MILAN (VN) — A “manifesto for credible cycling,” issued last week by five European newspapers, proposed some changes worth making, according to cycling veteran Allan Peiper.
Pepier, who directed Garmin-Sharp and Ryder Hesjedal to a Giro d’Italia victory this year before joining BMC Racing as performance director, supports an examination of the WorldTour points system and urged teams to take on more responsibility for the sport as a whole.
He begins work this week from his home in Belgium, meeting with BMC Racing’s brass while keeping an eye on the news.
Last Saturday the five newspapers — Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad, The Times of London, L’Equipe, La Gazzetta dello Sport and Le Soir — published a joint manifesto listing eight action items, a sort of road map to peace for pro cycling.
It called for an independent investigation of the UCI’s involvement in the Lance Armstrong affair, a third party to handle doping controls and greater penalties for dopers. Peiper scanned the article, focusing on WorldTour points system and the teams’ responsibility.
• The reform of the World Tour of leading races, of its systems of points and the awarding of team licenses, which encourages a closed shop, lacking in transparency and accountability; we propose that team licenses are awarded to sponsors and not to team managers.
“There should be more clarity,” Peiper told VeloNews. “There is a basic formula that managers receive. I won’t say it’s dubious, but it’s a little bit unclear for everybody. It should be clearer anyway so that [the teams] are not standing before decided fate at the end of the season.”
Peiper commented on the difficulty in keeping points within in a team. As it stands now, when a rider leaves, he takes precious points from the last two seasons with him. This becomes crucial when teams apply for one of the exclusive 18 first-division licenses, as the UCI considers points from contracted riders only.
“Investing in riders and in their development, then after two years, [they] go on to another team and take the points with them. … Teams that are cash-heavy and financially well-off, it’s easy for them to go out and buy riders. But for teams that have a confined budget and are working to develop riders, [only] to have them snatched away from them after they put a lot of time into developing them, it’s disheartening,” Peiper said.
A system in which a rider’s points were halved between the former team and the new one would be “a lot fairer,” he added.
• Penalties for doping offenses should become more severe; professional teams should not employ riders suspended for more than six months for a supplementary period of two years.
This action item recalls the ill-fated gentlemen’s agreement put in place by the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) after Operación Puerto. The 18 top teams agreed they would not sign a doper for four years, but Liquigas broke the bargain by signing Ivan Basso in 2008.
Peiper said that a new gentlemen’s agreement of two years, as suggested by the manifesto, is a good idea, along with teams taking on greater responsibility.
“Teams see these riders as a good way of bolstering their teams, their publicity and their win rate. …” he said. “I read in an article that Ivan has changed and is a great guy — I don’t disagree with that — but if we make an agreement, we have to stick with it, and until now, that hasn’t happened. It comes down to the teams, if we are really serious about this, we have to be serious about everything and be united.”
Peiper called on teams to join the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC). What began as a French club now boasts members such as Lotto-Belisol, Garmin-Sharp and Orica-GreenEdge. It maintains strict rules, such as a two-week pause if a rider must use cortisone, and reviews of health records by independent doctors.
“They [the MPCC] have been belittled and made to like fools, but maybe now they have reason to step up,” said Peiper. “There are other rules, about teams engaging riders who were positive, unless they’ve sat their two years out, and that’s still a rule. … If teams are looking for respect and really want to toe the line, and they are really serious about change, then we all do it together.”
Peiper also suggested that top teams need to push UCI for greater responsibility and television rights, two items not mentioned in the manifesto.
“What would be fantastic is if the teams were given part of the television rights and [allowed to] control their sport. … If the teams had control and all had an equal share in the television rights from the big organizers, then cycling would be more stable. Then we would make decisions and stick by them because it’s in our general cause, not just because of our sponsors, but because we have some stability to fall back on,” he said.
“The UCI could hand the responsibility to the teams instead of taking the fall for everything; the teams would take responsibility and would have to then step up and agree as a whole group.”
The internatiuonal governing body should use its share to train commissaires and develop cycling around the world, Peiper suggested.
The UCI has called for an independent commission to review its inner workings and search for improvements. This week, its Management Committee is to announce the details of the commission.
Based on the last press release and turn-around from the October 22 press conference, the committee appears to be considering what the newspapers and teams, via voices like Peiper’s, are saying.