The UCI vs. President McQuaid

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation into doping practices at the US Postal cycling team continues. Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, originally said it was a matter for USADA but since changed its mind and tried to take control of the matter, sending USADA a poorly-drafted letter. USADA replied, denying the UCI and in fact upping the stakes with requests for more documentation, creating a stand-off.

Now the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has backed USADA and gone public with criticism of the UCI, stating, amongst other things that “the UCI had misinterpreted its own rules“.

Something has gone very wrong at the top of the UCI.

When the head of a sports governing body is criticised for misquoting his own rules, things don’t look good:

  • The President’s symbolic status takes a hit. When agencies like USADA and WADA make public criticism it is very noticeable, they are telling the UCI how to do its own job which must be highly embarrassing.
  • The UCI appears to want to run a case but it doesn’t appear to understand the matter, for example the mistaken claim that the case started with Floyd Landis approaching US Cycling when he’d been in prior contact with USADA.
  • The UCI is paying the price for the mistaken communications of a few top officials, the whole governing body is getting public criticism.
  • The UCI just does not appear to be an impartial observer in this case. USADA has openly stated the UCI appears to be mimicking arguments used by Lance Armstrong’s legal team. Even if it is not the case, it looks like the UCI is trying to seize control of the case because it is proving highly embarrassing.

WADA’s latest press release isn’t the first one telling cycling to get its house in order. Recently I pointed out that the UCI needs to follow-up the USADA ruling and issue formal bans for Luis Garcia del Moral, Michele Ferrari and Jose “Pepe” Martí, all three staff or helpers of the US Postal Cycling team. President McQuaid asked aloud “they are not UCI licence holders, so under what grounds can they be sanctioned?” but helpfully WADA issued a public statement that the UCI must act or appeal. So far there’s nothing from the UCI on the matter but note tennis has now banned del Moral via the ITF.

It’s also worse from a strategic point for the UCI. WADA’s response said the UCI shouldn’t just accept the USADA’s jurisdiction but that it should offer “all support to USADA in the conduct of this case, including all documents required by them”. Prior to this USADA had sent through a shopping list of documents, now the UCI has been told in public to comply. In other words if the UCI tried to boss USADA, it’s now been told to do exactly what the US agency wants.

Why this matters
A sports governing body is only as good as its rulebook. The thing that separates a group ride from a race isn’t the numbers pinned on the back or a line painted on the road, it’s the way everyone agrees to sign up to a collective set of rules that stretch from bike design to race safety to anti-doping. The UCI is the governing body of cycling, it sets the rules and exists to uphold them. Everything else, like promoting the sport or welcoming athletes from around the world to its HQ, whilst useful and welcome, is incidental.

When the head of governing body appears to be in open conflict with his rulebook it’s a serious thing. Worse, McQuaid is a member of WADA’s Executive Committee. A recent article by Velonews says

it appears as though battle lines have been drawn along the sporting authorities, with WADA standing behind USADA, and the UCI standing with the Armstrong team

This is a concern because the UCI appears to be taking sides. But we should ask whether everyone at the UCI is in agreement with this or whether the line is being set by a few top officials including the President? Are all officials at the UCI happy to be seen as taking sides in this case?

What next?
The UCI has a choice. It must decide whether to bow to WADA or continue to dispute things, either in open conflict via press releases or perhaps even going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to plead its case. To continue the spat would risk being labelled “non-compliant” with the WADA Code. All signatories have a duty to uphold the Code in full.

If WADA is not satisfied it can impose strict sanctions. Here’s the WADA website:

What happens if a sports organization or a government does not comply with the Code?
WADA reports cases of non-compliance to its stakeholders who have jurisdiction to impose sanctions, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The Olympic charter was amended in 2003 to state that adoption of the Code by the Olympic movement is mandatory. Only sports that adopt and implement the Code can be included and remain in the program of the Olympic Games.

Note the last sentence: if a governing body doesn’t follow the Code, it can be ejected from the Olympics.

It’s perhaps inevitable that an investigation into the staff and riders of a top team from the past provokes ripples that reach the UCI. But the UCI has not played its hand well, seemingly confusing the fate of a few officials with the whole governing body. Rather than upholding its own rules, it seems to have allowed the President to launch a crusade that looks all too personal. Worse, in recent weeks all the letters and emails appeared to have backfired, putting the UCI at a greater disadvantage. Rather than obtaining jurisdiction over the case, the UCI gets humiliated in public after being told to go back and read their own rulebook by outsiders.

