A Doping Hotline?

If there’s one thing that we can say with certainty about the UCI and doping, it’s that they have done a dismal job of investigating eyewitness testimony on doping charges. That they never followed up on charges made by eyewitnesses is galling because it makes an end-run on their defense that they lacked the resources to do more. Talking to eyewitnesses requires little more than a phone, though a plane or train ticket is handy.

Their unwillingness to actually investigate allegations by riders is unacceptable the way stripping naked in a restaurant and standing on the table singing Debbie Boone songs is unacceptable. Sure, you may think that Floyd Landis is crazy; you may even agree with Pat McQuaid and think he’s a scumbag. But that doesn’t make what he said untrue. The same goes for Tyler Hamilton, Frankie Andreu, Jorg Jaksche and Jesus Manzano, just to name a few.

Each of these riders gave eyewitness testimony of doping and were then roundly attacked by the UCI. It’s like arresting—and then ignoring—the junkie who is ready to turn over his dealer and his dealer’s dealer. Insert epic “Really?”

And so now Pat McQuaid has announced a confidential hotline for those who wish to “discuss issues or concerns related to doping.”

Hmm … I’m curious about how much nandrolone you have to take to get a full-scale case of bacne. Do you suppose that’s what he’s talking about? In his letter he claims there are riders who reported doping allegations that were not investigated. That’s certainly the case with Andreu, Jaksche and Manzano, who were arguably the highest-profile riders to allege inaction on the part of the UCI for the Armstrong case was blown open by USADA.

McQuaid claims: “I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the UCI did act on information provided in the past.”

Okay Mr. McQuaid, please tell us what you did, because we’ve not seen a serious investigation on your part into the charges made by the aforementioned riders.

McQuaid goes on to write that amnesty isn’t an option but reduced punishment is an option. Honestly, based on previous behavior, the only intelligent conclusion one can draw from this hotline is that any rider who speaks up will be attacked by the UCI for hurting the sport. And then suspended.

Okay, let’s go over the math here: Make a phone call. Confess your involvement in doping plus whatever you know about the actions of others. Result: You get suspended, ridiculed by the sport’s governing body and the other people involved go un-investigated.

If that’s not a compelling case for the survival of omerta, then I’m a dancing elephant. Jens Voigt’s Army (@jensvoigtsarmy) tweeted that the UCI should staff the hotline with Miss Cleo from the Psychic Friends. This may have been meant as comedy, but I think it’s a terrific suggestion; certainly a psychic has a higher likelihood of finding out the truth than the UCI.

McQuaid says he’ll be meeting personally with all the teams this winter. I’m reminded of the old joke, “Here comes God—look busy.” For McQuaid, we can retell it: Here comes Pat McQuaid—shut up.


Below is the full text of McQuaid’s letter to riders; note that it does not address team staff.

To riders ________

Sent by email only

Aigle, 9 November 2012

Ref: Presidency

I would like to take this opportunity to update you on the latest developments and decisions we have taken in response to the current crisis in our sport.

You will have seen in recent media reports that Philippe Gilbert, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins among many others have been strong voices in telling the world that today’s cycling is cleaner than ever before. Of course, they are right. You, today’s riders not only participate in the most innovative and effective anti-doping programs in sport but above all you have understood which choice to make for your career and for your sport. The result is that our sport is cleaner.

Actually the UCI has always been a pioneer in the fight against doping, a fact recognized by WADA and the IOC among others. We pride ourselves on the fact that we were the first sport to introduce a whole range of scientific measures as tools in this fight. These include the haematocrit test, the EPO tests, the homologous blood transfusion test and the blood passport, which I do not need to tell you about, as you are in the front line and have been overwhelmingly supportive of these initiatives. We are aware that this extensive anti-doping program causes much inconvenience for you, and we thank you for having accepted the hassle for the greater good of cycling.

Nevertheless, when we read in the USADA dossier that Lance Armstrong and others were able to use doping throughout their careers, we have to admit that the tests provided by the scientific community were simply not adequate enough to combat the problem.

Therefore we must all continue to work to keep improving the culture in cycling through education, prevention and as far as you are concerned by making the one choice that counts. At the end of the day it is you the riders who have the ultimate say about whether our sport is clean.

