22 March 2006

Party like it's 19 ... 71?

"Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." Most everybody has heard this quote in one form or another at some point in their lives. So why has the UCI, cycling's international governing body, decided to instead repeat history?

The Associated Press published a very disturbing story yesterday which, in effect, states that any rider who is a member of a UCI-registered professional team can be suspended for a month if they ride in the same event -- sanctioned or not -- as a rider who has been banned from competing. This could mean that if Tyler Hamilton showed up at Ride for the Roses, the Lance Armstrong Foundation charity ride, any current pro also taking part would be sanctioned. How sad is that?

First, some background: There is a non-UCI/USAC sanctioned crit series in Boulder that raises funds for the Tyler Hamilton Foundation (focused on fighting MS). Hamilton is currently serving a 2-year ban (ha, ha) from racing for failing a doping test. However, he won a non-sanctioned hill climb last summer, and then showed up on the start line of the crit series last week, alongside other current pros (not banned). Photos of the event ended up on the 'net, and the UCI went ballistic. There is a great rant about this over at Cyclocosm.

Here's the deal: I can understand sanctioning dopers. I'm all for it. Realistically, most dopers become persona non grata when it comes to cycling events. But the UCI punishing other riders for the actions of a convicted doper smacks of the "professionalism" argument the AAU used to throw around back in the day.

In case you're not familiar, back when the AAU was the governing body of U.S. athletes, they used the same argument to keep competitors "amateur." While on international trips, they'd give athletes $3 per day (while the officials were flying first class) and force them to compete where the federation wanted them to, and not necessarily against the best competition. Any variation from the rules -- such as accepting any cash, or even exchanging plane tickets (e.g., for a red-eye flight which cost less, pocketing the difference) -- and the AAU would declare the athlete "professional" and sanction them. Then, they'd sanction anyone who competed against them, potentially ruining everyone's Olympic eligibility!

Althetes finally rallied against the AAU, and Congress passed the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 that effectively ended the heavy-handedness. When even the U.S. government smells a rat, you'd think that sort of behavior would be hard to re-enact? (The sanctioning was only a small part of the AAU's problems, but still.)

So in today's terms, if I'm on a UCI team, would I have to pull out of a charity race if Adam Bergman shows up before his suspension ends? Why is that my problem? Why is my appearance tied to that of another? I can only control what I do, how can they hold me responsible for the actions of someone else? (Remember, these are non-UCI races. UCI races are a whole different ballgame.)

Again, I'm all for sanctioning someone if they're guilty. But don't make me guilty by association.


David Johnsen said...

I was wondering what you'd say about this story, but cyclingnews.com reported it differently than AP. I think the CN version would have a greater impact on you. I don't remember if you have a UCI license already, but I assume you'll need one to go for UCI points next fall. Anyway, CN said the UCI was going to enforce Rule 1.2.019:

"No License holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental, or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI. A national federation may grant special exceptions for races or particular events run in its own country."

It sounds like this means you can't compete in unsanctioned events regardless of whether there is a doper in the field. Are all of the races you do sanctioned?

Chris said...

Yeah, I noticed that too. VeloNews is saying the same thing. I'm not sure if it does affect me -- a) I'm just a small fish; and b) even though I have a UCI license, I'm not on a UCI team. The way I've read the reports, it affects only UCI pros, not "elites without contracts" which is what I am.

BUT, it could ... and no, not all of my races are sanctioned. Most are, but most of the TTs I do, and some of the smaller races (Parkside) are sanctioned by American Bicycle Racing (ABR), which is not UCI-affiliated. USA Cycling "recognizes" and has a cordial relationship with ABR (the predecessor, USCF, used to enforce suspensions for all non-USCF races, USA Cycling isn't so heavy-handed), but not sure how this is going to play out. I hesitate to ask, though -- don't want to draw attention to myself!