Tour de Farce

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I love cycling I can’t help but feel frustrated with the sport today, in particular with the politics and administration. With the presentation of next summer’s race just hours away, things are in a mess.

I don’t know what you did last summer
We don’t yet know who won the race last summer. Three weeks is enough suspense but three months later nobody knows if Contador is the winner or not. Yet he’s tested positive for a banned substance, the A and B samples have come back from the lab a long time ago. This story highlights two things. First is the obvious spectre of doping, major races keep being dogged by scandal and the results are constantly under question, indeed subject to revision. Second, the administration of the sport looks sloppy, that three months on there’s still no resolution of Contador’s case.

Rules, schmules
Worse, to compound the administrative bungling, we simply don’t know the rules that will set the sport in 2011. The UCI is trying to launch the World Tour but the big race organisers are not on board.

Annoying for fans, scary for sponsors
So we don’t yet know who won last year’s race and we don’t know who can ride next summer either. Uncertainty like this might annoy a fan but it has bigger repercussions. Corporate sponsors hate risk, they don’t want to commit money to a sport where the rules keep changing and where the perception is that they’re only a doctor away from scandalous headlines harming their brand.

Clarification today?
Yes the sport is beautiful but there are so many things to get right. Hopefully we’ll know more by the end of today given UCI Pat McQuaid is back from holiday and he’ll be in Paris for the Tour presentation. So as well as learning the route for the Tour, we might also get some news on the more basic aspects of the sport. Certainly he’s due to brief the media on the Contador case and hopefully the status of the World Tour will be confirmed, especially the relationship with big race organisers like ASO and RCS.

Jay T. October 19, 2010 at 9:14 am

Here here! I too am shocked and, more so, disappointed that our sport has taken such apparent steps toward "Banana Republic"-style leadership over the last few weeks. I think a lot of people felt positive that guys like Vaughters and Stapleton, as well as even Prudhomme, were taking the sport in the right direction the last few years, vis-a-vis more professionalism and standards, but the UCI just continues to shoot itself AND EVERYONE AROUND IT, in the foot. It IS a beautiful sport and that's why I get so pissed that the UCI can act like such a third-rate operation sometimes. Cycling and the people within it deserve so much better than they are getting right now. And cycling has been on such a high kick lately that's doubly disappointing that even the World Tour has been bungled before the season even begins…

Alright, I know administering world cycling is a huge job, and admittedly the UCI's administration of other realms of our sport may be far less obviously screwed up than their handling of top-tier road cycling, but I mean, come on! The one-month delay with Contador's test going public is INEXCUSABLE (and they only really came out with it due to a pending leak anyway!). Then the Vuelta positives are announced very quickly…the whole thing just stinks and the lack of consistency is incredibly embarassing. I think Fuyu Li may have an opinion, as well…

I am firmly with those who recognize that the massive conflict of interest inherent in the UCI's operations needs to be resolved soon. They should hand over all drug testing operations to the WADA and divorce themselves from that part of oversight. They can help coordinate it, maybe even help pay for it, but in terms of actually performing the tests, informing riders, sanctioning, etc., they need to have ZERO say. If Contador's pee turns up with clenbuterol, let WADA let him and us know in a timely manner. We're grown ups and we can handle it. The UCI should focus on coordinating an appealing racing schedule, team finances, sponsor relations, etc. This summer and fall, McQuaid and friends have so bungled their doping oversight that it needs to be wrenched from their clumsy fingers once and for all. They clearly have too much on their plate just running pro cycling, let alone keeping a wily bunch of dopers from slipping through the tests. And McQuaid needs to do the honorable thing, take a cue from embarassed Japanese leaders, and f-ing resign! He is no longer credible and it's time to put a fresh face in there.

Phew, well glad that's done. I guess I had more opinions than I realized!

Jay T. October 19, 2010 at 10:13 am
TheInnerRing October 19, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Fair points there Jay. It doesn't take a lot to understand that a lot of fans are getting fed up with clumsy administration.

Jay T. October 20, 2010 at 1:23 am

Yeah, I'm sure I'm not the only one. I guess a lot of people are fed up with a lot of things lately, cycling included. Cycling is a curious sport, and of course, it's just a sport after all, so none of these things are life-and-death matters, it would just be nice to see it progress beyond where it has been.

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