With the CIRC report into doping and corruption within the UCI published on Monday, much of the media attention was given to a select few soundbites.
Deep inside the 228-page report, however, were a few nuggets from the Commission that few media outlets have paid much attention to – things that could, and should, have a huge impact on the sport.
The report will have made for painful reading for those working at the UCI during the presidencies of Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid, with the inadequacies of the anti-doping programmes laid out for all to see.
But somewhat hidden in the report are a few things that the teams and riders, as well as the UCI and cycling fans, should be worried about.
Sexual exploitation in women’s cycling
The CIRC report made a habit of reporting serious allegations and then failing to follow them up because they were outside of its remit.
Women’s cycling was pretty much overlooked, as the Commission itself recognises and regrets, only receiving three paragraphs on page 70.
But mentioned almost in passing in the third of those three paragraphs was a claim that riders in the sport had allegedly been sexually exploited during their careers.
“The Commission was told that women’s cycling had been poorly supported in past years, and was given examples where riders in the sport had been exploited financially and even allegedly sexually,” it read.
Senior figures in cycling have been queuing up to comment on how they would respond to the report’s allegations of corruption and doping, and yet this incendiary — and arguably more serious — sentence in the CIRC report seems to have raised little response.
Rumours, rumours and more rumours. For as long as individual cyclists have dominated a bike race, the accusatory fingers have been pointed claiming they must have had a motor on their bike.
A cursory YouTube search will reveal conspiracy videos showing Fabian Cancellara powering away from his rivals with ease after appearing to press a button on his handlebars.
Then, of course, came the video of Ryder Hesjedal’s bike going round in circles after he fell off in the 2014 Vuelta a España.
Many of us have dismissed such allegations, but not CIRC and some of the riders it interviewed, it seems.
“This particular issue was taken seriously, especially by top riders, and was not dismissed as being isolated,” the report says.
The riders interviewed clearly have their suspicions in the peloton, but again this was something the report only skimmed over, rather than going into any specifics.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise to read that some riders try to fix the outcomes of stages or races, but it certainly didn’t make for easy reading.
CIRC says the volatile nature of cycling sponsorship meant this kind of behaviour is quite common, with even team managers getting involved to ensure their sponsors get coverage.
If a sponsor is considering pulling out of the sport, a member of its team may negotiate to place well in a stage to ensure the sponsor saw the benefit of putting its money into the sport.
“A good number of today’s top riders and former riders openly discussed these practices with the Commission,” the report says. “They were described as part of the cut and thrust of professional competitive cycling and were not seen by riders as in any way wrong.
“The motives for agreeing outcomes are many and varied. For example: for assistance in accumulating points in a season, to maintain a time lead, to enable a sponsor to be a stage winner, to prevent a rival from succeeding or simply because they were paid to lose.
“In some cases, it might be linked to doping, for example riders have deliberately lost stages to avoid doping scrutiny or to appear less dominant when doping.
“Bartering can take place not only between riders, but also at team level with team managers negotiating deals.”
Ozone therapy seems to be the new vogue in professional cycling, with Greg van Avermaet set to appear before the Belgian Cycling Federation on March 13 to explain his links to a doctor who allegedly provides such treatment.
The thing with ozone transfusions is that no-one is really sure of the actual benefits of them. The process takes blood out of the rider’s body, infuses it with ozone before injecting it back into the body.
“One rider informed the Commission that by way of using ozone therapy he felt stronger, and that the muscles recovered, but that it had however not been as efficient as EPO,” CIRC says.
Transfusions remain illegal in cycling, even if it’s using your own blood, so it was good to see the Commission taking ozone doping seriously.
As with most of the report, however, the general point wasn’t backed up by any details as to when, or by whom, such activities were alleged to have taken place.
Many road cyclists have often viewed the baggy shorts and shaggy hair of mountain bikers with some suspicion, and now it turns out they’re all on drugs as well!
Well, not all of them, but the CIRC report says that doping off-road is causing a problem for road cycling too.
With a number of mountain bikers swapping the dirt for the tarmac, CIRC believes some of these riders are taking drugs before making the switch.
“The Commission was told of people who had crossed disciplines, from mountain bike to road cycling, and how one or two mountain bikers were already doping before they made the transition,” the report says.
It’s not news that some road cyclists used to be mountain bikers, nor that they took some drugs during their time on the slightly fatter wheels. Hesjedal (him again) admitted he doped in his mountain biking days after being dropped in it by Michael Rasmussen.
Rasmussen himself allegedly taught Hesjedal and others how to administer EPO, the drug that would prove to be the Dane’s downfall while leading the 2007 Tour de France.
Falling outside CIRC’s remit, they recommended the UCI takes a peek into the worlds of cycling’s other disciplines. We look forward to reading that one…