Cycling Australia sacks Matt White, says UCI response to Armstrong case critical to sport's future

Governing body distances itself from calls for amnesty but supports criminalising doping

by Simon_MacMichael   October 17, 2012  

Matt White Orica-GreenEdge YouTube still

Cycling Australia has sacked Matt White from his position as elite men’s road coordinator with the national team following his admission of doping while riding for the US Postal Service team. It has also said that how the UCI responds to the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s Reasoned Decision on Lance Armstrong will be “critical to the reputation of the organisation and that of the sport of cycling.”

In a statement released today and published in full at the end of this article, Cycling Australia acknowledged that White’s admission of doping at US Postal, where he rode between 2001 and 2003 and again in 2006 and 2007 when it was known as Discovery Channel, represented a clear breach of its anti-doping rules and code of conduct. He was informed on Tuesday evening that his contract had been terminated.

The national governing body also sought to address the criticism it has come under regarding its decision to continue to employ White, who in January 2011 was sacked as directeur sportive by Garmin-Cervelo on the same day he had led Cameron Meyer to overall victory in the Tour Down Under.

White left the team after it emerged that he had broken protocol by not obtaining authorisation from its medical staff before referring a rider to an outside doctor – in this case, former US Postal doctor Luis Garcia Del Moral.

The criticism of Cycling Australia was summarised in a blog post yesterday by Gerard Vroomen, co-founder of Cervelo and co-owner of the business that supplied and sponsored White’s team at the time of his departure. Vroomen wrote:

There are three options:

1 – In 2011, they forgot to ask White if he ever doped himself, in which case there is no point in having an investigation – the Cycling Australia board should simply step down.

2 – They asked White if he ever doped and he answered truthfully, in which case there is also no need for an investigation or a suspension – the Cycling Australia board should simply explain its decision and stand by it. Or alternatively, the board should resign again if they feel their decision in 2011, having had all the facts available to them, was wrong.

3 - They asked White if he ever doped and he lied, in which case there is also no need for an investigation or a suspension as he should be fired right away.

None of those points is directly addressed in Cycling Australia’s statement, in which it says it made enquiries at the time with bodies including the UCI and the national anti-doping organisation ASADA as well as senior management at Garmin.

It states that it was satisfied that there were no grounds not to continue to employ White. It says it is now reviewing its internal processes regarding the appointment of staff and contractors.

During the past week, Cycling Australia president Klaus Mueller has called for a doping amnesty to be instituted, but the governing body itself has now formally distanced itself from such a measure.

Instead, it backs criminalising doping and increasing ASADA’s powers, adding that it welcomed a statement by Australia’s Minister for Sport, Kate Lundy, regarding a memorandum of understanding signed by the national anti-doping agency and the Australian Crime Commission that would enable greater co-operation in investigations.

Finally, Cycling Australia said it accepted that there was “clear evidence that the UCI, until recent times, failed to fully and properly do its part to stamp out doping.”

It insisted that credit should be given to the world governing body for more recent initiatives such as the introduction of the biological passport, and also maintained that the peloton is cleaner nowadays.

However, it concluded its statement with a note of caution to the UCI, saying: “How the UCI responds to the USADA file and how it addresses the allegations within it will be critical to the reputation of the organisation and that of the sport of cycling. We at CA encourage the UCI take this very real opportunity to steer the sport into a new future.”

Orica-GreenEdge has not as yet issued a statement beyond the one published on Saturday in which it said that it would “await the decision of the relevant authorities” before deciding what action to take against White, who has voluntarily stepped down from his position with the team.

In a statement released via the governing body, White said: "I have really enjoyed working for Cycling Australia and it has been an honour to represent my country in the role I have had. I understand the current situation makes it difficult to sustain the position and I respect that Cycling Australia has to make certain decisions.

"It's crucial there is a positive outcome from the current debate about cycling's past and I feel a responsibility to be part of that – even if it won't be in an official Cycling Australia role.

"Regardless, I want to express my gratitude for the time I had in the position as a coach and a selector and like everyone else, I hope for a clear path and a bright future for the sport."

Cycling Australia statement published on 17 October 2012

It has been a difficult week, to say the least, for those who love the sport of cycling.

The fallout from the file released by the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) resulting from its investigation into doping allegations against Lance Armstrong and the many other riders implicated, has been incredibly damaging for cycling worldwide. The evidence presented is damning, the behaviour of the key players is morally reprehensible and cycling fans have every right to feel let down.

