The UCI is to set up a ‘hotline’ which it claims will enable riders to confidentially discuss issues related to doping to help in its efforts to clean up the sport. While riders such as David Millar and Jörg Jaksche have revealed that their past attempts to share information with the UCI went unacknowledged, President Pat McQuaid insists the governing body has acted on information in the past.
News of plans to set up the hotline was disclosed in an open letter to riders from McQuaid, published on its website earlier on Tuesday, which also puts them in the picture about issues such as the UCI’s recently announced consultation with the sport’s stakeholders and the Independent Commission set up to address the findings of the United States Anti Doping Agency's investigation centred around Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team.
After recounting the efforts the UCI had made to fight doping in recent years such as the introduction of the biological passport, McQuaid claimed that the US Postal scandal had demonstrated that “the tests provided by the scientific community were simply not adequate enough to combat the problem.”
Asserting that the war against the drug cheats would continue with the involvement of education and prevention, he cautioned: “At the end of the day it is you the riders who have the ultimate say about whether our sport is clean.”
McQuaid then outlined the UCI’s idea of a hotline, saying: “We need to do more to ensure that the UCI is as accessible as possible, and in particular to you the riders, should you wish to discuss issues or concerns relating to doping.
“That is why, during the coming weeks, also after a small time frame to set up the logistical side, the UCI will be looking into establishing a new open line – a confidential ‘hotline’.
“We will be sending more information about this once in place. I know that it will take some time to build trust and confidence in this new line of communication, but I am confident that, with the best intentions from both sides, we can build that trust.
“And by doing so, we will accelerate the change in culture that we need in our sport,” he added.
The hotline appears aimed at being broader in its reach than purely serving as an outlet for any prospective whistleblowers, although the UCI has been accused of ignoring riders who in the past have tried to draw attention to doping.
In his autobiography Racing Through The Dark, David Millar revealed that after returning to the sport with Saunier Duval following the end of his two year ban for using EPO, he had twice written to McQuaid and the UCI to express concerns about doping at his new team, but never received a reply.
The fact that Millar’s team subsequently discovered he had been in touch with the governing body – quite how remains unclear, but Millar’s implication is that the information could only have come from the UCI – left him realising “that nothing would really change” and that he was “powerless.”
In his letter today, without naming names, McQuaid defended the governing body over accusations that it had failed to act on tip-offs such as Millar’s, or evidence that retired pro Jörg Jaksche, in testimony provided to USADA as part of the US Postal investigation, says he provided to the UCI regarding doping at the teams he rode for, Telekom, ONCE, CSC and Liberty Seguros.
According to Jaksche, “the UCI showed zero interest in hearing the full story about doping on these teams and did not seek to follow up with me.”
Without specifically mentioning Millar, Jaksche or others who have provided information to the UCI or made public statements regarding doping, McQuaid insisted that the governing body inists the governing body has taken action in the past.
Previously, McQuaid and the governing body had condemned accusations against Armstrong and other members of the US Postal team made by its former riders Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton – allegations that have now been fully vindicated by the USADA decision, which the UCI has of course ratified.
“We are aware that some riders have complained publicly that despite having shared knowledge with the UCI, there was an inadequate follow up,” aid McQuaid in his letter to riders.
“I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the UCI did act on information provided in the past and it will always do so in the future, within the bounds of what is legally feasible,” he claimed – although that doesn’t explain why both Millar and Jaksche are still awaiting replies to their letters years after they were written.
McQuaid's letter to riders is shown in full below.
I would like to take this opportunity to update you on the latest developments and decisions we have taken in response to the current crisis in our sport.
You will have seen in recent media reports that Philippe Gilbert, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins among many others have been strong voices in telling the world that today’s cycling is cleaner than ever before. Of course, they are right. You, today’s riders not only participate in the most innovative and effective anti-doping programs in sport but above all you have understood which choice to make for your career and for your sport. The result is that our sport is cleaner.
