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Harsh measures called for to restore cycling's credibility after Armstrong scandal… harsh words too for Pat McQuaid and the UCI...

Chris Boardman has called for WorldTour teams to be banned from the sport for a year if any of their riders test positive for performance enhancing drugs. He also described the UCI as a mess and was equally scathing about its president, Pat McQuaid.

Speaking exclusively to road.cc in London today, Boardman said the evidence gathered by the USADA of organised and sustained doping surrounding Lance Armstrong was "a massive blow for cycling, just when things have been so positive following on from the lovely summer of sport at the Olympics and Brad winning the Tour."

He also called on cycling's law makers to seize the opportunity presented by the Armstrong scandal to push through tough measures  - statements of intent aren't enough to restore credibility," he said.

"Personally I've always been in favour of life bans, but they are very hard to enforce.  I really believe in the concept of making the risk greater than than the reward. For cycling to become credible whatever comes next has to have proper teeth."

Boardman's solution is an immediate one year ban for any WorldTour team if one of its riders tests positive.

"You have a single positive and you're out for a year.

"The implications of that are huge. The sponsor is going to have a clause in the contract and the team will have contract with the rider saying 'if you're caught for doping you're going to be penniless.' So the rider's got no incentive to do it, the team's got no incentive to do it. The sponsor is going to police the team, and everybody self polices.

"The penalties are so harsh for everybody in the chain. and that's the kind of thing when you've got the ProTour and it belongs to you, it's the kind of harsh measure you can push through."

Boardman believes that this moment of weakness for the sport caused by the Armstrong revelations is exactly the time when the UCI could get teams to sign up to the sort of strong measures they would usually shy away from.

However whether the current leadership commands the authority within the sport to push through such changes remains in doubt. Amongst the evidence compiled by USADA in its case against Armstrong were details of payments from the rider of $125,000 to cycling's governing body, mot of which the UCI later spent on a blood analysis machine.

Amongst the rider testimony given to USADA were claims that the UCI leadership covered up a suspect test for EPO.

Boardman was equally trenchant on the subject of the UCI, describing cycling's world governing body as "a mess" and while he fell just short of saying that the UCI president, Pat McQuaid should resign, the implication was clear - the Irishman's time is up as the head of world cycling - or it should be.

"There has to be a world governing body, and it's the UCI. It’s a mess right now and how we fix it I don't know, but in most companies when things go badly wrong, people are so emotional about it. They need to see some change and generally the person who leads it resigns,” Boardman told road.cc.

Pressed on whether he was saying that McQuaid should go, Boardman responded:

"Pat McQuaid staying in his position after this… it doesn't give you a great deal of credibility."

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.

42 comments

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road slapper [87 posts] 3 years ago
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Though it seems that CB is jumping on the band wagon he has some very valid points and are definately worth looking at (take note UCI!).

If one person in a WorldTour team wants to jeopardise everyone else's livelyhood then they must have balls the size of whatever.

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Gkam84 [9080 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree with some harsh penalties, but to say a year's ban for the team is a bit OTT when some cases the team knew nothing about it.

Just look at the Steve Houanard incident, He used EPO off his own back to try and gain a contract after being told he was not getting another from AG2R

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SevenHills [195 posts] 3 years ago
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I would also make anyone who is caught doping have to wear something on their team kit when they that return after serving their ban.

This would be some symbol or a particular colour that indicates that they have doped in the past. I would imagine that most sponsors would not want their logo or name associated with such identification and would probably request the team sack the rider or risk losing their sponsorship.

In effect that would be a lifetime ban without it being an official ban. There may be some sponsors who would not be too bothered by being associated with previous dopers but i don't think it would be too many.

It might help reinforce this collective responsibility if there is a threat to the team's existence if one person is caught doping as well as stopping a team from hiring previous dopers.

Just a thought.  39

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PaulVWatts [111 posts] 3 years ago
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I can see this working. Clean riders could insist on clauses in their contracts that made them liable to compensation and the right to break their contract for free if a team was disqualified. Festina, UPS etc where team organised doping efforts not just individuals doping.

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 3 years ago
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I think its collective responsibility that Chris is talking about rather than collective punishment - and to be fair it is something that he has been talking about for a few years.

The idea is that it removes the incentive to dope because as he says the risk outweighs the reward - maybe a refinement of it could be that if a rider tested positive the team's sponsorship contracts would be considered broken and instead of a ban the team would be forced to ride in plain kit for a year - even if the sponsors wanted to continue to have their logos on the team strip. So the clean riders would then at least be able to keep racing.