The Board of Cycling Australia (CA) met last night via teleconference for an initial discussion from the perspective of Australian cycling. The Board recognises its responsibility and role in the fight against doping within our sphere of influence here in Australia and among Australian cyclists. We also firmly believe there are many good things happening in the sport and it is equally important to continue to play our part in leading the sport into a future of growth and optimism.

Critical to this is the need to reassert where we stand on doping.

As stated clearly in the CA Anti-Doping Policy: "Cycling Australia condemns doping as fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport". The Board of CA is committed to the fight against doping in sport and in cycling in particular. We have a 'zero tolerance' approach to any athlete found guilty of cheating through the use of performance enhancing drugs and to any other person who aids and abets that process.

As has been the case in the past, CA undertakes to fully cooperate with any investigation conducted by an accredited authority into an allegation of an Anti Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) against an Australian cyclist. This obligation also extends to any athlete, employee, contractor or member who might be asked to assist with any such inquiry.

CA will redouble its efforts to protect the integrity of the environment within which people participate in the sport of cycling in Australia. This includes engaging and working with stakeholders and government agencies, such as the Australian Sports Anti Doping Authority (ASADA) and the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), to maximise our ability to meet this challenge.

A key issue for Australian cycling that arose out of the USADA dossier released last week was the naming of Matthew White as being implicated in doping practices conducted by the US Postal Services team.

For the past two seasons, Matt has been employed by CA as a part-time contractor in the role of Elite Men's Road National Coordinator. In that role he has made a significant, valuable contribution to our men's national teams and at no time do we believe his influence or actions went against the best interests of the sport.

However, the admissions contained within his public statement of 13 October clearly place him in breach of the CA Anti-Doping Policy and Code of Conduct. Accordingly, the Board has determined that his ongoing employment with CA is untenable and Matt was formally advised overnight of the termination of his contract.

We have been criticised in some quarters for the decision to appoint Matt in the first place and we understand the concerns that have been raised.

At the time of his initial appointment in January 2011 Matt was a senior Director Sportif with the Garmin Slipstream team registered with the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Garmin terminated his contract in January 2011 on the grounds he had contravened team policy.

As a result of this decision CA made inquiries with a number of individuals and organisations including ASADA, the UCI and senior management at Garmin Slipstream, before determining there were no grounds to prevent Matt continuing in his role with CA.

The Board has recognised the current situation calls for the review of our internal processes for the appointment of staff and contractors and while this process will begin immediately it will also be a key item to be addressed in more detail by the CA Board at its scheduled November meeting.

Over the past few days there have been a number of initiatives tabled in the media by CA President, Klaus Mueller with a view to encouraging debate here in Australia as to what are the appropriate 'tools' to combat doping in sport. CA was an active player in the establishment of ASADA in 2005/06 and we have witnessed its effectiveness on more than one occasion since. ASADA is a leader in the world of sports anti-doping agencies and Australians should be very proud of the job done by the Authority. It is an ongoing challenge for all future governments and the sporting community to ensure ASADA is appropriately resourced.

In the past 24 hours the Hon Senator Kate Lundy, Minister for Sport, announced a Memorandum of Understanding between ASADA and the Australian Crime Commission, effectively strengthening the collaborative investigative capabilities of ASADA. CA congratulates and supports the Minister for this initiative.

John Coates AC, President of the Australian Olympic Committee, has written to the Minister seeking stronger powers for ASADA, including the authority to compel witnesses to comply with doping investigations. Again, CA supports the serious consideration of such initiatives.

The board, in its discussion last night, canvassed several of the suggestions that have been in the public arena this past week and resolved that an amnesty is not consistent with CA's strong anti-doping position. The Board does however support criminalising doping as it sends a strong message that such conduct is unacceptable and adds the resources of the police to the fight against this blight on sport.

CA has also been taken to task lately regarding our public support of the UCI and its initiatives and commitment to the fight against doping in the sport.

We acknowledge that there is now clear evidence that the UCI, until recent times, failed to fully and properly do its part to stamp out doping. We stand by our belief that the UCI deserves significant credit in a number of areas, namely its persistence in dealing with the Operation Puerto files and the ground-breaking introduction of the Biological Passport.