Naturally, we need to do more to ensure that the UCI is as accessible as possible, and in particular to you the riders, should you wish to discuss issues or concerns relating to doping. That is why, during the coming weeks, also after a small time frame to set up the logistical side, the UCI will be looking into establishing a new open line – a confidential ‘hotline’. We will be sending more information about this once in place. I know that it will take some time to build trust and confidence in this new line of communication, but I am confident that, with the best intentions from both sides, we can build that trust. And by doing so, we will accelerate the change in culture that we need in our sport.

We are aware that some riders have complained publicly that despite having shared knowledge with the UCI, there was an inadequate follow up. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the UCI did act on information provided in the past and it will always do so in the future, within the bounds of what is legally feasible.

Clearly the UCI has to work within the rules and in particular in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code. At this time the rules do not allow general amnesties but the current review of the World Anti- Doping Code may provide different possibilities in the future. The rules do currently allow reduced penalties. We are aware, and doing the utmost to address your proposals/needs in the effort to do the best by our sport.

As far as repairing the reputation of our sport, I would like to add that the UCI has listened to the world’s reaction to the Lance Armstrong affair and it has taken – and will continue to take – decisive steps in response to all matters raised.

To make sure that the UCI and cycling can move forward with the confidence of all parties, we are now establishing a fully Independent Commission to look into the findings of the USADA report and make recommendations to enable the UCI to restore confidence in the sport of cycling. John Coates, the President of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), has agreed to recommend the composition and membership of the Independent Commission. The UCI has already begun contacting the people Mr. Coates has nominated. The names of the panel members will be announced as soon as the Commission is convened. The Commission’s final report and recommendations will be published no later than 1 June 2013 – and you can be confident that the UCI will take whatever actions are deemed necessary to put cycling back on track. We are confident that the Commission will conclude that the UCI has been one of the strongest of all sporting federations in fighting doping in sport for many years.

As part of the effort to eradicate doping from our sport the UCI has made a considerable investment in education and implementation of the True Champion or Cheat program, the ‘no needle policy’, the ethical evaluation as part of teams’ registration and the modules in the Sports Directors training programme. These are all measures to achieve the necessary changes in the culture of our sport.

Finally, while the Independent Commission carries out its work, I feel it is also important that UCI works on restoring the credibility of our sport. I have decided that, during the first quarter of 2013, the UCI will set in motion a wide-ranging consultation exercise involving all cycling’s stakeholders to tackle issues of concern within the sport and work together to build a bright future for cycling.

The UCI will welcome your participation in this consultation, which will also look at how we can continue the process of globalising the sport, encourage wider participation and take measures to make the sport even more interesting for spectators.

This is not the first time cycling has reached a crossroads. Nor is it the first time it has had to engage in the painful process of confronting its past and beginning afresh. It will do so again with renewed vigour. Its stakeholders and fans can be assured that cycling will find a new path forward.

This summer in London, we saw that cycling is one of the world’s most popular sports. Its future will be defined by you the current generation of riders, who have proved that you can compete and win clean. In December, I will be meeting all first and second division teams to address the issues which will ensure a clean, anti-doping culture going forward.

Together, we can maintain cycling’s popularity and ensure its bright future.

Yours faithfully,

Pat McQuaid

President, UCI

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  1. Atlaz

    Lovely touches in there:

    “we have to admit that the tests provided by the scientific community were simply not adequate enough to combat the problem.””

    So, not our fault, totally the fault of those stupid scientists.

    ” I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the UCI did act on information provided in the past and it will always do so in the future, within the bounds of what is legally feasible.””

    Take our word for it, we honestly did something.

    Do you think the UCI actually believe they are fooling anyone or do they sit there wondering how long they can get away with so much rubbish?

  2. gmknobl

    As to taking action in the past, what actions did you take? And if you say Landis or Moreni or such, I believe that was the ASO, not you. So, what action did you take?

    As for the science not being up to it, yes, WAY in the past that was true but as recently as 2008 you had a test for CERA but refused to use it but the IOC did.

