UCI President Pat McQuaid opened the meeting… …He then informed the CCP members of the reason for the absence of Messrs Jonathan Vaughters and Gianni Bugno, who had been formally invited to choose between participating in the meeting and standing by the AIGCP and CPA in their threat to launch boycotts and strikes against the proposed ban on the use of earpieces during races.
You might think this is from George Orwell’s 1984, a confusing text from Franz Kafka or maybe the notes from of a Soviet Praesidium, as presented by spy novelist John Le Carré. Alas the text above is no fiction but a real statement issued today by the UCI.
Garmin-Cervélo boss Jonathan Vaughters is also president of the AIGCP, an organisation representing the top cycling teams. Gianni Bugno, a former double world champion, leads the CPA which is a sort of riders’ union. Both Vaughters and Bugno had been invited to attend a UCI meeting in Milan, held before the Milan-Sanremo race. The meeting was of the Professional Cycling Council, a committee tasked with overseeing the UCI World Tour. The dispute over radios has now escalated to threats of boycotts of the UCI’s race in Beijing, a topic I covered earlier today.
Let’s take a look at the text again. The threat of a boycott has clearly destabilised the UCI to the point of issuing Vaughters and Bugno and with an ultimatum to drop talk of a boycott or be excluded from the meeting. But the two representatives are tasked with doing exactly that, representing. They are carrying a message from teams and riders alike, refusing them the right to sit in a council meeting is petulant. Just because you don’t like what someone’s saying doesn’t mean you freeze them out.
We have a stand-off but one that is getting more and more entrenched. Faced with a lack of dialogue, the UCI isn’t trying to find a way out, it’s slamming the door in the face of riders and teams. Of course, it is being provoked here, as I’ve said several times the teams are pushing the UCI and I’ve even done a piece saying the UCI needs saving. Yet rather than looking for a solution, the UCI is in turn ratcheting up the stakes. This is exactly what a governing body should not be doing.
I’ve no doubt the idea of a boycott is causing concern inside the UCI but all the more reason to talk. A governing body is not a mere player, it is supposed to be above the other participants, a wise ruler of the sport. But it’s now in a tangle as its seeking to promote this race in China and getting upset that it’s meal ticket risk serious devaluation.
If the UCI is incapable of showing itself capable of resolving the matter then someone else is going to have to step in. Perhaps the weight of RCS or ASO, the Italian and French race organisers respectively? If not, the International Olympic Committee could have a role here. Nobody likes the presence of an outsider ruling on their turf but this proxy war via press release, boycotts and threats is dragging the sport into a bitter dispute on the eve of the classics season. Mediation, not imposition is the best way out.
- Things could be so different. The same press release also shows the UCI is keen to push for four year bans. For the sake of letting Vaughters and Bugno sit in a room for an hour the headlines could have been “UCI gets tough on doping” and “Three Cheers for McQuaid” etc. Alas…