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Monday
Sep102012

Bringing Down The Government Transcript

How should the President of a governing body make decisions for the sport he represents? Scott O'Raw asks if those that steer the future of the sport are able to do so with the sport in mind?

There is a view that all acts undertaken by humanity are done so through the solipsistic lens of self-interest. Psychological egoism even rules out deeds, gestures and thoughts that, at first appearance, could be claimed as altruistic. Any such undertaking, proponents of psychological egoism would assert, is rooted in the knowledge that benefits will still be derived to the self.

François, duc de La Rochefoucauld, a contemporary of Decartes, best known for his epigrams expressing the harsh or paradoxical truth in the world around him, said in his book of Maximes that "Our virtues are most frequently but vices in disguise.".
Many have argued against psychological egoism. The "problem" of altruism can never be truly explained away. But sometimes it is all too clear to see that the ultimate goal of a person is to avoid punishments, such as guilt or shame and to attain rewards, such as pride, self-worth, power or reciprocal beneficial action. 
Attending the Paralympic Games last week, UCI President Pat McQuaid was pressed to make a statement regarding USADA's sanction of Lance Armstrong, the publication of Tyler Hamilton's tell-all saga, The Secret Race, and the idea of an amnesty for professional cyclists who would admit to the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Speaking to the Associated Press, McQuaid said, "I think there's room for it and I think the UCI could do well to (introduce it). It's a subject I will bring up myself at the management committee of the UCI and it's something which we would look into possibly doing."
This would be a radical step and one that would appear to fly directly in the face of the UCI's much vaunted "fight against doping". McQuaid, in his speech to the UCI Congress just last year, described this fight as, "an implacable war on cheats". He went on to say that the UCI would "use all modern methods at its disposal". Now, with no more prompting than the ticking proposal from one journalist's question, McQuaid is ready to put all that to rest in favour of an amnesty. How implacable really was this war? How can it be so easily appeased or placated?
The answer is that it now suits McQuaid and the UCI to consider the hippy-dippy notion of amnesty as apposed to the hawkish stance we've seen up until now. From the crisis that greeted McQuaid upon becoming President, Operation Puerto, this has been the hard line the UCI has choosen to follow. However, it is really only the stance that is important. Not the thing itself.
The UCI currently finds itself in a very tricky position. USADA's case against Lance Armstrong and others, heavily implicates the UCI in the "massive doping conspiracy" that was undertaken by US Postal. Ratifying the lifetime ban on Armstrong, rubber stamps its case and, by extension, exposes the corruption at the heart of cycling's governing body. Opposing the ban, goes against the mandatory WADA code and risks the drawing the ire of the IOC, who could be forced to take the radical step of banning cycling from the Olympic Games.
How credible would any stance be in either circumstance?
As President, Pat McQuaid and the UCI are almost interchangeable - I say almost, as the only other voice we hear emanating from its headquarters in Aigle is that of Press Officer, Enrico Carpani. But the words that come from the UCI we hear as Pat's words. Its actions are deemed to be Pat's and appear to represent Pat's will. 
It is, however, worth noting that the office of President sits rather far down in chain of command; the Executive Office, Commissions, Management Committee and the afore-mentioned Congress, which sits next week, all rank above him. But since the President chairs the Congress and McQuaid himself sits on the Management Committee, you can see why thinking 'UCI' immediately conjures up blue-eyed, silvery-haired images of McQuaid. What images are conjured up when Pat McQuaid thinks of the UCI brings us back to the realm of psychological egoism.
Recently, I came to the conclusion that our glorious leader views the world in the way that professional bike riders view the rest of the peloton. For them each day is to seek out, with narrowed, wary eyes, those that can be used for victory and those that must be treated as opposition to that victory. This, of course, should come as no surprise as McQuaid was a professional bike rider from 1966 to 1982. He also comes from a cycling family. His father, Jim, his Uncle Paddy, his brothers Kieron, Paul and Darach and well as his cousin John were all cyclists. To say that cycling is in McQuaid's blood, is as obvious as to suggest that Marco Pantani might have a had a drop or two of EPO in his.