    We have plenty of counter examples to everything stated by McQuaid. They must prove what they are doing is real. Thus far we have no proof. I’m always the first to point out that when you have no proof you shouldn’t make allegations. But when you have proof of improper behavior the onus falls on them to prove they can do the right thing. And in a sport where the very people overseeing and running the operation are guilty of improper behavior, you need to change leadership and in this instance, the very structure of how things are run, to see real change and to prove you can do the right thing. So…

    The UCI and IOC should stay out of cycling from now on except at the olympics. That’s a complete change to cycling’s structure as it stands now. I doubt the IOC will agree and we know the UCI won’t.

    Revenue share among the teams.

    Give some real teeth to riders by establishing a strong riders union with the real ability to strike. This means money needs to be put into the union coffers to support strikes.

    Separate the policing and drug testing of the sport from the governance of the sport by forming three separate units. Existing agencies not run by the UCI nor receiving funds from the UCI & IOC can be used for this. The strictest, most up-to-date testing will be used for the drug testing. Revenues from the sport will go into this first. After that, it is distributed to the teams, staff and riders and their representative organizations.

    Have an amnesty period during which anyone can tell the truth about what that person did and saw. Get it all out. Sure, some people will go unpunished but if they come clean and promise not to do anything again (not so naive really) they may continue. After that period there will be harsh actions taken against any proven cheat. Throw the book at them.

    Courts will receive the information and act on it in a matter of months, not years. Timely action is worthwhile while long delayed action is pointless and abusive of the riders, teams, sponsors and hurts the sport in general. Athletes must be given the chance to defend themselves. It is still possible to have a false positive – poppy seeds and such (I love you Mythbusters).

    Make all results public after quick and proper notification has been given to athletes and teams. No delaying of the results by months.

    Lastly, make the testing labs open to all sports. Won’t it be fun (not) to see the results in baseball and American football and all other sports? You think cycling is dirty? You haven’t seen anything yet. And of course, once colleges start using the service (NCAA, you must give to them too – ha, fat chance) watch things really change.

    Yes, I live in a fairy world but it’s fun to be there and see what can be possible, even if I doubt many will do the right things. There are others here too and some are taking steps, however hesitant, in joining me here. JV, you listening?

    1. Author

      Drew Wilson: I have. I’ve spent hours of every day for the last few years thinking about the pickle cycling is in and how its problems are of its own making and how money is fleeing the sport because of doping scandals. Sure, cycling is cleaner than every other endurance sport plus every other big-money sport. We’re all clear on that. However, it doesn’t change the fact that Lance Armstrong won seven Tours de France, when honestly, had the UCI don’t their job properly, based on information they actually had, he wouldn’t have won his first. No one trusts the UCI, Verbruggen or McQuaid because they didn’t take even the most basic action when they should have.

  3. Alex TC

    I just can’t stand anything coming from UCI anymore. It’s getting harder nad harder to even read their declarations, open letters, etc. it all makes me sick to my stomach really. This doping hotline idea is surreal, laughable, this whole thing reads like a declaration from someone completely detached from reality surrounding him. I can’t even call McQuaid initiatives “damage control” because every time he say or do something he only bury himself and UCI’s credibility further. It’s crazy, they’re dead lying in the hot sun and it’s starting to smell bad…

  4. motomark

    Great idea, who better to be at the other end of a dope hotline than Verbruggen and McQuaid. If I want to talk to an idiot I can’t think of anyone more qualified that I can call than Hein or Pat. Oh, it’s to report suspicions of doping. Nevermind.

  5. gmknobl

    It’s okay now. They just hired a PR firm to talk to us instead of Patty and Co. I’m sure it will all be better!

    Seriously though, even after the rider’s commission talks at the UCI – with NO recommendation for amnesty – the response is to hire a PR firm? Are these guys simply elitists trying to hold onto their power with a huge amount of disdain for everyone else or what?!!!

  6. Pat O'Brien

    gnknobl, I agree with you. If professional cycling is to survive and thrive it must completely divorce itself form all amateur organizations and rules, form a new pro cycling league, only hire riders who will forego all amateur events, including the Olympics, and have a strong rider’s organization their rights as contracted employees. Fans will either accept it or move on. I would accept it, and I think most others would too.

