Oct 3, 2012

Cycling's biggest clowns

These are of course Hein Verburggen and Pat McQuaid, the corrupt fools, who protect certain cyclists and have accepted bribes from Lance Armstrong to cover up his positive doping tests in 1999 and 2001. Coincidentally, they are also the past and present presidents of the UCI, respectively, and somehow never manage to run out of shit to be full of.

Now, if I were Floyd Landis, and I said the above, and I happened to be in Switzerland, I’d be in some major trouble with the authorities. The UCI has adopted an unusual practice of dealing with critics – it drags them to court. Which is exactly what it did with Landis, who refused to challenge the charges in a Swiss court and had an order entered against him, prohibiting him from saying the above and more. But I’ll get back to the order in just a bit.

First, I’d like to turn to UCI’s policy in general. In an article in Cycling News, Verburggen was quoted as saying: “…everyone that says we have put things under the table or not done our best is sued. Simple. They can come to the court and prove their case. Simple like that.” This is an astounding statement. He doesn’t say that if someone says something false about the UCI they’ll get sued, but simply that anyone who suggests that the UCI has concealed doping allegations will be dragged to court. This may have been an off the cuff remark, but it certainly doesn’t make it look like the UCI has nothing to hide, quite to the contrary.

Now then, the order. You can download a copy here for your own amusement, but I will reproduce the most interesting paragraph:

The Chair of the Court, ruling immediately in a closed hearing:… forbids Floyd Landis to state that the Union Cycliste Internationale, Patrick (Pat) McQuaid and/or Henricus (Hein) Verbruggen have concealed cases of doping, received money for doing so, have accepted money from Lance Armstrong to conceal a doping case, have protected certain racing cyclists, concealed cases of doping, have engaged in manipulation, particularly of tests and races, have hesitated and delayed publishing the results of a positive test on Alberto Contador, have accepted bribes, are corrupt, are terrorists, have no regard for the rules, load the dice, are fools, do not have a genuine desire to restore discipline to cycling, are full of shit, are clowns, their words are worthless, are liars, are no different to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, or to make any similar other allegations of that kind.

So as you can see, if the first paragraph of this blog were in fact uttered by Landis in Switzerland, and someone heard it, he’d be in a heap of trouble with the Swiss courts. But aside from that trifecta, Landis can pretty much scream at the top of his lungs from any balcony in the world (provided it’s not in Switzerland) that Pat McQuaid and Hein Verburggen are the Muamar Gaddafi of the UCI and absolutely nothing will happen to him. Interestingly, however, as was pointed out by a friend, given the specificity of the order, Pat and Hein seem to have no issues with being compared to Hitler. Go figure.

This verdict, aside from the fact it’s absurd to the point of hilarity, raises several issues. This action in and of itself, together with the current lawsuit pending against the journalist Paul Kimmage*, demonstrates that McQuaid is not qualified to lead the UCI into the future. And neither is anyone of similar mindset – hiding the truth instead of taking a personal and professional stake in cleaning up the sport (incidentally, Landis isn’t allowed to say that either). Instead of opening up an internal, independent investigation into its past practices to show it is really not guilty of any wrongdoing, the UCI is using legal maneuvers to shut up its critics. In all likelihood because McQuaid already knows what such an investigation would unravel.

statement issued by the UCI after the Landis verdict, it reads: “The judgement [sic] upholds and protects the integrity of the UCI and its Presidents.” Except it doesn’t because at no time was Landis there to present contrary evidence, and taking such pride in winning an argument with yourself seems bizarre if not insane. If McQuaid is really trying to help the UCI, he’ll stop wasting its money on lawyers and hire an independent auditor.  And even better, he’ll resign. Please resign, Pat!

The order also requires Landis to pay thousands of Swiss franks to Verburggen and McQuaid as well as court costs. Neither the Swiss court nor the two UCI presidents (past and present) will ever see a cent of that money. Landis’ attorney was absolutely correct in saying that “this verdict is un-American.” This isn’t some sort of an ethnocentric statement. Rather, it speaks to the fact that no court in the U.S. would enforce such a judgment, resulting from someone voicing his opinion and criticizing a public body. This is so against public policy in the U.S. that the UCI would simply get laughed out of court. This is assuming they could even get into court because U.S. is currently not a signatory to any international agreement with regard to enforcements of foreign judgments.

The question I’m sure many are asking is: if the UCI is so bad for the sport, why isn’t there some sort of an uprising to overthrow the leadership and install someone who cares more about clean cycling and less about keeping up appearances?

My guess is the answer to that question lies in how cleverly the UCI has positioned itself – nearly any attack or criticism is potentially career-ending on many levels. The UCI assigns pro-tour licenses; it assigns event statuses to races; and it also accredits some journalists to cover races. So a manager being very vocal against the UCI can see his team downgraded. A promoter of a race can face the same wrath; and journalists can simply be rendered unemployable.

Which is why now, ironically, the people who can save the UCI are the ones no longer under its control: Landis, Hamilton, Kimmage and even Lance Armstrong, if he ever decides to stop being a lying asshole.

*If you wish to donate to Paul Kimmage’s defense fund, you can do so by following the link.

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