Actually the UCI has always been a pioneer in the fight against doping, a fact recognized by WADA and the IOC among others. We pride ourselves on the fact that we were the first sport to introduce a whole range of scientific measures as tools in this fight. These include the haematocrit test, the EPO tests, the homologous blood transfusion test and the blood passport, which I do not need to tell you about, as you are in the front line and have been overwhelmingly supportive of these initiatives. We are aware that this extensive anti-doping program causes much inconvenience for you, and we thank you for having accepted the hassle for the greater good of cycling.
Nevertheless, when we read in the USADA dossier that Lance Armstrong and others were able to use doping throughout their careers, we have to admit that the tests provided by the scientific community were simply not adequate enough to combat the problem.
Therefore we must all continue to work to keep improving the culture in cycling through education, prevention and as far as you are concerned by making the one choice that counts. At the end of the day it is you the riders who have the ultimate say about whether our sport is clean.
Naturally, we need to do more to ensure that the UCI is as accessible as possible, and in particular to you the riders, should you wish to discuss issues or concerns relating to doping. That is why, during the coming weeks, also after a small time frame to set up the logistical side, the UCI will be looking into establishing a new open line – a confidential ‘hotline’. We will be sending more information about this once in place. I know that it will take some time to build trust and confidence in this new line of communication, but I am confident that, with the best intentions from both sides, we can build that trust. And by doing so, we will accelerate the change in culture that we need in our sport.
We are aware that some riders have complained publicly that despite having shared knowledge with the UCI, there was an inadequate follow up. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the UCI did act on information provided in the past and it will always do so in the future, within the bounds of what is legally feasible.
Clearly the UCI has to work within the rules and in particular in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code. At this time the rules do not allow general amnesties but the current review of the World Anti-Doping Code may provide different possibilities in the future. The rules do currently allow reduced penalties. We are aware, and doing the utmost to address your proposals/needs in the effort to do the best by our sport.
As far as repairing the reputation of our sport, I would like to add that the UCI has listened to the world’s reaction to the Lance Armstrong affair and it has taken – and will continue to take – decisive steps in response to all matters raised.
To make sure that the UCI and cycling can move forward with the confidence of all parties, we are now establishing a fully Independent Commission to look into the findings of the USADA report and make recommendations to enable the UCI to restore confidence in the sport of cycling. John Coates, the President of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), has agreed to recommend the composition and membership of the Independent Commission. The UCI has already begun contacting the people Mr. Coates has nominated. The names of the panel members will be announced as soon as the Commission is convened. The Commission’s final report and recommendations will be published no later than 1 June 2013 – and you can be confident that the UCI will take whatever actions are deemed necessary to put cycling back on track. We are confident that the Commission will conclude that the UCI has been one of the strongest of all sporting federations in fighting doping in sport for many years.
As part of the effort to eradicate doping from our sport the UCI has made a considerable investment in education and implementation of the True Champion or Cheat program, the ‘no needle policy’, the ethical evaluation as part of teams’ registration and the modules in the Sports Directors training programme. These are all measures to achieve the necessary changes in the culture of our sport.
Finally, while the Independent Commission carries out its work, I feel it is also important that UCI works on restoring the credibility of our sport. I have decided that, during the first quarter of 2013, the UCI will set in motion a wide-ranging consultation exercise involving all cycling’s stakeholders to tackle issues of concern within the sport and work together to build a bright future for cycling.
The UCI will welcome your participation in this consultation, which will also look at how we can continue the process of globalising the sport, encourage wider participation and take measures to make the sport even more interesting for spectators.
This is not the first time cycling has reached a crossroads. Nor is it the first time it has had to engage in the painful process of confronting its past and beginning afresh. It will do so again with renewed vigour. Its stakeholders and fans can be assured that cycling will find a new path forward.
This summer in London, we saw that cycling is one of the world’s most popular sports. Its future will be defined by you the current generation of riders, who have proved that you can compete and win clean. In December, I will be meeting all first and second division teams to address the issues which will ensure a clean, anti-doping culture going forward.
Together, we can maintain cycling’s popularity and ensure its bright future.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.