Movistar had announced Alejandro Valverde as the star attraction of a press conference in their flagship Madrid store. The banned rider was to unveil the team’s jersey for 2012. From a marketing perspective having a banned athlete as The Face of your team is perhaps a brave move. But the UCI has intervened to say he cannot take part and the event has been cancelled.
There’s a UCI rule about banned riders staying away from the sport in all forms and I quoted it last August after the rider was spotted taking part in gran fondo rides. He was breaking the UCI’s rules then and – as pictured – even wearing Movistar kit and riding the prototype Campagnolo electric gears. But nobody seemed to mind, presumably because he was being discreet instead of fronting a press conference. Now the UCI has swung into action. Good.
The UCI’s got rules and as I’ve often said, it needs to apply them firmly and consistently. It should be noted that rider contracts typically run from 1 January to 31 December and so Valverde isn’t officially a Movistar rider until the start of 2012 anyway. His ban ends on the same day too.
I wrote yesterday that it would be interesting to see how his comeback work outs and this isn’t an auspicious start. Did Movistar not read the rulebook – that a banned rider can’t take part – or did they think that nobody would enforce the rules?
At the same time what will the sponsor think? They’re Spain’s biggest mobile communications provider, they booked the time and place and invited the media, only to scrap this at the last minute. Big companies don’t like this sort of thing.
Sunday’s tale of 3,000 sit ups a day was amusing. A cancelled press conference isn’t a big deal but it is a more serious issue and an embarrassment for the sponsor. The good news is that the UCI is enforcing its own rules here.