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Tour de France

2010 Tour de France: Suspensions possible for Team RadioShack at UCI “jerseygate” hearing

The team is being called before a disciplinary hearing for wearing un-approved kit on the last day of the 2010 Tour de France

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2010 Tour de France stage 20: Team RadioShack in its black kit
The team put the black kit back on for the award ceremony

The UCI has confirmed that Team RadioShack will be facing, as early as next month, disciplinary proceedings in regard to team manager Johan Bruyneel and his riders breaking UCI regulations for wearing unauthorized jerseys on the last day of the 2010 Tour de France. The hearing before the UCI Disciplinary Commission, which will likely take place in late October or early November, could result in suspensions and/or fines for the athletes, team managers and/or team.

When team leader Lance Armstrong and his eight teammates showed up for the start of stage 20 of the Tour in Longjumeau on July 25, they were wearing an all-black uniform, with jerseys bearing the RadioShack logo on the front and the number 28 on the back. Their goal was to launch Armstrong’s Livestrong campaign highlighting the plight of the estimated 28 million people living with cancer around the world.

It could have been a wonderful gesture but the UCI had not been notified of the change from RadioShack’s regular gray-and-red colors. This was a breach of UCI regulation 1.3.035, which states, in part, “Each team may use different clothing for one full event each year. The clothing must be submitted for approval to the President of the UCI ProTour … at least 21 days before the event in question.”

As the race commissaries had no prior knowledge of the uniform change they immediately invoked parts of UCI regulation 1.3.072, which says that, for wearing non-regulation clothing (in regard to color and layout), riders shall be fined up to 200 Swiss francs each and disqualified from starting, and the team shall be fined up to 4,500 Swiss francs. The team managers and riders were fined, but they were allowed to start the stage after changing back into their approved kit, even though this delayed the start by some 20 minutes.

In a later statement, the UCI said that it “regrets that an initiative for a cause as worthy as the fight against cancer was not coordinated with the commissaires and organizers of the event.”

The black “28” jerseys received even more attention after the race finish when, against the commissaires’ instructions, the RadioShack riders and staff donned the unauthorized kit to go the podium, where they collected first prize in the Tour’s prestigious overall team competition before riding their lap of honor around the Champs-Élysées.

The team’s noncompliance with the rules and subsequent failure to follow instructions were compounded when Bruyneel wrote on his Twitter account: “Ok people! Now it’s official! To be a race commisar, you don’t need brains but only know the rules! Their motto: ‘c’est le reglement!’”

That posting was subsequently removed but not before the international governing body’s statement, which added, “The UCI deplores the declarations made by Mr. Johan Bruyneel who gravely offended the commissaires working in cycling. His remarks are utterly unacceptable and Mr. Bruyneel will be called upon to answer for his comments before the UCI Disciplinary Commission.”

Two days later, Bruyneel issued a public apology “for my unprofessional tweet on Sunday.” In part, he said, “When race officials informed me that the team wouldn’t be able to race with the special jerseys, I became frustrated that our (cancer) message would not be heard and seen around the world. During this time, I put a disrespectful and unprofessional message on my Twitter account targeting the UCI officials. … I understand the race officials’ decision and publicly apologize for offending any official or representative of the UCI.”

In talking to VeloNews a week later, Bruyneel explained, “I really didn’t think about that (first) tweet until a couple days after the Tour. It’s one of those instances where I read it a few days later and said, ‘Wow, that doesn’t sound like me.’ It’s not something I’m proud of, the way I handled (it), and I felt that the best way was just to apologize. Nothing more to it.”

Unfortunately, there is more to it. When Bruyneel goes before the UCI Disciplinary Commission this fall, he could be found in breach of UCI regulation 12.1.005, which states, in part: “Anyone subject to UCI regulations shall be suspended for a minimum of one and a maximum of six months, who … uses defamatory or abusive language … about a commissaire….”

When contacted by VeloNews this past week, Bruyneel said via e-mail: “I have no comments to make.”

The Disciplinary Committee also has the power to suspend the RadioShack riders for disrupting the start of the Tour stage and not following the instructions of the commissaires after the finish. This could mean their being suspended from racing for one or two months in 2011.

UCI regulation 12.1.007 adds: “Any infringement by a licence-holder of a provision of the UCI regulations … that is not specifically penalized shall carry a fine of between 100 and 10,000 Swiss francs.”

Any fines, says the UCI, that are levied against RadioShack will be donated to the Swiss cancer charity, Ligue Suisse Contre Le Cancer.

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