Calendar restructuring and better relationship with WADA among issues highlighted to restore cycling's credibility...

Auditing and consultancy firm Deloitte has today outlined what it sees as six ‘crucial’ recommendations to underpin the future of cycling, including restructuring the professional cycling calendar, improving the relationship between the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency, and that consideration be given to creating a doping amnesty to help restore the sport’s credibility.

The full report, which is based on 6,369 responses to the consultation – 5,638 of them members of the public, the remainder being stakeholders within the sport – won’t be published until 12 June, but the Executive Summary has been released today and outlines those six ‘Crucial’ recommendations, which are as follows:

• Restore the credibility of cycling and the public perception of the sport

• Decide whether to hold an independent inquiry into the Armstrong affair and whether to offer riders an ‘amnesty’ or reduced sanctions for coming forward to that enquiry

• Develop a long-term strategic plan for cycling

• Further strengthen the anti-doping culture that exists in the UCI

• Improve the UCI’s relationship with WADA

• Restructure the pro-cycling calendar

Besides those, Deloitte has also made five ‘high priority’ recommendations:

• Increase the independence of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF)

• Appoint an independent anti-doping body to sanction professional riders caught doping

• Review the existing points system for pro-teams

• Develop women’s cycling

• Improve communication with professional road riders

Given the size of some national federations alone – the Italian cycling federation, the FCI, had more than 72,000 licence holders in 2012, while British Cycling passed the 50,000 member mark last year – response levels to the two surveys, one public, the other emailed to members of the ‘Cycling Family,’ conducted as part of the Stakeholder Consultation are perhaps surprisingly low.

According to Deloitte, the ‘Cycling Family’ survey was emailed to around 3,800 stakeholders on the UCI’s database, giving a response level of around 19 per cent.

Besides the surveys, the consultation also included five stakeholder working groups with more than 85 participants including representatives of pro teams, riders, national federations, race organisers, sponsors, scientific and legal experts and the press.

Unsurprisingly the two broad areas that emerge as needing addressing through those ‘crucial’ recommendations are the ones that have been responsible for the two biggest crises to have affected the UCI in the past year – doping and, in particular, the fallout of the Armstrong scandal, and calendar reform, linked to the threat of a breakaway league.

The timing of the surveys – they went live on 21 February, just three weeks after the UCI had disbanded the Independent Commission it had set up to examine its own role in the Armstrong affair, and during a period of press coverage of developments regarding the proposed World Series Cycling competition – means it’s likely that those issues would have been the focus of many of the comments made.

While initiatives by the UCI such as the introduction of the biological passport seem to have been broadly welcomed, it seems clear that for all the UCI’s talk that it is winning the battle against the dopers, many seem unconvinced.

That’s highlighted by Deloitte’s recommendations for greater independence from the UCI for the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, as well as that an independent anti-doping body be set up to sanction those caught doping.

Moreover, even many of those who believe the UCI is making progress in anti-doping may wish to see it being separate to the investigation and sanctioning process, simply to avoid the possibility of accusations of collusion as happened in the Armstrong case.

It’s perhaps surprising that the issue of women’s cycling, where at least the UCI is taking a lead on issues such as providing equal prize money for both genders in its own competitions, remains a ‘high priority’ recommendation, rather than a

UCI President Pat McQuaid – whose nomination for a third term was made last week by Swiss Cycling, the national federation of his country of residence after Cycling Ireland’s earlier endorsement was withdrawn and referred to an EGM – said he welcomed the recommendations.

“On behalf of the UCI, I would like to thank the very many people who took time to participate in this consultation. Their collective contributions to cycling’s bright future are invaluable,” he said.

“From the report, it is clear that there is a great deal that the UCI is doing right. I am particularly pleased to note our stakeholders’ recognition for the UCI’s leading role in anti-doping activities. For the past 20 years, the UCI has been the pioneer in anti-doping, at the forefront of many new technical advances – often forging ahead alone and taking all the risks associated with doing so.

“I acknowledge that there is still a lot the UCI needs to do to repair the damage caused to our sport after the Armstrong affair. We also clearly need to do a much better job communicating our anti-doping activities and reassuring the public and our stakeholders that we are indeed doing everything possible to ensure a clean sport and protect clean riders – and that the culture in the peloton has changed radically from that of years past.

“Looking ahead, developing and strengthening women’s cycling – a process that was started at the Management Committee last year – will be a key priority for me if I am re-elected in September. I am therefore very happy to see that stakeholders also consider this to be very important.

“I will also continue to develop cycling in new countries all around the world, in particular focusing on the BRIC nations, as well as Africa.

“Pro-cycling competes against every other top-level sport for entertainment and for TV air time, so a third priority for me will be to modernise both the cycling calendar, as well as the way cycling is presented to ensure the ‘brighter future’ we’re all working towards. Cycling needs to ensure that what we are delivering is what the media, as well as cycling’s millions of fans, want.

“Finally, I am very pleased to announce that some of the recommendations made by the Stakeholder Consultation are already well underway. The UCI has been in discussions with WADA and it remains committed to commissioning an independent audit of the behaviour and practices of our organisation during the Armstrong years.

“The UCI is also in the process of developing a long-term strategic plan for cycling and we are actively engaging stakeholders on restructuring the pro-cycling calendar. The UCI Management Committee is set to ratify proposed changes to the structure of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation at its meeting next month, a process which was also started last year and which will greatly strengthen CADF’s independence,” McQuaid concluded.

The UCI adds that “specific sections of the report will be sent separately to relevant stakeholders” and that it “will give regular updates to stakeholders about progress in implementing the recommendations that have been agreed with the Management Committee.”

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.