McQuaid once, indadvertedly let it be known to journalist and author, Lional Birnie, that he did not find him very "pro-UCi", and therefore went out of his way to obstruct Birnie's attempts to interview him. These obstructions, according to Birnie, lasted over a year. Again, in the same inadvertent fashion, McQuaid described me as a "blogger of no consequence", and refused my requests for an audience.
The clear implication is: You are not useful to me. I gain nothing. No deal.
For a professional cyclist, this world view is absolutely necessary. For the President of a governing body, though? What possible benefits can there be in having a 'win at all costs' mentality controlling cycling? What is it that cycling itself needs to win and in what way is cycling competing? The UCI should exist to govern it, nourish it and protect it from those who seek to circumvent its rules. Nothing more. But when the camera eye is capped with the filter of psychological egoism, it becomes very clear that McQuaid seldom lets altruistic hands rest on the handlebars he steers.   
McQuaid was not the first former professional cyclist to become President of the UCI. Its first, Emile de Beukelaer, was deemed to be the most successful cyclist of the 1880's. So it is nothing new for the UCI to have at its helm, a man who has winning as part of his DNA.
Indeed, the UCI itself is a workpiece hammered on the anvil of opposition and forged in the fire of glaring self-interest.
Its predecessor, the International Cycling Association, was formed in 1892 to organise World Championships for the sport and to establish a common definition of amateurism. But by 1900, France, who were to hold the world championships that year, had decided that Britain held too much sway within the ICA. The problem was that each of the individual nations that make up the United Kingdom, each had a vote, and each fielded a team at the World's. But to the French, this simply represented several votes going to one nation, and called for a solitary British team to be sent to the forthcoming event.
Before a meeting could be held by the ICA on this issue, the French, along with Belgium, the United States, Italy and Switzerland set up the UCI in Paris and, under the conditions it imposed, Britain was barred from joining for a further 3 years.
The union had 30 countries affiliated to it, although the unfairness that France railed against was not addressed in the newly formed organisation. The best way to determine the number of votes given to each country, the UCI concluded, was to base it on the number of velodromes each country had. Therefore, the French had the most votes with 18, Germany and Italy had 14 and some countries had no vote at all.
Even when the IOC tried to force the UCI to tackle of the thorny issue of professionalism in its ranks in 1965 the UCI acted to simply to protect itself and its interests. The solution was to create to separate organisations, one for amateurs and one for professionals - although, the UCI would still coordinate both.
More recently an investigation by the BBC claimed that approximately $3 million was paid to the UCI from the Japanese to have the Keirin included in the Olympic Cycling programme.
The UCI Management Committee created Global Cycling Promotion (GCP) in September 2009 in order to support its globalisation strategy for road cycling. GCP is a for-profit company, created by the UCI to organise races, using monies from the ProTour Surplus Fund. Team are required to pay money into the surplus fund each year as part of their racing license, and which is supposed to be used in the event of a team coming into finical difficulty. One of the directors of GCP, and would stand to personally benefit from finical dividends from the company is Mr. Pat McQuaid.  
Which brings us back to the volte face that McQuaid suggests the UCI will consider over an amnesty for dopers. With the USADA storm brewing over Aigle, can it be reasoned that this action, or indeed a great number of the actions undertaken by the UCI, are the work of altruistic hands behaving only for the benefit of cycling?
Make no mistake, there are many, many good people who work for and on behalf of the UCI. These people do work selflessly for the good of a sport they love. But if those who shape the organisation do not, then perhaps it is time for the UCI's 112 year hold on cycling to come to an end. And perhaps this time, it will be entrusted to those who care about what is good for the sport, and not placed in the hands of those who benefit from it most.

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