA. The writing looks to be on the wall for Fat Pat and Hein but my guess is they will feign shock and deny any knowledge of an organised doping conspiracy (much like Armstrong). Hopefully fans, with the help of formerly blind journalists (yes I know you have to make a living but really no excuse) will continue to hound the UCI for transparency and bang down the doors to get rid of the corrupt hierarchy. The UCI really is a disgrace. But what about National Federations bringing some pressure to bear? Talk about an old boys club!

    • October 4th 2012 @ 12:52am
      Fausto said | October 4th 2012 @ 12:52am | ! Report

      UCI–SchmU-CI, Kimmage–Schmimmage.

      THEY live by rule-making, HE by dirt-digging. What fun guys.

      However did the sport get along without them?

      The sooner these Cats of Kilkenny meet the better.

      All I want is to see great athletes making great rides.

    • October 7th 2012 @ 4:37pm
      William Goat said | October 7th 2012 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

      Given the USADA has already called for sanctions to be imposed does it not seem a little bit strange that their ‘reasoned decision’ hasn’t already been delivered to the organisations which it is calling on to impose the sanctions ? If you went to court you’d expect the magistrate to deliver a judgement & then hand down a sentence/fine etc, not the other way around.
      There has been much argument & supposition on the whole matter of doping, LA et al, but the USADA does itself no favours when there is such controversy by delaying the evidence it supposedly has right when the world needs to know so badly.
      It only makes me think they are as questionable as the UCI & the accused athletes/teams which they are accusing.
      Give us the evidence now or let us know you don’t really have any.

      • Columnist

        October 7th 2012 @ 6:23pm
        Tim Renowden said | October 7th 2012 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

        This “right now or it’s all bullshit” dummy spit is really just an attempt to discredit USADA, which has explained the “delay” a number of times: evidence used in the Armstrong case is also being used in other related cases which were/are still before arbitration.

        In fact, USADA has never claimed it was going to release the dossier immediately. This impatience from the UCI and Armstrong’s denialists doesn’t invalidate the content of the brief – of course it doesn’t. USADA will be crucified if it’s anything less than watertight, and they know it. It pays to be cautious. Trying to rush them into releasing it early is a pretty obvious attempt to sucker USADA into making a mistake, IMHO.

    • Columnist

      October 11th 2012 @ 9:42am
      Tim Renowden said | October 11th 2012 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Well, USADA has now made its reasoned decision files public http://cyclinginvestigation.usada.org/ so nobody can accuse them of a cover-up or lacking evidence.

      People have been convicted for murder on less evidence.

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