OR, if a team was banned for a year, the riders could break their contract if they wanted to and other teams would be allowed to sign them whatever time of year it was.

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Morpheus00 [40 posts] 3 years ago
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Sounds good, but all you'd need is one going nowhere domestique with little to lose to take a punt and the whole team goes down....not sure about the fairness of that.

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Chuffy [201 posts] 3 years ago
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It's not realistic. If sponsors are exposed to that level of risk and are expected to actively police the team then they'll just walk away.

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TheHatter [770 posts] 3 years ago
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Maybe I missed it but I don't recall Boardman ever using his position as GB's best known cyclist to ever speak out on drugs.
It feels a bit disingenuous when past riders, even clean ones, suddenly find a voice about doped riders.

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Simon E [2614 posts] 3 years ago
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Chris raced clean throughout career, in a very 'dirty' peloton. But he's a thoughtful and intelligent fellow and not one to jump on bandwagons; he will not have made any public statement without having spent time going through the implications.

I wonder whether banning the team for a single positive is a bit OTT but a financial and/or racing penalty for the team when a rider's ban is confirmed may be the way to get team management and sponsors to become stakeholders (in modern parlance) in the sport and its reputation.

The issuing of sanctions by the national federations that have a vested interest in promoting their riders is an area where change must come (notably the RFEC in Spain). The decision should be made solely by WADA or another independent body. The UCI also has a conflict of interest in some cases so perhaps they would have a consultation role.

Unless Pat McQuaid is prepared to have a wholesale shift in attitude then he's going to remain a part of the problem until he leaves the UCI.

The abusive tweet by his son Andrew accusing Greg LeMond of cheating (hastily deleted but visible here) suggests there is more than one McQuaid that needs to be kicked out of the sport. Truly shameful. If he was my agent I would not only drop him like a stone but I'd have to punch him in the face. Hard.

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TheHatter [770 posts] 3 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

Chris raced clean throughout career, in a very 'dirty' peloton.

True, but he waited more than ten years before speaking out watching others be bullied (Kimmage, Lemond, et al) and only breaks his silence now.

As someone else tweeted in relation to all this:
"All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing". (Edmund Burke)

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drheaton [3318 posts] 3 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

I agree with some harsh penalties, but to say a year's ban for the team is a bit OTT when some cases the team knew nothing about it.

Just look at the Steve Houanard incident, He used EPO off his own back to try and gain a contract after being told he was not getting another from AG2R

Agreed, it's harsh, especially where teams are oblivious. As ever, it's not black and white. It never is. It's same with banning ex-dopers from running teams. It all sounds so good when you're talking about Vino or Ekimov but when you talk about Vaughters it's different.

Perhaps, where a rider is caught doping the major races have the option of not letting a team compete in their race thus voiding the automatic entry from the World Tour license? That way, it's discretionary on behalf of the race so where a team can prove innocence or they take the correct action quickly ASO might let the team compete in the following TdF but where a team can't prove they were unknowing or where there's been a few positives over the years the race can say no, sorry, you're not competing in my race next year.

That has the same effect with teams losing out and sponsors potentially pulling the plug without effectively closing the team down.

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antonio [1118 posts] 3 years ago
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Everyone except the UCI and McQuaid seems to have answers.

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Simon E [2614 posts] 3 years ago
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You may have a point, TheHatter, but it's easy to criticise anyone who didn't make a stand at the time. Plenty of hacks could have done (it could be considered their job) but the vast majority, like John Wilcockson, were sucking up the hype like there was no tomorrow and actively discouraged dissent while others, like the Comic's ex-editor Andrew Sutcliffe, dared not print anything critical. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Returning to Chris... If he had said this sooner do you not think he would be demonised throughout cycling and in all likelihood threatened with litigation? Consider the thoroughly unpleasant experiences of those who dared to stand up to Armstrong and speak out - Christophe Bassons, Betsy Andreu, Emma O'Reilly, Greg LeMond as well as David Walsh and Paul Kimmage. Would you risk your career, and maybe your home and your mental and physical health, to do that?

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londonbrick [25 posts] 3 years ago
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Can't see the whole team banned for a year but I think losing their points and invites for the big events would be plausible... .

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Paul J [865 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm not sure it's possible to say with certainty that Chris was clean. He ended up with hormonal-related problems, including osteoporosis - normally extremely rare in fit young men. Rare, except for one group: Fit young men who abuse steroids. Chris either was unlucky enough to be clean and develop a rare problem while ALSO being in a profession that had a significantly elevated incidence of such problems due to doping, OR he wasn't that unlike the others..

We can't know, but we can assign probabilities.