The saga seems relentless. Different sides will go back and forth in a long rally or press release tennis. But there’s a simple and pressing question: does the UCI support its President or the WADA Code?

70 thoughts on “The UCI vs. President McQuaid”

  1. The UCI and it’s president seem to be the same thing these days – and thats the worrying thing, its bad news for the UCI being tarred with the McQuaid brush. Something has to give – and that something should be McQuaid, for the sake of the UCI, its reputation and the sport. Only issue is, who replaces McQuaid if he gets the shove? The candidates look just as shady, and is there even such a thing as the UCI without McQuaid? His basic PR is shambolic and this is felt throughout the organisation. Where would cycling without the UCI leave the sport? Would be interesting to find out.

      • Keep in mind that Pat McQuaid received a lifetime ban from the International Olympic Committee as an athlete for breaking the rules and lying about it and trying to cover it up.

    • It is not only McQuaid and UCI that need to answer questions now. It is also Shawn O’Farrell and USA Cycling, who recently issued an affidavit on behalf of Armstrong, that need to do some explaining.

      Why did USA Cycling not pursue the evidence against Armstrong? It turned evidence over to UCI but it did not turn the same evidence over to USADA.

      What does USA Cycling want to destroy America’s youth with a “Lance Armstrong Junior Race Series”?

      “We’d welcome any investigation into the UCI. There has never been corruption in the UCI.”
      Pat McQuaid, UCI President, February 2011. Time for the USADA to take up the offer?

      Similarly there is a need to investigate the relationships between Armstrong, Tailwinds, and LiveStrong and the World Triathlon Corporation (Ironman) and its CEO Andrew Messick, where millions of dollars have recently been passed back and forth.

      The only way to clean up sports if if somehow the athletes themselves can wrestle the sport back from big business and corrupt sports organizations. This may be near impossible.

      The USADA suggestion for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in cycling would be a good start.

    • I think we could see serious problems for some time. For quite some time there has been the inner circle of protected riders and the rest. Remember Gram Obree’s treatment by the UCI. The problem could also be seen in the rift with Dick Pound and WADA. But I think it may have been wise for USADA to have been a bit more tactful, taking on the UCI, USAC and the Pharmstrong Multinational spin machine at the same time will be a far more difficult task then if they could have dealt with them individually using the momentum of the first prosecution to go after the next. What ever happens I will always respect the brave efforts of the USADA personal who have stood against enormous pressure on so many fronts ranging from the US government to Cyclings governing body. It is clear many do not want Lance to have his day in court and if it happens we will have USADA to thank.

  2. Unfortunately I think that there may be some very big fish doing everything they can to protect themselves from catastrophic fallout.
    I don’t see this ending well.

    • Ain’t that the truth…

      If I was the USADA I wouldn’t stop where they are, I’d now be asking for McQuaid’s email archive as part of the investigation. After all there is evidence they are complicit.

      • Indeed, the USADA has asked for McQuaid’s exchanges with Armstrong and a long list of other documents.

        The shredders at UCI are working overtime these days.

  3. Mr. Ring, as usual you are spot on! I get your love for the sport, but it’s the high level of sophistication and clarity that has my attention. I am glad to have you in the discourse as your passion for the sport is genuine and thourough. Keep the good work, hopefully this matter will be solved and heads will roll rather than shaking of hands in back rooms deals…@juanbikeracer

  4. One thing that disappoints me is that it’s only bloggers and internet media like inrng and shane stokes who are making all the running with this story.

    Here in the UK the profile of cycling has never been higher and all the journalists who cover cycling have had more column inches than ever before. It would be good to see people like William Fotheringham in the Guardian pick up this story. A journalist on the same paper, David Conn, has published a lot of effective indepth pieces on football governance. The UCI and Pat McQuaide are ripe for some serious scrutiny and more difficult questions.

    • Sports admin doesn’t sell so well. I am interested in how the sport is run but most people just want to ride their bikes and cheer the yellow jersey. And rightly so, we should not have to worry about these extra complications.

      But it’s like the engine of a car. A customer walks into the car showroom and the salesman says “would you like to see the motor” and the customer says “not for the next five years, no”. A smooth and powerful engine should work without people knowing it.

