Dear Mr McQuaid, dear Pat,
From the KNWU we strongly feel the need to inform you about our view on the problems and challenges international cycling currently faces. The immediate cause is obviously the USADA report, the immediate strategic decision of Rabobank stopping the sponsorship of team Rabobank (because they lack confidence in the international institution of cycling) and the UCI’s response last Monday.
Let’s start by determining where we agree upon; the professional international cycling sport finds itself in the deepest crisis ever. The credibility of our wonderful sport is more than ever at stake. The USADA report has made it painfully clear that:
- within the international world of cycling systematic doping was (is?) common;
- despite stricter controls doping could not (can not) hardly be detected (since that is still the permanent response of Armstrong: ‘I have never been caught on using doping’);
- and that many people in the professional circuit knew, guessed or accepted this use of doping and ‘just thought this was normal behaviour.’
It is good and important that the UCI in its statement has completely agreed upon the report of the USADA and took over the corresponding sanctions against Lance Armstrong.
Moreover, to the opinion of the KNWU it is more than ever necessary that the UCI now, as lead agency of international cycling, has the obligation to present very strong measures and reforms to come out of this crisis and to restore the credibility and confidence of the cycling sport.
In recent years there have undoubtedly been taken steps forwards in the fight against doping. The blood passport was the most important measure. But even more can and must be done over the next 5 to 10 years to really purify the sport from doping and to step aside from a system or culture where ‘the lie reigns.’
10 years ago, after the ‘Tour the dopage,’ the statement was made, also from the UCI, that this could not happen again. That we were on the right track again. That the controls were improving and the culture was changing. Unfortunately in 2012 we have to conclude that the USADA Report has concluded that it is even worse. The key question for us, the KNWU, is to what extent we really can legitimately say that, in the year 2012, there no longer exists or can be spoken of a culture that tolerates, seduces or even encourages systematic doping. We are not reassured. On the contrary, we are very worried, and we are not alone in this. Rabobank resigning its sponsorship, and in particular the reason why it stopped, is painful and significant. We can not sufficiently answer the question whether or not the doping culture has become widely accepted in professional cycling in the recent years. The credibility of the sport and the institutions around it are therefore more than ever at stake.
This deep crisis requires a strong and unconventional approach. We believe it is very necessary that an international independent investigation, a kind of truth committee, will be put in place soon (perhaps by the IOC or the UCI, or by the national federations). With appropriate and effective legal measures this committee will conduct thorough research into all the aspects and facets of professional international cycling. All those involved in the system of professional cycling ((old)-riders, teams, soigneurs, team doctors, team leaders, team bosses, sponsors, doping authorities/inspectors, regulations, national federations, UCI, organisers, etc) should be within the scope of such a truth committee. With a dual assignment:
1. Let this committee bring out all the facts and findings (‘truth’) from 2007 till the present, exposing the system, its culture and how the system operates, show what progress has already been made, and also where the system fails.
2. Give this committee the task to make recommendations or take measures which can faster contribute to the professional cycling sport becoming cleaner and where the principle of fair play prevails.
If we do not use this crisis, with all those involved, as an explicit opportunity to really clean up, we fear that the culture of doping and lying in cycling sport that is unfortunately so deeply rooted, may never go away. Now is not the time to come with more fundamental proposals or reforms. Let the committee think about these aspects and present these proposals. Alternatively the circumstances ask to enable fast, precise, powerful and for resolute measures beyond what the UCI is already doing. It could be considered to implement measures in a ‘code’ to which the teams need to commit before they can even obtain a (ProTour) license. Of course there are always legal restrictions, but it is also important to make a statement right now. Besides the legal boundaries and frameworks above all moral borders and frames will be needed. Principles that are broadly agreed and lived upon and should be sought from all stakeholders, such as:
- Suspension of four years instead of two years and greater financial penalties or deduction of points;
- As well as penalties for the teams (and their responsible managers) whose riders are caught using doping (points deduction, financial penalties, withdraw licences), to make doping a collective rather than an individual issue;
- No ProTour teams are allowed to hire people (soigneurs, doctors, team leaders, team bosses) with any prior involvement in doping practices (simply no ProTour lience is provided for participation in the ProTour circuit);
- ProTour teams are only allowed to work with UCI accredited doctors;
- The explicit separation of the different roles and responsibilities (governance) of the UCI (and perhaps of national federations. Indeed, because of the commercial and financial interests of the ProTour a conflict or apparent conflict of interest arises which at all times must be prevented);
- Measures that contribute to a greater degree of self-cleaning and adjusting capabilities;
More than ever, the UCI must dare to act forcefully. Critical to everyone involved in the sport, including the UCI itself. An authoritative, independent international truth and inquiry committee with adequate legal measures can thereby serve as an important starting point. Only if we as an international cycling community are willing to take a very critical look to the ‘own system’, we will be able to build a clean, sportive and credible future. On behalf of the Dutch anti-doping authority and the NOC*NSF, we do an urgent appeal to the UCI to take the necessary and convincing first steps or make the necessary decisions in the Management Committee next Friday.
If the UCI fails to do so, we as KNWU/Netherlands at national level are considering the possibility to create such a truth or inquiry committee (with the greatest international assignment or scope as possible), because we believe this is necessary.
This is obviously in our opinion internationally but also nationally of great value. But it is evident that an international approach clearly has our preference. We hope you will choose the vigorous and forceful approach.
With kind regards,
Royal Dutch Cycling Federation,
M. (Marcel) J.G. Wintels