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colinth [191 posts] 3 years ago
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TheHatter wrote:
Simon E wrote:

Chris raced clean throughout career, in a very 'dirty' peloton.

True, but he waited more than ten years before speaking out watching others be bullied (Kimmage, Lemond, et al) and only breaks his silence now.

As someone else tweeted in relation to all this:
"All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing". (Edmund Burke)

Kimmage is a doper so not fit to be mentioned in same respect as lemond

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Mat Brett [612 posts] 3 years ago
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Paul J, I agree with a lot of what you say on the road.cc forum but... NO! No, no, no.

And in conclusion...

No.

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ragtag [204 posts] 3 years ago
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tony_farrelly wrote:

I think its collective responsibility that Chris is talking about rather than collective punishment - and to be fair it is something that he has been talking about for a few years.

It's probably the best way to progress at the moment. The system puts all the responsibility on the rider, the team has no incentive to check the rider is clean. OK they lose a rider but sure as hell there is another waiting in the wings - unless you're Saxo Bank.

If a team could show that they took all possible precautions against the rider taking PEDs then that could be mitigation but not release from all responsibility, perhaps leaving a fine or banning from the next race.

Sponsors also have to look at themselves. Teams are under pressure to get results, the sponsors want exposure but no risk. They have to encourage the teams they sponsor, through contracts, to prevent doping. Partly through long term deals that mean the teams don't feel pressured to get results at certain races and also through administration and organisation which it seems so many teams really lack.

Finally the UCI points that go with riders has to stop, it is just making the matter worse.

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shay cycles [319 posts] 3 years ago
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Chris Boardman ended his career with a hormonal related problem but if you check back you'll find that he started that career with that same hormonal condition which eventually caused him to retire because the only effective treatment for it would be steroid based - hardly the result of doping during his career then!

In spite of what some people say not all pro cyclists from that era were doping.

And of course not all amateurs raced clean.

I also believe that no-one really doped to level the playing field, those who doped did it for advantage and to perform better than they would otherwise.

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lushmiester [179 posts] 3 years ago
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There are plenty of ideas of a way forward and many have something going for them.

In Essence all focus on two factors the doping itself and the management of the UCI. Most likely there needs to be both but also a long hard look needs to be taken at the UCI itself.

It has been shown how those who wish will find a way to do so will, only possibly getting court some years later when analytical test catch up with doping techniques or others tell their story for whatever reasons. Hence the arrival of biological passports but these are as yet not an exact science. Chris makes a valuable contribution to this banning teams for one year or as others have said making it a contractual obligation to ride in neutral jerseys if one member of a team dopes and would add a very visible collective responsibility element that has so far been missing, am am sure there are other ways of achieving the same effect by altering how UCI points are deducted from a team and over what period should a rider deduction be count.

When it comes to the UCI most of the forums fire is reserved for Pat McQuaid and there would appear in my view to be no place for someone who knew what was going on but would appear to do have only ever allowed the minimum possible to be done to appear clean, even if these actions were more than any other sport had down the measures were knowingly not up to the task and additional approaches should have been implemented. The consequence was that only the incompetent doper would be court and thus there was a perverse incentive to organise doping. That is how cycling managed to get to this point.

Having said that The structures of the UCI are probably not up to the task of managing modern cycling with all its variants and interest groups. I am sure that there are people out there that would wish for Pat McQuaid's job. There is always someone with such an ego but that this the problem the structure is that poor that only someone with a dictatorial nature and self deluding ego is going to want the job. Ultimately the federations that make up the UCI need to sit down and re-constitute the organisation removing of the apparent contradictions and confused responsibilities within its structures. This now has to be done If any future leader is going to have a chance of bring cycling truly into the light not just leave a sport I like many other love hanging around in a false dawn.

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Paul J [865 posts] 3 years ago
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Shay cycles: If he started with it, that'd clear him. Have you got a citation for that?

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 3 years ago
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whoopee dee one year team ban, big fluffin' deal ...

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chris75018 [99 posts] 3 years ago
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TheHatter wrote:

Maybe I missed it but I don't recall Boardman ever using his position as GB's best known cyclist to ever speak out on drugs.
It feels a bit disingenuous when past riders, even clean ones, suddenly find a voice about doped riders.

To be fair he's probably been asked about nothing else for weeks. I don't think someone in his position as one of the highest profile cycling "celebs" in the wider media would get away with not having an opinion on doping.  39

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mattsccm [327 posts] 3 years ago
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Anything that makes it less attractive to sponsors is not a good thing. They will vote with their cheque books and go else where.