      • This is a battle to protect fair play on the inside not fans and their perception of the sport from the outside. I would hardly think it’s personal for Pat McQuaid alone. How could the madness of the past 2+ decades be boiled down to one man and a rule book? I hardly doubt you are saying that, I’m sure you are not, however this post/reply gives me that impression. I just hope the ball is not dropped yet again and bounce away like it has very other time in the past. If we keep getting constantly hammered by one uber doped champion after the other, then the madness will eventually change the cheer for the yellow jersey, the rule book and possibly even the definition of fair play itself. If anything is being eroded at all over time it is in the spirit of the racer and racer to be, not the fan and the fan to be not.

    • I have just been speaking to Brendan Gallagher of the Telegraph, via twitter. It’s safe to say not only is he not interested, he was also pretty anti-USADA and anti-WADA. He obviously has no idea what his readership/the cycling public, actually think about Armstrong, McQuaid and the UCI. His comments were actually quite embarrassing. @intheGC just incase you want to see the whole convo…

      • Interesting. But let’s be honest, I would say it’d be difficult to find a journalist that might write something that may lead directly to people losing interest in the subject he writes about. He does have a vested interest in cycling being attractive to readers after all. Objectivity may be lacking.

        Additionally, there is a huge amount of goodwill surrounding cycling in the UK at the moment and I’m sure his editor wouldn’t want to be seen to be approving stories that would put a dampener on that.

        Perhaps someone at L’Equipe would be more likely to look objectively?

      • He has been part of the UK machine to build up the Sky Team. Which is a UK media owned team ultimately controlled by Rupert Murdock. Sky Team is the new US Postal, Discovery, for Pat McQuaid and UCI.

        Here in the US both the AP and Reuters are spinning stories for Armstrong. They are openly smearing the private lives of anyone who dares speak up against Armstrong or LiveStrong.

        USADA is up against a lot.

  5. Nice summary, thanks. The IOC may just toss cycling out of the Olympic program entirely if the UCI isn’t careful here. That would be a shame. Verbruggen’s “globalization” of cycling will likely be exposed as little more than “monetization” (as in putting money in their own pockets vs growing the sport) if it’s proven he conspired with BigTex to hide doping. Of course, the lack of effort for years by the UCI to expose doping (or you could say their real efforts to sweep it all under the rug) would justify tossing cycling out of the Olympic family…the question is why it hasn’t ALREADY happened? UCI should give McQuaid the boot and appoint someone from outside the sport with an unimpeachable reputation to fix the mess, no matter who is exposed as corrupt, Verbruggen and McQuaid included. FIFA should be next on the list!

  6. So while Pat McQuaid wants to increase the number of Olympic track cycling medals, the entire sport’s presence at the Olympics is threatened. How clueless. I don’t know if Larry Scott, former head of the Women’s Tennis Association and current commissioner of the Pacific-12 Athletic Conference (US collegiate sports) knows anything about cycling, but I do think he knows about how to work with multiple interests for the benefit of all (e.g., the expansion of the Pac-12 from 10 to 12 teams and the ensuing $3 billion, 12-year television deal, both of which were very big deals) as well as promotion of women’s sport. I’m sure McQuaid remains in power because he’s supported by some powerful interests, but if he left, I’d like to see the UCI pay top dollar for a man with a record of excellence.

    • I would exclude anyone involved with collegiate sports. The entire “student-athlete” issue is full of exploitation and unfairness. It makes the old Olympic “shamateurism” issue pale in comparison.

      • I agree that the “student-athlete” model is a scam, but Scott seems interested in moving away from that model, e.g., an additional $2000-4000 annually for athletes. I doubt we’ll see any college administrators advocating for some kind of epochal change, though.

        • I don’t mean to beat up on you, but only $2-4K for the “student-athlete” from a guy who’s worked up a $3 BILLION deal? This exploitation of the NCAA makes the crass commercialism of the UCI look puny. I wouldn’t hold this guy up as an example of what the UCI needs, there MUST be someone better out there.

  7. It is pretty obvious that McQuaid is a big problem for the UCI and that something needs to be done about that.
    Am I correct in assuming that he is up for election this year, and if he is or if he in other ways could be persuaded to leave his post who would be suitable to replace him.
    Makarov and his friend Tsmil have been mentioned around on the internet as possible next head of UCI but imo that would be going from the frying pan into the fire. Do you know if other names have been mentioned, perhaps names we could have a little more trust in.

    • Yes, an election is due this year. But for now the frustration with the current President is very road-centric and if it high profile, it is only a fraction of the UCI and McQuaid’s work. So there’s a good chance of re-election, especially since the incumbent gets certain electoral advantages, eg the contact details of everyone who can vote and therefore the chance to make personal approaches to secure votes etc.

