A ‘Charter of the Willing’ and lingering questions for Change group

Cycling has a manifesto, a movement and a 'Charter of the Willing,' but appears set to start 2013 without much change

MILAN (VN) — Cycling, already with an anti-doping manifesto and movement, now has a charter to digest on the eve of the 2013 season. After meetings that concluded in London yesterday, Change Cycling Now released its plan to reshape the sport, its “Charter of the Willing.” It calls for truth and reconciliation, a review of the UCI, independent doping controls and a culture shift, but leaves many wondering how it will happen.

“We have established this Charter to serve as common credo to be adopted amongst the members of the Union Cycliste Internationale, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the National Anti-Doping Authorities and the cycling community,” read a statement from pressure group, CCN. “This Charter is our collective affirmation of the values, principles and steps that all relevant stakeholders should adopt, practice and collectively amplify for the future of competitive cycling.”

The four-page charter concluded the two-day meeting in London Sunday and Monday. Greg LeMond, author David Walsh and blood doping expert Michael Ashenden were among the 14 attendees, with Travis Tygart one of the guest speakers.

Tygart heads the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which earlier this year proved Lance Armstrong doped and stripped him of his seven Tour de France wins. The agency published its supporting documents online on October 10, which renewed support for the Movement for a Credible Cycling and pushed five European newspapers to issue a manifesto outlining their vision for the sport. The agency’s documents, which highlighted alleged corruption in the UCI and the depth of Armstrong’s doping, also led to the CCN’s inaugural London meeting and its “Charter of the Willing.”

The premises

CCN established its premises in the charter. It said, “The sport of cycling’s credibility and reputation has been harmed by the actions and inactions of the UCI, some cycling team management and staff and some of the riders. … For the sport of cycling to move forward from the past, it must openly discuss doping practices in an environment of truth and reconciliation. Any productive truth and reconciliation process must promote confidence, trust, unity and transparency.”

It added that there is no place for zero-tolerance, which the British Sky squad adheres to. This fall, following the publication of the USADA documents, Sky management met with staff and riders to ask if they had any doping past. As a result, it split with Bobby Julich, Stephen De Jongh and Sean Yates, though the latter said that he left for health reasons.

The principles

CCN listed four principles in its charter. Some of them have been proposed before, such as a completely independent anti-doping group to control cycling and an independent commission to investigation alleged UCI corruption.

CCN, however, said that there must be a truth and reconciliation commission to give everyone a chance to speak and tell their story. It said WADA should handle it and establish the guidelines, but added that its charter listed some ideas.

According to the charter, “The TRC [commission] should gather information, bear witness to, record and conduct hearings to allow recognition of the past” from riders, team staff another interested parties. It should be able to recommend amnesty given “full and candid disclosure,” the acceptance of “full responsibility” and that the doping practice was for sporting gain only. Opportunities for amnesty will end once the commission is closed.

The CCN’s fourth principal, cultural change in the UCI, aims directly at the UCI’s senior members, president Pat McQuaid and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen. It reflects the group’s calls yesterday for a new UCI president, with LeMond saying he would be available to take over temporarily.

The CCN said, the UCI “must change the individuals… who have acted contrary to the interests of the sport… Must restore faith and belief in the sport… Shall develop a voice which is not dictatorial and aggressive but recognizes strong leadership which promotes confidence, trust, unity and transparency.” As LeMond said yesterday, “Ultimately it’s about finding a really great leader for the UCI, somebody beyond reproach.”

What now?

Despite the manifesto, the movement and now, the “Charter of the Willing,” cycling heads mostly unchanged into 2013.

Race organizers agreed together to support teams adhering to the MPCC’s stricter anti-doping standards. They announced last month that they would give priority to those teams when issuing race invitations. The announcement has seen more teams rushing to join the movement, the latest being Lampre-Merida, which is mired in the Padua investigation.

Some question its validity, but the UCI called for an independent commission to examine allegations of corruption and to propose changes. It announced the commission members on Friday and said the trio would report back in June. It also called a stakeholder consultation for the first quarter of 2013, announcing today the topics of discussion.

The CCN wants change now — hence its name, Change Cycling Now. It called for McQuaid and Verbruggen to step away and proposed LeMond, but how can it force these changes?

The answer may come from the teams’ and riders’ associations. Jonathan Vaughters and Gianni Bugno, presidents of the respective associations and part of the London meetings, could rally their troops to force the UCI into action. The WADA may respond to the momentum and speak directly to the UCI. If enough stakeholders got behind the pressure group, the pressure would force action and change in the UCI.

But for now, there is a manifesto, a movement and a “Charter of the Willing.”