The depth and breadth of the connections inside the sport of cycling are truly becoming apparent to the public eye, especially in light of the developments during Friday’s UCI Independent Commission hearing. We were able to see first-hand just how Aigle likes to maneuver behind the scenes in order to maintain their revenue streams and their control over the sport.
I can safely say that without the efforts of a certain UCI management committee member who may or may not be from the British Isles, we wouldn’t even have an independent commission in the first place. During the emergency management committee meeting a faction group, which included the aforementioned individual, asked for the removal of Hein Verbruggen as honorary president of the UCI. Our current president, Pat McQuaid, said that was completely out of the question. As a compromise, we have what is now the UCI Independent Commission.
While many individuals (including the Change Cycling Now group) were worried about the neutrality of the independent commission, we can now say we have a good sense that unlike the Vrijman inquiry of 2006, we have a panel which is interested in assisting the sport to escape its shite past. And to those who gave me shite privately about my faith that this panel wouldn’t be another “UCI lapdog of ridiculousnessyness,” I told you so (yeah, I’m talking to you, Jaimie Fuller, among others). You all owe me a beverage. Grey Goose vodka, thank you.
What does yesterday mean? That the “IC” part of that acronym well and truly means “independent.” UCIIC had the stones to say to the UCI, “Um, no thank you, we’re not going to suspend inquiries. And if you’re worried about costs, and the fact you’re going to potentially have two separate inquiries going, that’s just too damn bad. You made this mess, you have to clean it up.” The sticking point is the UCI has now agreed to explore a Truth and Reconciliation process and is currently having discussions with WADA on this front. While doing this, the UCIIC is still going forward with their inquiry and investigation into the allegations from the Armstrong business. However, the UCI seems to be hung up on how this procedure works, as it falls outside the current rules over which WADA presides.
The response by the UCI should give everyone an indication on how they operate, and reveal potential motivations behind their actions. Do they have something to hide? Are they concerned about what may be exposed? The fact that the UCI has responded to requests for information by the UCIIC at the eleventh hour might indicate their reluctance to share information. Or does it? Could the UCI be a victim of simply biting off more than it can chew?
The public response by Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen to criticism of the “warnings” they gave riders shows me one thing with crystal clear 20/20 hindsight – the UCI is completely obsessed with finances and revenue. It drives all their decision-making. Could it be that the warnings were simply done in order to avoid additional costs of having to prove a rider was dirty?
The American auto industry is a prime example of this mentality. It’s a known fact that if an auto company discovers a flaw in one of their automobile products, the failure analysis process for the company evaluates which is cheaper for them to absorb: a mass recall in order to fix the problem, or responding to insurance claims from individuals who may become disabled/dead from the automobile failure. There are individuals at all the major American automobile companies who make these evaluations, and their recommendations are what drive this decision-making process. It’s cold, it’s clinical, and ultimately it puts bottom-line profit above the wellness of humanity. I find it completely disgusting, personally.
By the same token, this mentality permeates the upper levels of the UCI. There are a number of lawyers who preside and advise the UCI by making similar sorts of decisions, and have been doing so since Verbruggen took over. It’s why we have comments like “all the international federations were doing it, don’t blame us,” or “we need to end this independent commission and start over with a truth and reconciliation process,” or “our financials will not allow us to commence two independent evaluations in parallel.”
Instead of doing what is “right” for the sport, the UCI is obsessed with what is “legal” or what is “cost-effective” for the governing body – at the expense of the entire sport. This reflects the overly-strong influence of individuals like Jean-Pierre Strebel and Philippe Verbiest, among others. This is also why having folks from Ernst & Young determine what is best for cycling is absolutely the wrong way to move the sport forward. And what we’re left with are these sorts of recaps, as reported by cyclingnews.com yesterday, where the UCIIC noted the UCI had FAILED to comply with providing the information asked:
Counsel for the UCI said that it had 16 lever-arch files of documentation ready, but that these files had not been disclosed due to the lack of clarity regarding how the independent commission would proceed in the wake of its call for the installation of a truth and reconciliation commission. The UCI has since agreed to provide this documentation to the Independent Commission, which it will read before next week’s hearing. During the hearing, a draft proposal from USADA concerning how a TRC would function was circulated.
It’s going to be a long process for the UCIIC to slog through the layers upon layers of smokescreens which have been laid down over the past two decades by the UCI itself. Cycling should be thankful that WADA and USADA are two agencies willing to spearhead this effort, and hopefully there will be more agencies/federations joining in this effort shortly. As demonstrated by the UCI’s actions, they are ultimately unwilling to do it themselves without the constant prodding.
Where does this leave us?
There is a renewed call by many for cycling to lose its Olympic standing. In fact, if the UCIIC is able to demonstrate there were dubious activities being conducted by members of the UCI during the Armstrong era, this could be a distinct reality. The IOC is about protecting its legacy, and while McQuaid is saying he “didn’t have the time” to be part of the 2020 Games selection committee, the timing of the announcement casts doubt on this spin. When the sport’s top leaders are being removed from WADA executive committees, from the helm of SportAccord, or from IOC standing committees, it should be an indication that those in the halls of sporting power are beginning to look at cycling unfavourably, no matter the attempted spin.
In fact, maybe the best thing that could happen to cycling is see it removed from the Olympics. It might give us all the opportunity to rebuild track, road, MTB, and BMX the proper way without the influence of risk/benefit analysis drones ruining what we’re all trying to accomplish. Nonetheless, the next six months could determine the course the sport takes during the ensuing decades. It remains to be seen if this change will be driven by the UCI itself, or as the smokescreens continue to dissapate, its fortunes will be ultimately determined by others, including the UCIIC and the IOC.