In a rare show of unity amongst some of Europe’s print media, five newspapers have combined forces to offer cycling’s governing body advice on how to clean up the sport.
ABC News (Australia) reports that:
Britain's The Times, L'Equipe in France, Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport, and Belgian papers Het Nieuwsblad and Le Soir joined forces to promote an eight-point manifesto designed to fix both cycling's governance and its reputation.
If we ignore, for a moment, that manifestos are traditionally the tool of choice for dictatorships (draw your own conclusions as to whether media barons fit that description), their plan lays out a series of eight points, all of which fall within the realm of common sense.
Perhaps that’s why the International Cycling Union was incapable of figuring them out for themselves.
In summary, ABC News lists the plan’s basic elements as:
- The principal demand is for “a thorough overhaul of cycling's structures, rules and leaders.”
- Creation of an independent commission to investigate the UCI’s handling of the Armstrong doping case. This commission should report to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
- Drug testing regimes should be set up by WADA and administered by national WADA affiliates.
- Harsher penalties for drug cheats, with teams not able to employ riders for two years after a suspension of six-months or greater.
- Immediate withdrawal from competition of any rider being investigated for doping.
- Awarding of licences to sponsors, not team managers in the World Tour.
- That the UCI produce an annual report outlining progress in its anti-doping initiatives and investigations.
- And that all of the above is in place before the 2013 season.
The all-encompassing overhaul of cycling will be the one that will cause difficulty.
There are already numerous calls for the men at the top of the UCI to stand down, including cycling legend Greg LeMond’s passionate, if ineloquent, attack on UCI president Pat McQuaid and honorary president Hein Verbruggen on social media.
McQuaid, for his part, has steadfastly resisted any blame for the mess that cycling now finds itself in, relying on the defence that it happened before his time.
That he did not instigate any investigations in the wake of the numerous allegations in the intervening period and that he actively tried to impede USADA’s investigation is apparently irrelevant.
Eamonn Sweeney in the Irish Independent quotes USADA boss Travis Tygart's:
We set forth our position on why they [UCI] were conflicted in this case on many different grounds. They accepted money from him [Armstrong], they accused us of a witch-hunt (without seeing any evidence), they sued the chief whistleblower, they discouraged witnesses from participating.
This all happened under the watchful eyes of McQuaid.
Other elements of the manifesto are puzzling.
Why call for teams to impose addition suspensions on riders found guilty of doping, when the sensible option is just to apply harsher penalties?
Overall, however, the plan is sensible, achievable, measured and in the best interests of the sport.
There’s no way the UCI will take it up.