BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — This guy. See this guy? He’s our unlikely protagonist of the moment in a sport that seems to always need one. Jaimie Fuller swears (a lot), makes gross metaphorical comparisons (cycling is a festering sore, zit, boil, duh), and doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks, notably UCI brass Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen.
And he just may be the flash-bang professional cycling needs as it looks to emerge from the cultural blackout of a massive doping conspiracy’s darkness. Fuller funded and founded Change Cycling Now, a pressure group calling for wholesale UCI reforms and independent drug testing. He put in $100,000 of his own scratch to get the group off the ground. He’s also targeted the Union Cycliste International with a $2 million lawsuit for damages incurred as a sponsor due to what Fuller sees as the UCI’s inability to police itself and its sport.
“I didn’t know where it was going to go. I was hopeful that I could get the ball rolling,” Fuller said on a crisp December morning in Boulder. And it’s rolling all right. Fuller’s CCN summit in London was attended by heavy hitters like Greg LeMond, a three-time Tour champ, Travis Tygart, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO, anti-doping expert Michael Ashenden and Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters. At the end of the meeting, LeMond emerged as a candidate for an interim UCI presidency. The current UCI president, Pat McQauid, called the move “arrogant.”
The thing is, there’s reason to think CCN may be more than a rock in the shoes of McQuiad and the establishment. As has been reported, the UCI is under review by what it calls an independent board, with the powers to rifle through documents and ask tough questions of leadership. That commission, according to Fuller, approached him, and said the pressure group should be represented at the UCI hearings.
“Now, they’re only offering that to two other parties, apart from themselves, being WADA and us,” Fuller told VeloNews. Fuller also said the group would be given the opportunity to “cross examine” McQuaid and Verbruggen.
“It was great from an acknowledgement of our legitimacy, and acknowledgment of a position we’re in. But it also means we can come to the table with our perspective, with our information, and we can do what we can to try and open up the truth … I’ve got lawyers who’ve approached us to help on a pro bono basis. I’ve got PR agencies. I’ve got ad agencies saying, ‘I really want to help you, how can I do it?’”
The thought of LeMond and Ashenden cross-examining Verbruggen and McQuaid? In what world could that have ever happened?
Why does Fuller care? It’s hard to say. He has an obvious business interest, as his Skins company does business in cycling, though it’s nowhere near the top market segment for the compression-wear company; that honor goes to the runners of the world.
Who is this guy? An Australian businessman who fared well in the printing and real estate industries and then dipped his foot into the athletic arena when he bought the controlling share of Skins after a two-hour business meeting. He cares about cycling, hilariously, because of Floyd Landis’ miracle ride to Morzine in 2006. Of course, that seems ridiculous now, but it doesn’t matter if one fell in love with cycling during its Dark Ages, only that the love exists, right?
“It started out as business. It’s become passion. And it’s become what I think is central to our business as a brand — to engage in this culture. Because it is a culture,” he said. “Look at me, I’m just some big fat blob … I’m not your typical sports guy.”
He is as enigmatic as he is brash. For example, his CCN summit was closed to the media, which raised some eyebrows: here he is, calling for transparency, and CCN isn’t transparent itself? Meh.
“I’m glad I did it. I didn’t want to telegraph my punches to the UCI,” he said. “I didn’t want to tell these fuckers what I was up to. I’m glad. People can criticize me till the cows come home for a perceived closed meeting. But at the end of the day, it had to be closed. I had a bunch of very interested, passionate, articulate intelligent people who needed to feel safe in that room.”
For someone who’s only recently come to cycling, Fuller is remarkably popular. His inbox is full of names that matter, and his phone has a tendency to ring. He’s recently taken to embarrassing himself on Twitter, as he put it. Fuller’s forwardness, however flammable, comes at a time when the sport finds itself in a canyon’s half-light: some want the truth exposed, and some hope to slink back to the darkness with little change.
There is no clear way to open the blinds, that much we’ve seen: Sky, for example, has adopted a zero-tolerance policy, firing personnel with any established link to doping. Fuller doesn’t like that idea, not one bit.
“It’s all horseshit. Complete and utter fucking horseshit,” he said. “You get a sore, you get a festering sore, if you keep putting Band-Aids on it, it just continues to fester. You’ve got to cut it out. And if you want to cut it out, you’ve got to know the truth. And the only way to get to the truth is to incentivize everybody to tell the truth. And you don’t do that by saying: Come and tell us what you’ve done, and then you’re going to be pushed out the door.”
Fuller’s stated goal is to “break the head” of the UCI leadership, however violent that may sound, and supplant it with someone else from outside the establishment. “Ideally, we’d love to see the head of the UCI being a professional who’s not from the industry. Who doesn’t carry baggage, political affiliations, obligations. And to do that, you’ve got to get away from this 19 people electing one of themselves.
“The first characteristics we need with this [new leader] are the desire to get to the truth and the understanding that, it doesn’t matter how bad it is, we’ve got to get it out there, and we have to rebuild. We have to do everything we can to do that. And if that means we’ve got to pick fights with the IOC [International Olympic Committee], or the national federations in cycling, then so be it.”
Fuller doesn’t seem the type to walk away from a fight. Then again, the UCI never has, either.