      As you say, Makarov and Tchmil… well let’s say they don’t have a perfect record on transparent administration.

      • It is very sad there are so little public discussion in the newspapers about the election and the election process. It is all well and good with “retireMcQuaid” but there are no discussions about what will come after, what the solution should be.
        I agree that it is very possible that McQuaid will be re-elected because of the rules, but what if the USADA case ends with him being so disgraced that he will have to leave later, who will then be next in line, and if that is something that will be decided in this election then it would be nice if the media would take some interest in the election before it is decided and not after.

    • Thanks. What I find odd is that if many know he’s not the best media performer why does he get to speak in public so often? We all have different skills and abilities and being interviewed by journalists is tricky at the best of times. But the UCI hasn’t tried to help their President, either with media training, briefing him better on subjects or just shackling a PR person (or a lawyer) to his side for all interviews?

        • I love it! That is my new go to epithet. Much better than ridiculing one of my fellow talentless riding buddies as a cavendouche, they will now be referred to as shithouse rats (SR). 🙂

      • He’s terrible with the media, enrages his critics and seems to not even know the rules his organization is supposed to enforce. So what is he good at? Old boy networking, cutting lucrative deals to enrich himself and his cronies at the sport’s expense and generally carrying on the work of his “sponsor” Verbruggen seems to be about it. As I posted before, UCI needs someone from outside this corrupt organization to take over and clean house. Is the UCI profile high enough for some aspiring, non corrupt person to want to take over? I wonder.

      • That’s a natural and good question and one common to many, many organizations, not just the UCI. One issue (and something tells me it could be pertinent here with McQuaid…) is that this requires someone who the President actually listens to, particularly with regards to criticism. In other words, for McQuaid to stop being the UCI’s public presence, he has to *be*able* to hear that he is not the right man for the job.

  8. I have long thought that the UCI is at the heart of doping in cycling. When riders test posative they extort money from them to cover up the posative test. If the rider knows how to play the game they go on as before. If they are naive they are ran through the gutter. That is why there is often a lot of time passed between the posative test and when it is anounced to the public. They use that time to negotiate a bribe.

      • Armstrong and the UCI both admit he made a $150 K “donation”, for drug testing equipment of all things. Thats almost as funny as trickle down economics.
        Hard evidence is hard to come by in these situations but there becomes a point where the coincidences are too many to be believable like Lance never testing posative. Every single one of his rivals and most of the riders who left his team were caught doping at one time or another. You are left to believe the only clean rider in the peleton won all the time. It doesn’t pass the basic sniff test.

  9. You’d think an international organization like the UCI would take seriously any allegation of one of it’s most successful athletes cheating. When it threatened to sue Floyd Landis rather than investigate his claims spoke volumes to me.

  10. Pat “Dick” McQuaid “before he dicks you”, could foul up a wet dream! The man is a menace to cycling and should be sacked immediately! He has done nothing but mess things up since he took over the presidency of the UCI.

  11. Great work…if the mainstream media deigns to pick this story up and shine a big ol’ spotlight on this deteriorating situation, the contribution by The Inner Ring (and others) hopefully, will be recognized as a pioneer, which did the yeoman leg work on this story.

  12. Thank you, INRNG, for excellent reportage once again.

    But with utmost respect, a handful of online journalists and anonymous Tweeters and bloggers aren’t going to disturb Mr. McQuaid’s sleep one iota. As Larry T says above, he has many friends, and who knows what conversations are going on behind closed doors and away from telephone recording machines.

    McQuaid’s personal reputation is sliding down the pan, and threatening to take the UCI with it. Why do we never hear from anyone else at the UCI? Is it a one-man band? Or is there a huge omerta in operation at that place? Is McQuaid actually the same as the UCI?

    I love the Twitter #ResignMcQuaid campaign, and when you see his transgressions listed all-in-a-row, there are truly damning. But what if he did resign? Who would we get instead? Someone else ready to schmooze their way around the cycling world, lining pockets and handshaking deals, and selling themselves and their organisation, to the highest bidder? And don’t hold out too much hope for assistance from the IOC. I suspect the raison d’etre for the UCI and the IOC are frighteningly similar, and operate, at their highest level, in a similar fashion.

