UCI to ban doped directors?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

McQuaid Valverde

Prizes, yes. Management role, maybe not

I was alerted by a reader this morning to the BBC’s two-part look at doping in cycling. The second part features a brief interview with UCI President Pat McQuaid where he mentions the prospect of banning riders involved in doping scandals from working in the sport. Here’s a snapshot:

“I’m not happy there are team managers who have been doping as athletes themselves… …Any cyclist who is involved in a doping infraction in their career cannot come back into management of a team in the future”

This is an idea that McQuaid will present to colleagues at the next Management Committee meeting in June, the UCI’s high-level decision making forum. It would mark a big change. But would it work?

For me this would be a symbolic gesture but useful nonetheless. It’s awkward to see team managers with doping convictions heading up teams. It often takes a network to dope and team staff can be part of this. Old habits die hard.

But let’s take a few doping scandals from the past. The biggest bust was Operation Puerto but the disgraced Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz never raced. Or look at the Festina scandal where again team manager Bruno Roussel was an outsider who first appeared with new ideas on nutrition and sports science, only to cede to organised doping later.

Plus let’s look around at other team managers. Some might not have been caught but it is clear that several dabbled with performance enhancing substances and methods during their career.

Is it legal?
There’s also the question of whether it’s legal. Once you’ve served a ban you are allowed back as a rider… so can you stop a comeback behind the steering wheel of the team car? But some professions do this, an accountant busted for fraud will never work again but this relies on a strict code of regulation.

Yet in cycling we keep seeing the rules get diluted, for example a rule stopping top teams from signing a doper on the comeback was flouted when Discovery tried to sign Ivan Basso; another rule about suspending a team in the event of three positives in a season went ignored when Lampre saw three of its riders caught in 2008. Given this, it seems hard to imagine the teams collaborating to uphold new rules. If you want new rules, prove you can uphold the existing ones.

Riis

Is the writing on the wall?

And I don’t know if this could be applied retrospectively either, it would be very hard to eject the likes of Bjarne Riis from the sport. He’s built up a team with the current rules in place, it would be very contentious to remove this. The Dane isn’t alone, there are many in positions of authority with a proven track record of cheating at the highest levels.

Fit and proper?
But there’s a common test for officials in many public roles, the so-called “fit and proper” test where candidates have to prove they’re suitable material to take on a position of responsibility. A clean past helps but this test touches on more, such as financial dealings, to ensure the person is suitable for the role.

Summary
I’d support the idea but only because it offers a symbolic and moral guide. That said it’s very absolutist, one mistake and you’re gone when I can’t help feeling the sport needs some reconciliation, to welcome those who have the guts to admit they got it very wrong.

It won’t reduce doping much but it will mean outsiders can’t look at the sport and say “how can a sport be clean when big cheats are in charge”. As such it’s a tidy bit of window dressing but it’s all in the detail and we’ll see if McQuaid’s idea can be drafted into a rule and then consistently enforced.

See the full BBC feature online, Cycling Must Dare to Change.

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{ 13 comments }

Aidas May 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Good post. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Even if it doesn’t immediately lead to a dope-less culture within the sport, it would be a start. One needs to start somewhere. Plus, it would be a good PR move for the outside.

Paul May 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Good post.

It seems a more appropriate solution (given that the move would be largely symbolic, and hard to enforce given there are loads of staff who weren’t caught, but certainly doped) would be an amnesty where the closets are cleaned out, and a new door opened for the sport.

A similar issue is accreditation for medical staff. When giving policy and legal advice to an Olympic body a few years ago, the idea of banning association with some doctors / carers was mooted. There was a lot of robust debate, but a consensus was reached that it was unworkable. A major part of professional life is the ability to make choices and be held accountable for them. If sponsors, athletes and event organisers are prepared to be involved with Directors who’ve doped, then so be it. It seems even the most doped of Directors (Mr 60) now realise that Pro Cycling is a business, and the risks of becoming embroiled in a doping scandal are too large in a commercial sense.

Touriste-Routier May 19, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I agree with Paul, an amnesty program, especially if combined with a truth and reconciliation commission could go very far in cleaning out the skeletons, and could draw a line in the sand for a new beginning for enforcement efforts.