We believe there is also reasonable evidence to support the view that the current professional peloton is much 'cleaner' and fair competition is now taking place. However, we concede questions do remain.

How the UCI responds to the USADA file and how it addresses the allegations within it will be critical to the reputation of the organisation and that of the sport of cycling. We at CA encourage the UCI take this very real opportunity to steer the sport into a new future.

9 user comments

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This is one bloke who i sort of feel sorry for. He has come out and said "yes i cheated, i took drugs" but its not been to get a short ban by assisting with the USADA enquiry he has done it himself for no gain and lost one job probably going to be two once greenedge do their bit.

I dont agree with the drug taking though.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2824 posts]
17th October 2012 - 11:12

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Is my memory this bad. I thought that when Sky employed Matt White Dave Brailsford admitted that it was not possible to sign "back room" staff who may have been implicated/involved in past doping? I was sure that was all about MW. If that is right then Cycling Oz are being hypocrits. So he may have only just admitted it but if it was an issue that had already been raised about him then they should really look at their motivation.

And maybe take a page out of Mr Brailsford's book, bite the bullet and be realistic.

If I'm wrong I apologise to any supporters of Cycling Australia and their actions.

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [396 posts]
17th October 2012 - 11:51

1 Like

Stumps - you could argue that he had an opportunity to come clean in the wake of the sacking by Garmin, when he would have known that Cycling Australia were investigating his background. He chose to keep silent, and has presumably done quite well out of his position for the national team for the past couple of years and GreenEdge this season.

Bikeandy61 - yes, Brailsford acknowledged that in general terms, but Sky have never employed Matt White. And as I touched upon in the reply to Stumps, the circumstances here are a bit different to say employing someone who has served a ban in the past, or who has been known to be under investigation.

An added complication here is that we're not talking about a team, we are talking about the governing body itself.

Where Cycling Australia probably do have some more explanation to do is why they decided to take matters no further - it had been flagged to them by the UCI that he needed to be investigated with regard to allegations coming out of the US, which perhaps suggests a lack of co-ordination or co-operation between national governing bodies and anti-doping agencies at international level.

I imagine that is something that will be addressed once all the dust of the Armstrong affair settles.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8388 posts]
17th October 2012 - 12:03

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Is my memory this bad. I thought that when Sky employed Matt White Dave Brailsford admitted that it was not possible to sign "back room" staff who may have been implicated/involved in past doping? I was sure that was all about MW

Yes, your memory is bad! As the article says he was previously employed by Garmin, not Sky.

posted by Chris James [208 posts]
17th October 2012 - 12:10

3 Likes

@Stumps - I kind of agree with you in terms of his time at USPS, but in much more recent times, he's been working with a known 'clean team' (Garmin), and referred a rider to Del (no?) Moral. That would be like Sean Yates referring one of the Sky lads to Ferrari. Doesn't make him guilty of anything as such, but it makes me wonder about his intentions and consequently have less sympathy for him.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3419 posts]
17th October 2012 - 12:17

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To be honest i haven't done a lot of digging into MW and maybe i have been a bit presumptious in my sympathy.

You could say the Garmin affair was a bit of bad judgement on his part, however if he has basically lied to get the 2 oz jobs then my sympathy has dropped a tad.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2824 posts]
17th October 2012 - 12:24

4 Likes

'We at CA encourage the UCI take this very real opportunity to steer the sport into a new future.'
CA, (Cycling Australia) don't seem to realise that Pat and mates are going to find it difficult to 'steer' without a rudder and paddle from up the proverbial creek.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [984 posts]
17th October 2012 - 14:52

3 Likes

A few steps for the UCI

UCI governing council need to get rid of Pat and appoint a credible leader
Set up an independent inquiry with wide ranging terms of reference and resource to get to the bottom of the role of the UCI in doping and its failure to support anti doping riders and whistle blowers.
Call on the French authorities to examination the actions and role of ASO in dealing with doping and the UCI
Separate doping control and sanctions function from the UCI and hand it to an independent body to break the conflict of dealing with doping and news management of the UCI commercial interests

Sudor

posted by Sudor [183 posts]
17th October 2012 - 16:35

1 Like

Agreed. The last thing I wish to hear from Pat is the double 'L' we hear twice a week in the news: 'Lessons have been learnt'.... Until the next time they're caught.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1084 posts]
17th October 2012 - 18:04

2 Likes