The media's role in the clean-up and reform of the UCI

News & Results

12/17/2012| 0 comments
by Mark Watson
Is the media letting Pat McQuaid and the UCI frame public opinion to their advantage?

The media's role in the clean-up and reform of the UCI

A look at how the media coverage of the current crisis in cycling may intentionally or unintentionally be contributing to preserving a status quo, which will lead to the UCI organization failing to undergo needed reforms in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal (4 pages)

Following the publication of the US Anti-Doping Agency report on Lance Armstrong and doping in cycling the International Cycling Union (UCI) has been subjected to significant pressure from stakeholders ranging from major parts of the general public, over cycling fans worldwide, to leading politicians. The stakeholders have voiced their distrust in the organization and questioned how what USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart has called “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen” has been possible during Hein Verbruggen’s and Pat McQuaid’s Presidencies of the UCI.

Ranging back to the Festina doping scandal in 1998, the UCI has vowed to strike down on doping and to combat it at all means possible. Yet evidence shows that Lance Armstrong, teammates and associates have been able to carry out a massively successful doping program for at least seven years.

Former Armstrong teammates Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis have both witnessed under oath that Armstrong told them how the UCI helped cover up a positive doping test he gave during the 2001 Tour de Suisse. Former Team US Postal Service support staff member Emma O’Reilly alleged that the team’s staff produced a backdated medical prescription to excuse a positive cortisone test at the 1999 Tour de France. Officials from the UCI announced that Armstrong had used a corticosteroid for his skin and his positive result was excused, thereby violating its protocol requiring a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for use of such a drug. The UCI denies these claims.

Doping is still a major part of professional cycling today. Alberto Contador was banned for ingesting the illegal performance enhancing substance Clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France and Frank Schleck tested positive for the banned diuretic Xipamide during the 2012 Tour de France. Recently three-time Italian cycling champion Giovanni Visconti and former Giro d’Italia winner Michele Scarponi have been banned for three months for seeing the banned physician Michele Ferrari who is said to have been involved in the Armstrong / US Postal Team doping program.

In response to the negative publicity, the UCI has recently promised to launch what it calls an independent investigation of the organization’s role in the Armstrong/US Postal doping affair – including corruption claims and has also ordered what it calls an independent audit of the organization.

However, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA has expressed significant concern over the independence of the UCI's review commission.

“WADA has some significant concerns about the commission’s terms of reference and has alerted the lawyers representing the commission of its concerns,” read a release from WADA president John Fahey.

“If WADA’s concerns cannot be resolved as a result of this meeting, WADA will consider seriously whether it can take part in the commission’s process,” Fahey added.

Following the publication of the USADA report on organized doping in professional cycling, as well as taking the current state of cycling into account, one might expect the media to be extremely careful in its coverage of the UCI. The sport's governing body has promised a thorough internal investigation.

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