  7. Evan Shaw

    Perhaps no one in the sport really knows what experiment will work. We have no model in any sport
    especially the major professional sports. Doping is covered up in the mix of management,
    unions, sponsorship and fans using denial and or indifference. Corruption appears to exist
    on all levels in all sports.

    Maybe time to look at why sports exist in a parallel universe where different rules apply, in some ways similar to Wall St. and the mortgage scam.
    This is a real brain buster.

  8. Tom

    STEP 1 From this day forward testers would take an A, B, and C sample. If A sample tests clean store B and C in separate locations for future testing. We have seen from the lack of positive tests in the p
    ast that new drugs and methods often advance faster then the ability to test for them. By keeping an B and C sample we could retest when there are break troughs in testing, or new drugs and methods are uncovered. There is no undetectable drug, but testing will always be a few years behind a state of the art doping program. We can only test for what we know. Now remove the Statue of Limitation, the clock would no longer start when you doped, but when we have developed a test for the drug or method.
    STEP 2 Now add some teeth. Require all athlete to agree that if caught doping they forfeit all career income. That would include winnings, salary, bonuses, and endorsements. Future advances in testing will resolve any grey area cases. And if a rider appeals and is found guilty two days will be added to the riders suspension for every day of the appeal. These changes would make it vertically impossible to beat the system, Add to that the severe financial penalty and we would have a system that all but guaranteeing a level playing field. Yes these are tough rules but I for one would have welcomed them when I raced. Additionally: Directors will serve the same time of riders caught doping. They will also lose all income made directing that team. Teammates and staff will also lose a portion of income. If the team reports a rider is doping action will only be taken against the rider.
    STEP 3 Amnety is a great idea if covered by a new Code of Conduct Rule Set. All riders seeking amnesty would be required to fully disclose their doping. If it was part of a systemic program, the program and ALL involved must be detailed. Failure to fully disclose would result in a lifetime ban.
    Step 4 We are now all aware of doping and it is our fault now if we do not demand change. And for change to happen we need to focus on solutions. These are tough new rules if you cheat, if you don’t like the rules go to work in the fast food industries.

  9. Skippy

    Tom @ 16thnov,10.05am

    Checkout my petitions :http://t.co/BU3r7126 and http://t.co/jUwet4To you will see that i have covered many of the points you have raised !

    Amazingly , nobody is interested in helping to get CHANGE !

    Whilst many of my past years blog posts , highlight Points that you make here , NOBODY has offered comment OR suggested additions or improvements !

    Perhaps you are somebody to whom people will listen ? I wish you luck and hope that i can help you get at least some of these steps enacted !

  10. Sam J

    Padraig, I think you are giving the UCI too little credit for their work. Sure they’ve done an awful job investigating those who they’ve been given good reason to believe are/were doping, but think of how incredible a job they’ve done in making it so the buck doesn’t stop with them.

    Read just about anyone regarding NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of the bounty scandal, for instance. Although many disagree with the punishments Goodell has handed out, everyone accepts he has the authority to impose them. The issue that has been espoused by many writers (Bill Simmons is a great first place to look) is how Goodell is using the scandal, as well as fines on players like Jerome Harrison, as a way of pushing the focus for concussion issues onto the players. Instead of standing up and admitting that the league willingly ignored information for years about how damaging football was to player’s healths, he is trying to put the spotlight on the guys who are paid by how effectively they can hit someone. It isn’t that football is inherently dangerous, it’s dangerous because you have those players over there that are too violent, even if the rulebooks are extremely vague about what “too” means. In effect, he’s pushing the buck back to the players, where it doesn’t belong, and everyone is calling on him.

    Here, McQuaid and co. are doing the same thing, without really anyone commenting on it. Everyone is bashing the UCI for doing a bad job, but the real issue is they’ve been able to hide behind their assertions that anti-doping efforts have to be undertaken by the riders, as the UCI doesn’t “have the means” to investigate themselves. Something, which you are noting, is bullshit. That’s my real issue with the UCI. They’ve been handed an extremely difficult plate over the last few years, granted some of it of their own making, but most of it not. The fact they haven’t been perfect is understandable, but their sheer incompetence, combined with the maliciousness of passing the buck back to the riders and blaming them, is ridiculous.

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