Bob Woodward never tired of repeating the mantra that his FBI whistle-blower, Mark Felt, instilled in him; “Follow the money, Winston.” Woodward would croon it in that soft Illinoisan burr of his. Maybe he’s still invoking Deep Throat’s name and modus operandi to some young hack as we speak. Who knows? So, following Frank Mercer’s recent exclusive on the Arbitrary Doper Detention Legislation, this week your correspondent has decided to dig a little deeper into some of the details of the UCI’s sledgehammer to crack the doping nuts of cycling.
During our post-interview drinking session, where Viatcheslav Ekimov and I managed to relieve the Shalyapin bar of most of their vodka stocks, I persuaded young ‘Eki’ to arrange a meeting with some of his newly-found comrades at Itera. I had asked if he could get me in to see the main man himself, Makarov, but Viatcheslav was, sadly, having none of it.
“Igor asks to see you, Winston. Not the other way round,” he slurred while nestling a stubbled cheek against the upper arm of the blonde who was perched, bored on his lap.
You see, neither myself, nor the detestable rag from whom I draw a salary and expense account, Cyclismas.com, give a rat’s rectum about one former Ruskie being used as the mule between the Russian mafia and Bruyneel’s little enterprise. No, last week’s interview was a sop to the Armani-clad Eki ego; to let him think that he was worthy of our attention. But in reality, all I was hoping for was to get closer to Mr. Makarov himself as well as to find out where he fitted into Uncle Pat’s new scheme.
It was three days, four speedballs, a bucket load of crystal meth, and the ruin of that delicious little wardrobe mistress from the Bolshoi I was telling you about, before I finally got the call that Itera wanted a word.
On leaving my hotel (Christ knows what the maid was going to make of it), I was stopped on the curb by a mountain of a man wearing a black overcoat and murderous disposition. He never said a word but, instead, gestured to a blacked-out Mercedes S-Class that was purring gently by the road side. As if by magic – or at the very least by precise, German engineering – the rear passenger door wafted open and Comrade Kilimanjaro gestured for me to get in.
The interior of the Merc was as dark and foreboding as the exterior. “Hello, Mr. Rumfoord,” came a voice from the other side of the vehicle – a full cow herd of leather away.
“Who are you, and what do you want?” I demanded.
“My name is Andreas Neocleous. I am one of the board of directors at Itera. Mr. Makarov feels it would be better to speak with you away from the company offices, so I thought we could go for a little drive and talk as we go.”
“Do I have a choice?” My voice sounded slightly more shrill than I had wanted it to, and the uneasy chill that had been creeping across my stomach was only exacerbated by the thin, hollow laugh that greeted my inquiry. ‘I can take that as a no, then,’ I thought.
“Please do not think you are here to ask questions, Mr. Rumfoord. Or, may I be so forward as to call you Winston?” His voice betrayed a Mediterranean upbringing and not the Slavic one his silvery hair and pale complexion suggested.
“You can call me Susan and slap my ass with a Katusha cycling jersey is you like! All I want to know is if my ultimate destination is the bottom of the Volga river?”
“Not today, Winston. Not today,” he chuckled. “No, Mr. Makarov understands that you are curious as to where we fit into McQuaid’s plans for Arbitrary Doper Detention. It is, in fact, very, very simple. As a former member of the Cypriot Parliament, a leading international tax expert and managing partner of my own law firm, I think it is fair to say that I know my way around…” he throws me a searching glance, “what it is you Americans call it? Ah yes, the ‘loopholes’ of the law and also how to set up a company that will work to the benefit of my employers.”
He paused for a second, and I could hear his slow, measured breathing, just audible above the insulted road noise and engine note. “So, to explain that which you are here, and I’m sure keen, to know. The Arbitrary Doper Detention Legislation that Mr. McQuaid has so kindly put into place for us.”
“For you?! Sorry, I mean for Itera? This madcap scheme of McQuaid’s is actually a madcap scheme of yours? You’ve got to be kidding me?!” I spluttered.
“No. Not for Itera. For Mr. Makarov, dear Winston. For Mr. Makarov. There is a difference. Shall I continue?” He didn’t wait for a reply. “The Arbitrary Doper Detention Legislation poses certain questions which, in turn, allow us certain opportunities. For example; what happens to all those dirty, doping cyclists that the UCI decides to detain? Where shall they be detained? And by whom? Answer?”
Yet again his pause wasn’t long enough for a reply to uttered and, besides, the cold, steel tone of his voice and the way his words sliced the perfectly-conditioned, clinical air left me in no doubt that my companion simply didn’t require any contribution from me.
“Do you know what Extraordinary Rendition is, Winston? Hmmm? Extraordinary rendition is the abduction and illegal transfer of a person from one nation to another. ‘Torture by proxy’ is used by some libertarians to describe situations in which primarily the United States and occasionally the United Kingdom have transferred suspected terrorists to other countries in order to torture the suspect beyond the legal protection of the first country. The United States’ CIA runs a global abduction and internment operation of suspected terrorists which, since 2001, has captured an estimated 3,000 people and transported them around the world. Makarov likes this. As soon as the Arbitrary Doper Detention Legislation comes into force, the company I have set up for Mr. Makarov will run the entire operation of removing those who need to be removed and placing these individuals where they need to be placed.”
As he reached the conclusion of this sentence, he leaned forward and tapped at the glass that separated the driver’s compartment from the commodious rear. The black leather sighed as he leaned back, allowing the seat to take his weight once more.
“That is all you need to know, Mr. Rumfoord.”
Slowing to an effortless halt, the large limousine held its breath for a moment before my door opened once more to allow the piercing morning light, the cacophony of noise, and the harsh gritty smells of a Muscovite morning to assault the Mercedes’ interior.
“Goodbye, Winston. You have been told all you need to know. It is not in your best interests to dig any further into this affair. I shall send both Mr. Ekimov and Mr. Makarov your regards.”
As the black S-Class sped away, melting into the highway traffic, I stood by the roadside utterly bewildered as to where I was. This was a sensation not unknown to me, but despite wondering how I was going to get back to the hotel, I was thankful I seemed to be nowhere near the Volga today.