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Chris Boardman: DfT Hang Back video makes "entertainment out of death"

Former world and Olympic champ also speaks about Wiggins controversy, calls for TUEs to be made public

Chris Boardman says a controversial Department for Transport (DfT) road safety film released earlier this week shifts responsibility away from the person doing harm, and that parts of it appear “to seek to make entertainment out of death.” He has also called for Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) to be made public to prevent their abuse.

The former world and Olympic champion, now policy advisor British Cycling, said earlier this week that the DfT’s Think! campaign which warned cyclists to ‘Hang back’ from lorries, was “woefully misguided.”

Speaking to road.cc yesterday, he expanded on the reasons he believes the video, branded as “victim blaming” by Cycling UK and other cycling campaigners, missed the point.

“Whichever way you want to look at it, it just doesn’t reflect the facts,” he said.

One way the campaign could have been pitched, said Boardman, would have been instead of focusing on the cyclist, to address issues such as lorry design which restricts the ability of drivers to see vulnerable road users.

“You’ve got to empathise with the lorry driver a lot of the time, they can’t see 30 per cent of the road in front of them,” he explained.

“If you said, ‘This vehicle’s not right, we’re changing it, in the meantime help them out’, I’d be fine with that. Remember that they’re handicapped here, help them out.

Another issue of contention for Boardman, whose mother Carol was killed in a collision with a car while cycling in North Wales in July, was that the DfT’s video “didn’t speak to the person who’s doing the damage.”

The video opens with a montage that Boardman believes “was seeking to make entertainment out of death, things not to get between adding that “it showed how we’ve missed the point.”

Talking about some of the scenes in that montage, he said: “The child with the piñata stick, the responsibility is the child’s, not somebody to not jump in the way of the stick.

“The person with the meat cleaver and the piece of meat, the responsibility is with the person with the meat cleaver.

“The responsibility’s with the person dropping the piano, and here we’re saying, ‘You shouldn’t get in the way of a piano when it’s falling’.

“All of the film, even the ‘jokey’ bits, should be focused at the person doing the damage,” Boardman insisted.

“The person in charge of being able to do the damage is the one the message should be focused at,” he added.

Boardman also spoke to road.cc about the controversy surrounding the use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions by riders including 2012 Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, whose TUE certificates were published earlier this month by the Fancy Bears hacking group.

While Wiggins and Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford have insisted they were used to treat a medical condition – the rider’s grass and pollen allergies – rather than seek a competitive edge, others, including Chris Froome, have expressed concern the system is open to abuse.

Boardman believes that making all TUEs public would go a long way towards addressing the problem.

“I think what it’s raised and it’s still not being asked about properly, is if you can have something that is legal and yet everyone feels is immoral, then your rules aren’t right,” he said.

“In the short term, the simplest way to deal with it is to make all TUEs public.

“Whenever you want to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption, then it’s public.

“And even if you can’t do that legally, you go around all the teams and ask them if they’re okay with making TUEs public, and then make a list of all the people who say ‘no’ and that will get them to agree.

“So it’s totally fixable. Because all this is about money, Sponsors want good publicity, if you take away that good publicity from the team, there’s no reason for them to sponsor, there’s no incentive to use TUEs.”

He went on: “So that’s step one, and the second one is, if a doctor is signing off medication that’s used as one-offs, then why the hell were they signing that off?

“You have a grey area in the system that’s been there for a long time, and if people feel that it shouldn’t be there, why isn’t the world governing body closing it down?”

While the TUEs granted to athletes named in the Fancy Bears leaks were were issued within the rules, there is widespread concern about the ethics of their use.

“I don’t feel qualified to judge Bradley Wiggins,” said Boardman, “but the fact that you’re in this position where if somebody’s done something you say, ‘there you go’ …

“Nobody’s saying it’s outside the rules, but it’s still a massive thing, that’s the problem.

“We don’t need to be there, and this sport of all sports doesn’t need it right now.

“So make them all public and tighten it up,” he added.

“If people are really sick, should they be racing?”

Chris Boardman was talking with Laura Laker

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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