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NeilXDavis [122 posts] 3 years ago
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Nice to hear a view from Chris on the matter...can you imagine him in charge of the UCI...

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TrekBikesUK [128 posts] 3 years ago
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I wonder how realistic asking sponsors to be involved in policing teams would really be. Team sponsorship is generally a marketing exercise, and in our case, a product development program, as well. We're a big company, but there are a lot of smaller companies that play roles in team sponsorship. I don't think we are in the best position to expertly police teams to ensure that they race clean.

We could certainly pull sponsorship with immediate effect, but I doubt we'd know the first thing about how to monitor a team for the use of PEDs. We make bikes, not tests for stimulant use.

And, if anyone knows what it's like to be lied to about sponsored riders and teams being involved in PED use. and the backlash that results from all of it, it's us.

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Paul J [865 posts] 3 years ago
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TrekBikesUK: there are specialist companies who will do anti-doping monitoring and provide reports - basically run a private "blood passport" programme. You could make use of such a condition of sponsorship. Slipstream (who run the Garmin team) use such an agency.

If I had the money to sponsor a team, I'd also make it a condition that the raw blood passport data for the whole team would be made publically available at the end of each season. That would be really useful to anti-doping science. You could talk to Michael Ashenden, noted anti-doping scientist (SIAB.org.au) about the best way to sponsor an anti-doping team!

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Simon E [2614 posts] 3 years ago
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TrekBikesUK wrote:

if anyone knows what it's like to be lied to about sponsored riders and teams being involved in PED use. and the backlash that results from all of it, it's us.

I can understand that and wouldn't want to be in your shoes after the amount of money and energy invested into Armstrong.

Perhaps there are questions your parent company could have asked much sooner, but Lance sold a massive number of bikes for Trek so it suited them to turn a blind eye to what was going on while it suited their ends.

Trek Bikes' behaviour towards three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond from 2001 onwards didn't show the company in a favourable light, regardless of how one might feel about Greg (the only American to have won the Tour, and has done so 3 times). I worked out years ago that Lance Armstrong was not a good role model so I said I'd not be buying any Trek bicycles.

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lushmiester [179 posts] 3 years ago
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Congratulations to Trek. You have made a significant step and one that the likes of Nike or Oakley have not made. By entering into the the conversation regarding the use of PEDs there is gain for all you gain by affirming the companies position by engagement which suggests you are concerned as much for the sport you as you are for the balance sheet obviously the two are linked. All too often companies have a policy position but no apparent commitment beyond this, it therefore appears as a business decision based solely on brand image and sales not a moral position.

Cycling gains by having a position stated in an open channel, which allows all to see that the anti doping movement is broad.

As for your comment, I understand your concerns, particularly as you may feel that you have little or no control over weather or not an individual (or a team) uses PEDs but carry consequences of their PEDs use. Under Boardman type suggestions those consequences become even more severe and therefore increases business risk and are not something on face value is likely to attract a sponsor. However, at this time these are suggestions and the practicalities are not sorted and concerns are doubt surmountable or at least can be placed where they are tolerable, if such a route was to be chosen.

As a cycling fan and rider of a Trek bike I made my decision to buy a Trek despite the companies long association with Armstrong. A person who I never felt said anything about cycling that resonated with me.
Hide sight is a wonderful thing but perhaps as a company you should have more confidence in your products than to have such a high investment in one person for marketing. Making greater connections with the grassroots of cycling as part of marketing (along with pro sponsorship at some level) does perhaps not have as much immediate impact as association with the latest 'hero'. Yet over time such an approach is more sustainable offering reduced risks, building believe and commitment within the cycling community and can contribute to product development.

How you divide up your marketing budget is your decision be it long term or short term, the consequences and benefits of your decisions are yours.

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TheHatter [770 posts] 3 years ago
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chris75018 wrote:
TheHatter wrote:

Maybe I missed it but I don't recall Boardman ever using his position as GB's best known cyclist to ever speak out on drugs.
It feels a bit disingenuous when past riders, even clean ones, suddenly find a voice about doped riders.

To be fair he's probably been asked about nothing else for weeks. I don't think someone in his position as one of the highest profile cycling "celebs" in the wider media would get away with not having an opinion on doping.  39

Thats a fair point - I think my gripe is that he never spoke out before.
I take SimonE's point that he had a lot to lose is valid but that was the whole problem of the Ometra. He's doing alright out of his bike range, commentating gigs and BC job so why rock the boat?
Bearing in mind the *worst* thing that could happen is he's ostracised from cycling and has to get a real job like the rest of us I think more could have been expected of him in the past.

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