Preventing convicted riders from later pursuing careers in ludicrous. It is an almost completely unenforceable idea. Symbolic measures are a farce; window dressing that undermine and distract from the real problems and solutions.

While the UCI could easily prohibit the issuance of licenses to those with doping convictions, not all team staff require licenses, and it would be nearly impossible to prohibit teams from affiliating with people “off the books”. Considering employment law is governed by country of residence and/or country of corporate registration, the UCI could easily fall victim of restraint of trade violations. Considering their tract records, do we really believe the UCI and national federations will apply this measure evenly? I can’t see them denying access to someone who has a sponsor in hand.

Further, what do you do with reformed dopers? Is it not better to have the active involvement of outspoken leaders who admit their sins, paid the price for their actions, and are strong advocates for a clean sport?

Neil May 19, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Impossible to enforce retroactively against folk like Riis I would think.

Perhaps they could use it in their equation for issuing world tour licenses. For every convicted doper (rider/helper/director sportif etc) they have in their team apply a world tour point penalty.

They really should make the equation public though

GreaseMonster May 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Fat Pat is made from the same cloth as these former dopers, he is a fraud who was caught racing under a fake name in South Africa whilst it was under embargo. He seems to forget his palmar├Ęs far too easily.

Guadzilla May 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Best thing for cycling would be dump McQuaid. He is an embarrassment to the sport and to the concept of “professionalism”.

bikecellar May 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Guadzilla + 1. Surely european employment laws would be contravened by this? When you have served your sentence that’s it. As an example someone like David Miller would be banned from being a DS. Mcquaid is a fool.

ColoradoGoat May 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I do not get cycling fans. They claim they want a clean sport, and yet, whenever something tangible is proposed to actually deter doping in the peloton, they hedge and haw and come up with numerous reasons how this rule would be unfair.

Look – life is unfair. But the injustice of banning someone from being a DS after having been caught doping seems to be one of the lesser injustices in this world. All deterrents, in order to be effective, unfortunately have to take on some amount of risk that the punishment will be unfairly applied to the innocent. All legal systems in the modern world have this element. Absent a confession with audio/visual evidence as well, there is no 100%, fool-proof way to “know” that someone doped. But you know what, if that is the criteria you want to set-forth, then you might as well throw in the towel on controlling banned substances.

Anonymous May 20, 2011 at 2:33 am

Clearly a tactic to prevent former dopers from telling the truth. Now that those from the heyday of doping are moving into management (or aspiring to) UCI brandishes a huge threat… Methinks McQuaid doth protest too much.

It would be one thing if the penalty was applied to those who are *caught* but not those who confess – instead this is clearly aimed at silencing the growing chorus of cyclists who don’t want or need to continue to lie about what they did.

Absolutely shameful.

El Gato de La Cala May 20, 2011 at 8:09 am

in business life, the best entrepreneurs are often those who have hit the floor hard once or twice and learned from it. And we must remember that it is business and not a bicycle clubs they are running. So calm down a bit and be ware that the proposal does not work retroactively. It is a preventive approach – and very welcome, but will only work on long term. And finally is actually not what UCI are supposed to do? Weapons down!

The Inner Ring May 20, 2011 at 9:14 am

I like the idea, it is symbolic rather than effective and just one of many ideas to implement.

But I can’t help feel it’s a classic Pat McQuaid ploy. Back to the wall in an interview with the BBC and its worldwide audience, he pulls out a card to show he’s taking action. But this is just an idea from the President, it’s not been discussed or approved. Indeed only yesterday the UCI’s PR officer had to issue a clarification.

If it’s a serious idea then it needs to be handled formally and professionally, not blurted out in the middle of an interview.

gilbert May 20, 2011 at 12:30 pm

something new on the subject:
“In order to truly reform, cycling needs to change, and change drastically, starting from the top. Now that I’m working as a coach, I see young people entering the sport with hopes of making it to the top. I believe that no one coming into the sport should have to face the difficult choices I had to make. And before the sport can move forward, it has to face the truth.”
it seems he read your post.
I’ve just expressed my thought here on the subject about my favoutite team’s, euskaltel euzkadi, managements, nothing to add.

Dave Moulton May 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm

So Pat McQaid was a professional cyclist during an era when doping was the norm, and yet pesumably never doped?

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