Where would we be without the UCI?

There’s an unfortunate dilemma unfolding in the hierarchy of global cycling, the UCI appear to have dug themselves into a massive hole regarding possible protectionism or treachery at some level regarding that cheating American guy who’s proved that “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” (I’m not going to delve into this, or dwell on his name, as he needs no further publicity, no matter from how small a readership, but you must all know the story by now). Some say the future of the UCI itself is in jeopardy & it could be removed as the entity that controls cycling, with no obvious replacement organisation ready to go, this could cause massive problems worldwide in cycle sport, jobs & businesses. This all seems like a million wheel revolutions away from our little sport, in our little country, but all may not be as it seems and a collapse of the UCI may result in an unexpected collapse of domestic racing & a cycling power struggle within each country.

First some definitions…..

IOC: The International Olympic Committee, it governs all Olympic sports and holds a massive influence over each sports governing body. Former Mars confectionary sales manager Hein Verbruggen was president of the UCI between 1991 & 2005, but the Dutchman now holds the role of honorary member of the IOC. He was implicated by the BBC in 2008 with regards to $3million ‘expenses payments’ by Japanese race officials, which sources told the BBC were for including the keirin in the Games, Verbruggen denied the claims. In 2010 he was accused by Floyd Landis of taking a $100,000 bribe to make a certain riders positive test go away, Verbruggen denied this. He is also quoted as saying “There is nothing. I repeat again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never. I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I’m sure.”

UCI: The Union Cycliste Internationale is the governing body recognised by the IOC as the one that controls cycling. It creates the international rules regarding racing, bikes, positions etc. They also issue licences to the various levels of UCI registered teams, the various UCI events and have a dubious reputation as being incredibly undemocratic & change rules to suit their mood on the day, ruining riders careers, established events futures & teams abilities to continue to exist. Pat McQuaid is the current president, banned from the Olympics for life as a rider, for racing in South Africa under a false name during apartheid, McQuaid was seen issuing medals at the 2012 London Olympics. He’s seen, rightly or wrongly, as Hein Verbruggen’s puppet, and the two are very closely linked.

BC: British Cycling is the UK’s governing body for cycling, it has representatives at the UCI table and can vote on UCI matters. It has a chequered past, and is the result of an amalgamation of several different national cycling governing bodies after a turbulent past involving who controlled cycling in the UK. They’ve grown a lot in the last few years after some alleged corruption was exposed by Tony Doyle and the organisation had to be rebuilt from the bottom up. It now prides itself in the vision of the GB track team, with the likes of Peter Keen, Chris Boardman & currently Dave Brailsford all being key people in it’s rise to the top. Brian Cookson is the current president and has been there right through the rebuild, he is a member of the British Olympic Association executive committee & the UCI Management Committee. Cookson has been one of the recent people speaking out about change within the UCI, he also attends UCI meetings as a representative for BC.

SC: Scottish Cycling currently exists as a limited company, it was formerly the SCU (Scottish Cyclists Union), BC consider it a region of their cycling umbrella, but SC consider themselves as a national governing body. Their race licences, rider & race insurances, coaching structure & part of their ability to raise funds are controlled by BC, so a slightly inconsistent & occasionally strained relationship exists between BC & SC. They have zero influence internationally outside of the Commonwealth Games once every 4 years, apart from their presence on the BC national council, which can decide how to vote on UCI matters, just like other BC ‘regions’.

So as far as the chain of command goes, the UCI are affiliated to the IOC, BC are affiliated to the UCI & SC are affiliated to BC, no matter how people don’t like the latter affiliation, it’s the current situation with Scotland still part of the UK.

Where we currently stand

As far as racing goes in Scotland, most of it is covered by UCI rules, there’s a different situation south of the border, where time trials are governed by CTT (formerly RTTC) who exist outside BC and don’t represent an international governing body. There are also a small amount of TLI (The League International) events in Scotland, which is another cycling governing body, not nearly as widespread as the UCI, but it is not recognised by the IOC or the UCI, so has little or no influence in cycling globally. So the UCI is the primary racing body for Scotland, much more so than in the rest of the UK, so we’re more affected than others if anything happens.

No UCI, what happens first?

If the UCI completely collapsed, where would racing in Scotland be left? Check your racing licence, you have a UCI number on it, which shows you race under UCI rules, so if there’s no UCI, there’s no UCI rules, these govern the sport, without the rules & a way to implement them it’s a different sport. The affiliations I listed above would also fall apart, all national governing bodies immediately lose their direct link to the IOC, so no National teams in the Olympics for cycling, in fact no cycling in the Olympics at all.

What we’d likely see is yet another massive power struggle internationally for the control of cycling, this could go on for some time, with different factions waiting in the wings to form groups with others to create something attractive to the IOC and to all the national governing bodies, a tricky & costly task, possibly an impossible one. There’s always power struggles going on for TV rights, but this one would be particularly ugly, as there really is everything to play for if there’s no UCI.

Who’s affected?

No doubt races can be run in Scotland without the UCI, but expect everything in complete disarray for at least a season. A new insurance agreement to run races on the public highway would be needed by a vastly changed BC, this may take some time and would allow the opportunity for TLI to step in, but TLI rely on BC to deal with authorities in an official manner to some extent, so don’t expect that to run too smoothly. With no internationally recognised governing body controlling racing & dealing with politicians who want to see themselves next to Olympic cycling stars, with there being no cycling in the Olympics, expect the motor car lobby to get involved, to try to remove those pesky cyclists from the road once & for all. But we may have to rely on SC to start dealing with all this if the link to BC goes as if there’s no world championships or cycling in the Olympics, then BC don’t require to keep their tricky relationship with SC, you’d expect this to rapidly splinter. Consider the effect this would have on our sport in our country, it would again become an underground sport hidden away from the public, the exact opposite of it’s current direction.

Your young riders will lose most opportunities to compete on an international stage, so there will be a lack of progression & cycling as a popular national sport will start to decline. Outwith the IOC & presumably WADA, dope controls will be non existent in cycling and further tarnish it’s image as a drug ridden sport.

Remember that teams & races pay the UCI for licences, so we could see the teams going bust and races lost, regardless of who takes over, if it’s not the UCI that money is lost forever.

Obviously, this is all the worst case, but if any sport suddenly loses it’s international governing body it’s going be in a huge mess.

What will really happen?

We all probably would like to see the UCI to fall apart, for our own vindictive pleasures, Pat McQuaid being publicly humiliated, Verbruggen dismissed from sport for good. But this would be catastrophic for cycling everywhere, we need to keep the UCI in some form, hopefully it can continue in a more democratic and transparent manner, if it doesn’t, then we all suffer the consequences.

I don’t believe for a minute that the UCI will actually cease to exist, it’ll be reborn with a few notable names missing and an ethical charter in place, until the next time. A crucial part of virtually all global sports organisations citing themselves in Switzerland is due to the laws regarding ‘non profit’ organisations and the legal ramifications of existing anywhere else but Switzerland. The Swiss have lighter laws for scrutiny of these types of organisations, along with some hefty tax exemptions for sports federations, so it’s no surprise that 47 sports bodies are based here, including the IOC, UCI, FIFA & many other well known sports organisations.

So don’t panic, there’s going to be a big bun fight over the next few months, then things will calm down once the current problems are fully dealt with and publically revealed. But don’t hope for the UCI to go away, organisations of all sizes rely on each other these days and it won’t take much for the house of cards to tumble, take banking as a prime example. So sometimes it’s better the devil you know, clean him up, make him transparent, give him a new voice & mandate, the alternative is even less palatable than change.

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