Chaos in pro cycling: enough is enough!

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26.02.2008/A new season has started. Cycling fans already could see some great races like last weeks Tour of California, Australia's Tour Down Under and the Tour de Langkawi. But yesterdays letter from the UCI to all pro cycling teams showed that the war between Tour de France organiser ASO and the International Cycling Union (UCI) is escalating. The UCI also seems to act against its own rules by trying to prevent a few pro riders to start at races although they are not officially banned. An editorial by Cyclingheroes.

© Cyclingheroes
Will Frank Vandenbroucke start at the Tour of Flanders? (© Cyclingheroes)

Pro cycling is suffering from the power struggle between Tour de France organiser ASO and the UCI. None of the parties seem to be willing to back down. But there are more strange things going on. Several sources told our website that the UCI is putting pressure on teams not to sign crown witnesses Jörg Jaksche and Patrick Sinkewitz and Belgian media reported this weekend that the UCI does not want to give Pro-Continental team Mitsubishi - Jartazi a wild card status because the Estonian team signed Frank Vandenbroucke.
In a press release from February 11, the UCI announced which teams were granted a wildcard status. Mitsubishi - Jartazi was not among them. The UCI said: "No decision was made regarding the Mitsubishi-Jartazi team (EST). The Licence Commission is awaiting further information before making any decision on this case." According to the reason for the delay is Vandenbroucke's ban in 2002. It seems strange that a rider who did his time is punished again for the same offense. Even more strange is that other Pro-Continental teams who also signed riders who were banned for doping offenses in the past, did have no trouble at all and received a wildcard status. Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli (Danilo Hondo), Slipstream Chipottle (David Millar) did receive a wildcard status on February 11. We have nothing against Danilo Hondo or David Millar or their teams. Slipstream Chipottle even could become a role modell for pro cycling and we would like to see the team succeed in their efforts for a clean cycling. But that doesn't change the way the UCI is handling affairs. One could call it double standards.
The way the UCI is governing cycling seems to become one of the main problems of pro cycling. The power struggle between ASO and UCI started after former UCI president Hein Verbruggen pushed his Pro-Tour plans against the will of many race organisers, pro riders and cycling fans. The wildcard policy of the UCI shows that the fight against doping of the international governing body is not transparent and hard to understand.
According to US based website,UCI anti-doping manager Anne Gripper told the US website that the so-called Puerto riders are not under an open investigation by any ani-doping authorities, but (according to Gripper) these riders are under investigation by Spanish prosecuters. Cyclingheroes asked Spanish authorities but they denied that they are investigating the riders in the re-opened Puerto case.  Still this was the reason that Rock Racing riders Tyler Hamilton, Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla were not allowed to start at last weeks Tour of California. Banned without any official investigation. Although the behaviour of Tyler Hamilton after he was tested positive at the 2004 Vuelta Espana did not exactly make him more popular, its strange that the UCI tries to punish him again for the same offense. If the Puerto papers are correct it should be clear that Hamilton received the 2004 Vuelta blood transfusions by Spanish doctor Fuentes or one of his associates. In that sense Hamilton did not commit a new offense, anti-doping authorities now only know who the "dealer" was. Try to convict somebody for knowing who is dealer was after he did his time in a normal court...
It doesn't really matter if Anne Gripper was lying about Spanish authorities investigating Puerto riders at the ToC press conference or just did not have the right information: its bad governing - you can't govern well if your facts are wrong.
But its more serious: The cases of Frank Vandenbroucke, Jörg Jaksche, Patrick Sinkewitz, the three Rock Racing riders and many others indicate that the UCI could be acting against its own rules. Interesting that there are more and more indications that the UCI are unofficially trying to ban riders like Jörg Jaksche and Patrick Sinkewitz for life who had the courage to speak out... Is that part of the anti-doping strategy? The UCI is also trying to punish riders who already did their time for the same offense and others are banned without being officially investigated by any sports or state authorities. I try to imagine what it would be like not be allowed to go after my job anymore, banned for life to write for Cyclingheroes without any official verdict from any court or writers union. Just like that.
But its not only the UCI who's policies are questionable. ASO's exclusion of Astana from all ASO races is also hard to understand. Even if Astana harmed last years Tour de France. Astana has a new team management, most of its riders are new as well. There were always rumours around Johan Bruyneel and his US Postal and Discovery team. But ASO can't make Bruyneel responsible for what happened with the 'old' Astana and as long as no official organisation is opening proceedings against Bruyneel and (former)riders of US Postal and/or Discovery the rumours stay what they are: rumours. Other teams with riders and/or sports directors with a doping past are invited to ASO races. So what is the policy here?
This is not a plea for dopers or the doping system. This a plea for transparency and a call to all parties to stick by the rules. If that's not enough to go after dopers and the doping system they should create additional rules but stick by the rules, no banana republic pr moves. Pro cycling created its own disaster by allowing systematic doping. Not only the riders who took performance enhancing drugs, most involved parties were more or less part of this system. Its time to move on with clear and understandable rules, an international body who should be responsible for anti-doping proceedings, so all riders are treated equal no matter which country they are coming from and without double standards.
Belgian Vandebroucke fans are considering to take action. They have enough of the way this sport is governed. Enough is enough: its time for a change.

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