UCI stakeholders report says 'carry on'

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After the various reports, recriminations and accusations that flew around the offices of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) last October following the USADA reasoned decision on the Armstrong affair, it might have been expected that the feelings over 6,000 cycling fans and stakeholders would contain fierce criticism of the sports governing body.

The findings in the report, prepared by independent consultancy firm Deloitte, were generated by comments and feedback from an open online survey and comments from the public as well as those inside the sport.

In February, 6,369 people responded to the consultation's online survey, including 5,638 members of the public and 731 cycling family stakeholders. Additionally, in March, the consultation included five stakeholder working groups covering the core topics.

More than 85 participants took part, including representatives from pro-cycling teams, riders, national federations, race organisers, cycling sponsors, scientific and legal advisors and journalists.

Unsurprisingly, overall it was felt that the UCI needs to improve, but stakeholders don't appear to be demanding top-to-bottom change. In a press release, the UCI President Pat McQuaid commented on the Deloitte report saying and the the UCI supported the findings and recommendations - though there were no clear commitment to implementing any of them.

Nevertheless, the areas identified as problematic - from cycling's image to independent anti-doping sanctioning - were all areas that the UCI has been under fire for handling badly. It doesn't appear that anything has been swept under the carpet, though the UCI press release does read like an election manifesto for McQuaid at times.

Ironically, the Change Cycling Now (CCN.org) pressure group ran a (still open) online petition demanding McQuaid's resignation which, at time of writing, has attracted 6,799 votes. If we assume that most of the CCN supporters logged on to the UCI site to voice their concerns, then it would appear that the pro- and anti-factions are more or less evenly balanced. In terms of numbers at least.

In any case, regardless of the numbers who participated in the process, Deloitte made six ‘crucial' recommendations, spanning all four consultation pillars, to enable cycling to achieve its ‘bright future':

- 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

Deloitte also made five additional ‘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

Under-fire UCI President McQuaid - who is up for re-election in September this year - said he wanted to "thank the very many people who took time to participate in this consultation. Their collective contributions to cycling's bright future are invaluable."

McQuaid added: "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."

So there's a lot of talk about "looking ahead" "discussions" and committment, but nothing concrete. The next step in the process, which may decide how and when to implement some of these suggestions will take place at the next UCI Management Committee at its meeting on June 12.

The full text of the report can be found here.

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