Editor’s note: The following is an opinion piece submitted to VeloNews by former U.S. Postal Service rider Scott Mercier. Mercier retired from professional cycling in 1997 and in 2011 told VeloNews that a team doctor had offered him synthetic testosterone in the final year of his career. The UCI on Monday issued a press release defending its lawsuit against journalist Paul Kimmage, claiming that he “had made false accusations that defamed the UCI and its presidents, and which tarnished their integrity and reputation.”
The dethroning of the king, Lance Armstrong, by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has given many hope that real change is possible for the sport of cycling. But the sport’s governing body, the UCI, led by the hapless Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, seems intent on continuing the charade. The entire world has come to accept that cycling has had a dark and sordid history with respect to doping, but the UCI refuses to acknowledge any responsibility. It is shameful that the UCI was not leading the effort to find the truth. Pat McQuaid, in particular, seems to get more desperate every time he utters a word.
His most recent action of suing journalist and renowned anti-doping crusader Paul Kimmage is just the latest example of an attempt to deny and cover up, rather than seek the truth. History suggests that the UCI did not provide protection for riders like Christophe Bassons and Filippo Simeoni, who chose to speak up and challenge the culture of doping. Rather, they were unceremoniously ushered out the door. It is time to invite athletes like them back to the sport to be a part of the solution. As a former rider for U.S. Postal, I would not have turned to the UCI for fear of the repercussions from the organization. Perhaps in my own small way I too contributed to the omerta in cycling.
The lack of comments by most of the peloton regarding the Armstrong saga suggest that the omerta is still alive and well and that the peloton is still ruled by fear. There is no small amount of irony in the fact that the sport is led today by a man who received a lifetime ban from Olympic competition for an act of willful deception and fraud by racing the Rapport Tour in apartheid South Africa during an international boycott. I also raced the Rapport Tour, but Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela was the head of state, not B.J. Vorster. Mr. Vorster was the head of the department of justice in South Africa when Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.
The UCI today appears to be governed in a similar manner as the apartheid regimes, ruled with oppression and fear. Many of today’s riders seem to be fearful of criticizing the UCI potentially and exposing themselves to repercussions.
Cycling has reached a tipping point. It is either going to be honest and open regarding its sordid history of doping and grow and thrive, or it will continue to deny and distract. The time has come for the doors of secrecy to be kicked open. It’s time for a revolution and the overthrow of the tyrannical leadership of McQuaid and Verbruggen. I urge the board members of the UCI to take control of the sport and start with a clean slate. This is the only way cycling can truly grow on a global scale.