    I really hope that USADA aren’t bluffing with their offer of binding CAS arbitration on the Armstrong case, and that they really do have sufficient evidence. I suspect they’re hoping for this so that all of their evidence can see the light of day. Their offer for Pepe Marti could be the same thing. But would the ‘extraneous’ evidence, perhaps showing the links from Armstrong to Bruyneel and into the UCI, maybe, be admissable? I can see lawyers jumping to their feet to object.

    • For sure the USADA is not bluffing.

      It is Armstrong, the UCI, and USA Cycling that do not want this evidence to see the light of day. This is what the court case in Texas is all about.

      The stakes are high. Armstrong, the UCI, and USA Cycling not only need to stop the USADA proceeding against Armstrong, but also against Bruyneel and the other two conspirators that have accepted USADA arbitration procedures.

    • +1
      The UCI isn’t a national government accountable to its citizens and international law. It is a private organization that is run to its own benefit and the benefit of the good old boys that manage it. Whatever it does, you can be sure that it is acting in its own self-interest, just like the IOC, FIFA, F1, and all the rest. The idea that the UCI would “clean house” to address internal corruption is so naive as to be laughable.
      For these guys it is only about preserving/increasing its power and the money that this power generates. To expect them to act with any other motivation is silly.

  13. The UCI is seeming more and more like an inflamed appendix – not serving any useful purpose and threatening damage to the host.

    I wish ASO and RCS could get together with the teams and the national federations and simply ignore the UCI altogether.

    • *applause*

      Absolutely spot on. It’s up to the federations to say ‘we don’t like how you run OUR sport, we don’t have confidence in you, we’re going to get someone who will do it properly’.

      • No. It is up to the athletes. At least it should be.

        The athletes are being used by their organizations, both UCI and USA Cycling.

        And Lance is deep in the pockets of many many sports organizations, teams, and events.

        This is the cancer that needs to be eradicated.

        And yes, LiveStrong is part of that cancer.

  14. Thank you for your most excellent website. I wish you continued success. I was a professional cyclist that had contracts with Italian and Dutch teams during my career. I don’t read any of the popular cycling forums anymore simply because no one that posts really has a clue what really goes on. In Europe the tradition has always been to bribe someone to look the other way….simply a matter of doing business. In my day it was known within the peleton what it costs to make positive results disappear. It seems that nothing has changed. The tradition of paying off the official to look the other way in any realm has never really become a cultural tradition in the US… the way that it has been in Europe for centuries. Thus, the USADA dilemma….no one has been paid the right price nor even confronted about how much that it would take to make all this disappear. If I were a betting man…I would bet that the ” Greatest sporting fraud in all of history” never really existed as I do believe that it will never be truly exposed. All the best

  15. Sometimes I think I should go back to my BMX days with few rules, loads of fun and plenty of mocking of those silly lycra wearing blokes on flimsy bikes and their idiotic UCI.

  16. The question that needs asking:
    How can Armstrong still take over the presidency of UCI in 5 years’ time if he’s busted for drugs?

    This question may help explain the UCI’s attitude.

    🙂 – or maybe not.

  17. I think it’s a moot point asking if the situation is McQuaid v UCI, when – publicly at least – the pair are synonymous. We don’t know if the President has full support of everyone in the organisation or if he is on the verge of a mutiny. The only other person to step into the media spotlight is Carpani, and he never strays far from the company line or the strictest remit of his post.

    It’s hard to pontificate on something so indecipherable as the UCI.

    I think it’s also a tad dramatic for some to suggest that cycling is on the verge of losing its Olympic spot, as there is a long road to go down before we even consider that end game.

    As for viable alternatives to McQuaid, the voting system and organisation of national federations unfortunately means that cronyism, bribery and nepotism are rife in large sporting organisations like FIFA and the UCI. Any replacement will most likely have been groomed for succession by those being ousted, maintaining the same management structure and strategic goals as before. Root and branch reform would require a revolt by those who stand to lose the most, which is unlikely.

  18. and the insightfully sharp teeth of the Inner Ring bite well into the subject matter as always …

    the UCI … “We are fighting doping and cleaning up cycling”

    USADA … “We’re here to help, that’s what we do, that’s what the ‘D’ stands for – we have done a lot of specialised work, and have uncovered serious systemic doping practices at the highest level, you’ll be a lot cleaner with this information”

    the UCI … “You’re not the boss of me, who asked you anyway”

    WADA … “Ummmm, Pat – a word?” That’s what the ‘W’ stands for.

    ‘U’ could be Useless
    ‘I’ could be Internationale
    ‘C’ could be … … ask Wiggo

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