Former Sky cyclist, Michael Barry suggested a cycling league may make the sport safer and help eliminate doping. A week after his testimony in the Lance Armstrong investigation became public and he admitted he doped, he outlined problems that exist in the cycling’s structure.

“Pro cycling needs to be restructured,” Barry wrote in the NY Times. “Cycling must follow the long-established pattern of most pro sports, developing a league in which teams are stable and sustainable and where all profits are shared.”

Several top players in cycling have discussed creating a league in the last year. Bloomberg News reported on September 30 that Gifted Group Ltd tried to strike a deal with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) for a 10-race series. Part of the proposal would be a television package that would allow teams a stake, something Jonathan Vaughters pushed for in his role as head of the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP). Vaughters said this year that he was trying to work with the Giro d’Italia organiser to give teams a share of the TV revenues.

“Pro teams, which are financed with sponsorship and do not share in television rights, are a liability,” Barry wrote. “Their existence is dependent on victories and results points maintained by UCI. Teams that do not continue to build points lose their position in the WorldTour, the elite group of teams allowed to race in the top events like the Tour de France. Sponsors’ money swiftly disappears.

“The continual pressure to perform and to survive results in poor judgment and bad advice. When teams and riders are always in survival mode, ethical lines are easily crossed.”

Barry explained that many times he continued racing with broken bones and pointed to cyclists going ahead, encouraged by their sports directors, with concussions. The pressure to survive and not return home a failure, he said, led some to dope.

In his testimony with the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Barry said, “I used EPO and testosterone off and on from 2003 until 2006.” He wrote in the NY times, he raced clean for the last six years, including 2010 to 2012 with Sky.

“The cyclists’ health and futures are still not always a priority,” Barry continued. “Most of us are away from home for roughly 200 days a year and race 90 days. … To tolerate the races and the lifestyle, far too many riders rely on addictive sleeping pills and painkillers that are permitted but extremely strong. Team doctors hand them out without considering the long-term effects.”

A league, he suggested would make teams less reliant on a points system.

“Continually battling one another for rankings points, we have little solidarity. Cyclists give in to the power above, because if we speak too loudly, we risk losing our tenuous jobs. … So we follow the line and feed the culture that will eventually be our ruin.”

Related links

Former Armstrong team-mate Barry: Doping had become epidemic

Hincapie admits to doping during career

USADA publishes details of Armstrong doping case file

  • David chadderton

    The shape of this story is well established. A rider blows the whistle, ‘I was given it and took the meds.’ Rider sacked and ostracised. Team doctors did the deeds. Team management categorically states no one took any meds. Everyone else maintains the omertà of silence. History repeating itself.

  • steve clarke

    I agree with ssryder, the time has come for the UCI to be tough on dopers, lifetime bans has got to be the answer!!
    OUR SPORT needs a BIG clean up right from the TOP, otherwise this becomes a FARCE like the Festina affair.
    The UCI needs to have the “balls” to carry out a complete overhaul of the sport and heads must roll!

  • BG

    Couldn’t agree more about a lifetime ban it is the only way, but can anyone see the utterly useless UCI bringing that in and when you have a company like Nike STILL backing Armstrong, what chance does the sport have for the future.

    However if the rumours are true that they were allegedly complicit in covering up failed tests for him then that explains everything. I do know one thing, I will never buy another Nike product.

  • Ken Evans

    I think Barry’s comments maybe more relevant to female racing,
    as the male pro structure has proved difficult to change,
    such as the UCI Protour concept being fought and defeated
    by the Tour de France, Giro, Classic organisers, etc.

    As cycle racing becomes more global,
    a more professional and corporate approach is required.

    Big sponsors don’t want to be associated with doping scandals,
    while cycling was only a small European club,
    doping was accepted, and concealed, but now that won’t work anymore.

    When sponsors are spending millions of Euros,
    they expect an improvement to their image, not an embrassment.

    British Cycling has shown what is possible,
    it is up to others to try to match their level of expertise.

  • Mike

    Any new Pro Tour needs to break away from the UCI and its self serving management.

    The only way to break the doping chain is to cut all ties with anyone involved in doping scandals, and that definately includes those at the top of the UCI.

    Do wht the Premier League did in football, not the best example I know, and go it alone. Cycling has a big profile with sponsors and TV at the moment.

  • Mark Jones

    Michael Barry’s article in the New York Times is well written and thought provoking. It’s about time the UCI did something to protect the riders from organized doping.

  • ssryder

    The only solution to the doping is a lifetime ban!