You DID read the rule book before you signed the license, right?
Earlier this week, UCI president Pat McQuaid emailed pro racers warning they could be fined or banned from future UCI events — including the world championships — if they race in next week’s Paris-Nice stage race. Paris-Nice’s owner, ASO, is running the race independently of the UCI. So how can McQuaid make these threats?
Each UCI rider has a signed license that says, on the back, “I hereby undertake to respect the constitution and regulations of the International Cycling Union, its continental confederations and its national federations.” Those regulations spell out punishments the UCI can slap on rule breakers, whether for taking refreshment outside a feedzone (20 Swiss francs per offense) or participating in a “forbidden race” (one month’s suspension and a 50- to 100-franc fine).
In the U.S., this rule is largely ignored and UCI riders compete at unsanctioned events with no apparent consequences. For example, Tyler Hamilton won the unsanctioned Mount Washington hillclimb in New Hampshire, both before and after his doping suspension.
But McQuaid takes the rule seriously (along with some others discussed in a minute).
The rulebook says a forbidden race is one “that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI.”
While Paris-Nice will be run under the UCI-recognized French cycling federation, FFC, the UCI does not accept that FFC will follow UCI rules on doping tests and other issues. (Paris-Nice riders are being asked to sign a contract with ASO that specifies rules different from the UCI’s.)
“Paris-Nice … does not appear on the UCI international calendar nor on the French national calendar in accordance with the regulations,” the UCI’s Martin Gibbs told VeloNews. “In other words, Paris-Nice remains outside the UCI’s federal regulatory structure, with the consequence that UCI teams and UCI license holders will not be able to participate in this event.”
McQuaid’s email to the riders goes further on the subject of the FFC’s authority.
“Proceedings will be opened against the FFC for its collusion in the affair,” he said, noting that French riders, in particular, could face unspecified consequences if their federation is suspended.
Wait, there’s more!
Gibbs said the Paris-Nice riders would be violating more than just the “forbidden race” rule. This explains why McQuaid’s email promises more dire consequences than the one-month’s suspension and 50- to 100 franc fine mentioned above.
The rule on forbidden races “is relevant,” Gibbs said, “but it’s also broader, participating in an event organized outside of the UCI’s rules.”
Specifically, Gibbs points to a rule (12.1.004 for those keeping score) that applies to “anyone who behaves in an incorrect or dishonest fashion with regard to any other, or who fails to keep a promise or to meet contractual or other obligations in the domain of cycling.”
That rule allows the UCI president to impose penalties “such as” exclusion from the world championships, continental championships or the Olympics.
If nothing else, rule 12.1.004 reveals the UCI president’s immense latitude. Which, after this discussion of how the UCI can penalize Paris-Nice riders, raises the question of why he thinks it’s in the interest of cycling punish riders for taking part in one of the most prestigious races in the world.
“As a former rider myself I really do feel for the difficult situation that you are in,” McQuaid said in his email to riders. “I can imagine that your reaction to current events may be ‘why can’t I do my job as a rider and let you guys get on with the politics?’ I agree completely with this sentiment and I truly want nothing more than for you to be allowed to ride Paris-Nice and for the sport to be free of these political struggles.”
But, McQuaid said, it is necessary to maintain a balance of power between the teams, the riders and the event organizers, and the UCI is the only way to do that.
“Without the UCI, the future is ever more powerful organizers dictating the terms on which you are able to practice your profession,” he said.
Gibbs said that if Paris-Nice is hurt, the fault is ASO’s.
“We want nothing more than for Paris-Nice to be run, but within the framework of the UCI rules which provide the checks and balances needed to run sport fairly,” he wrote. “It is ASO that are taking themselves out of the structure and potentially harming their race. This conflict isn’t in anyone’s interest but we consider that it’s ASO’s conflict, not ours.”
FILED UNDER: Road