Two-way radio row: UCI still at loggerheads with team managers and riders
Tit for tat on radio bans continues along with call for introduction of four year doping bans
Cycling's governing body, the UCI yesterday put it's side of the story as to why representatives of both the team managers, and professional cyclists were uninvited to the meeting of the CCP (Conseil Professionnel du Cyclisme) in Milan, a meeting at which the CCP also called for the UCI to bring in a standard four ban for doping offences and to look at ways to penalise teams that employ convicted dopers after they have served their bans.
Confusion surrounds the circumstances leading to the threat by professional teams to pull out of October’s inaugural Tour of Beijing Professional Cycling unless the UCI backs down on its stance over banning two-way radios by 1 May.
As reported yesterday, the team managers' association, the AIGCP (Association International de Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels), said that the proposed action was partly due to the withdrawal of an invitation to it and the professional cyclists’ association, the CPA, to participate in yesterday's meeting of the CCP in Milan.
Not so, says the UCI, which attended yesterday’s meeting of the body that has replaced the UCI ProTour Council.
In a statement, world cycling’s governing body said that its president, Pat McQuaid, had “informed the CCP members of the reason for the absence of Messrs Jonathan Vaughters and Gianni Bugno, who had been formally invited to choose between participating in the meeting and standing by the AIGCP and CPA in their threat to launch boycotts and strikes against the proposed ban on the use of earpieces during races.”
The statement continued: “While regretting their decision not to take part in today’s constructive discussion, particularly as regards the safety aspects of the issue, President McQuaid regretfully noted this new element of tension in the situation. It will not, however, change the UCI’s position on the subject.”
The confusion over whether or not the invitations to the respective bodies were in fact withdrawn, and at whose behest, is evidence of the bitter war of words now raging between the parties – the CPA itself is threatening strike action at three races on the Continent next weekend – and their apparent unwillingness to try and reach a compromise.
The UCI stance is that by banning radio communication between riders and team staff, racing would be more spontaneous and exciting; the teams and the riders maintain that radios are essential for safety, and the argument also forms part of a wider call by them to have a greater say in big decisions affecting the sport.
A compromise solution might include permitting two-way races for safety use only, but as Formula 1 has shown with the row a couple of years back involving Lewis Hamilton receiving an illegal order to allow Toyota's Jarno Trulli to pass while the safety car was on the circuit, lines of communication do need to be policed.
The current impasse means that ultimately it’s the fans that will suffer, and should the parties be unwilling to meet somewhere in the middle, there is always the prospect of some big races being affected. That’s something that cycling can ill afford as it deals with the negative publicity arising from a succession of doping scandals.
The latter issue was also very much on the agenda, McQuaid starting proceedings by congratulating the World Anti-doping agency, WADA, on the way in which it had handled recent doping cases.
One imagines that the UCI president would be less kind to the Spanish federation, the RFEC, given it’s handling of the Alberto Contador case that resulted in the cyclist being cleared.
Moreover, six months on, there’s still no news of the result of any test on the B sample taken from Vuelta runner-up Ezekiel Mosquera at that race after his A sample tested positive for hydroxyethyl starch, which can be used to mask EPO.
No traces of that substance were found in Mosquera’s A sample, but EPO was detected in one taken from his then Xacobeo Galicia team mate, David Garcia Dapena, and another sample taken from the latter tested positive for hydroxyethyl starch. He has since been banned for two years.
The UCI said that yesterday, “Over the first half of the day the CCP discussed at length the fundamental principles of the anti-doping campaign, in particular the length of suspension to be imposed in the event of a first serious violation of the rules.
“After analysing in detail the existing legal framework, notably the World Anti-Doping Code, and other constraints that must be taken into account in the evaluation and management of every doping case, the CCP decided to recommend increasing the suspension period for doping offences involving a serious substance from two to four years,” it continued.
The meeting also addressed the issue of riders being welcomed back into the sport by certain teams after serving out doping bans. The return of cyclists from doping bans provokes heated emotions, and not just by the fans, as witnessed last year by the hostile reaction of riders such as Mark Cavendish and Robbie McEwen to Riccardo Ricco being back in the peloton.
Now, the CCP has requested the UCI “to look into the possibility of introducing a system of penalties to be applied to teams looking to take on a rider returning to cycling after a period of suspension for a doping offence.”
What those sanctions might be was not revealed.