Historical background of the UCI

ARTICLE SUMMARY

  • Forced to find that there had been no conspiracy or corruption at the UCI, the CIRC proceeded to limit its reporting of the historical background mainly to a character assassination of me, completely ignoring the roles and responsibilities of other stakeholders in the UCI’s history and in particular those involved in its fight against doping.
  • Elements of the UCI’s history are carefully selected, edited and then use to paint the desired picture: ‘Hein the businessman’, ‘Hein the quarrelsome power-mad leader’. These and other caricatures all reflect – and even quote directly – the personal grudges of some of the CIRC’s interviewees.

 

 

FULL ARTICLE

On pages 90 to 98 of the CIRC report, it sketches a summary “historical background” of the UCI.

I have a number of comments about this chapter – in particular relating to what the CIRC writes about me – but I will not go into each and every detail.

 

Where are the other governing bodies and officials?

On page 90 of its report, the CIRC writes that it was “…further asked to conduct a wide-ranging independent investigation into the allegations that implicate the UCI and other governing bodies and officials in respect of their investigation of doping practices.” [My emphasis added.]

As I will show below, the “other governing bodies and officials” make next to no appearance in the CIRC’s final report. Indeed, my 19-page submission to the CIRC, my 404 pages of documents and my 44 questions about this subject were totally ignored and disregarded by the CIRC. They do not even merit a mention in the final report.

In my correspondence with the CIRC, I made it very clear that my cooperation would be conditional on the CIRC fulfilling its full terms of reference and investigating the role of “other governing bodies and officials”, in particular WADA and Dick Pound. In their answers to me, the CIRC led me to believe that it would do that.

On 25 June 2014 the CIRC wrote to me saying:

The CIRC aims to obtain an objective picture of the fight against doping by the UCI and other stakeholders involved, by undertaking comprehensive research and impartial analysis of all anti-doping initiatives and activities it discovers. [once again, my emphasis added]

And on 16 September 2014 the CIRC wrote the following to me:

As per Article 3 and 5 of our Terms of Reference, we have been tasked with conducting a ‘wide-ranging independent investigation into the causes of the pattern of doping that developed within cycling and allegations which implicate the UCI and other governing bodies and officials over ineffective investigation of such doping practices… The CIRC investigation shall result in a report containing recommendations for the future with (and for) all stakeholders involved in the cycling world.’ [the CIRC’s own emphasis included]

Unfortunately, the CIRC’s final report shows that none of these promises have been honoured. It would be fair to say that I feel misled, to put it mildly.

In the very next paragraph, again on page 90 of its report, the CIRC announces that “in order to provide as comprehensive and complete an answer as possible”, it will examine three different areas “within the UCI”. From this, it would appear that despite the previous paragraph referring to “other governing bodies and officials”, only a brief sentence or two later in the report the latter had already been dropped from the investigation. The CIRC would only investigate the UCI.

 

Conspiracy and corruption

Still on the same page (p90) the CIRC notes that “many interviewees spoke of conspiracy and corruption”.

Whereas in most cases the CIRC appears to rely on the testimony of one, or at best “some” interviewees, here, by way of exception, the CIRC refers to “many” interviewees. (How many, of course, it does not tell us.)

Crucially, the CIRC found that there is no evidence for what these “many” interviewees have spoken of. It is therefore to its detriment that, for other allegations, the CIRC relies only on one or two interviewees. We are not even told whether there were interviewees who were not questioned about the issue under scrutiny, or interviewees who may have said the opposite of what the CIRC reported.

 

Some framing of Hein Verbruggen

On page 91 of the report, and also in a number of other sections, the CIRC describes me as a businessman, echoing the charaterisation given to me by one of its interviewees, Jean Pitallier, the former president of the French cycling federation and who has always caricatured me as that.

I was indeed a businessman, but I had a much broader background in cycling than the CIRC tries to suggest. When I worked for Mars, I was responsible for the company’s sponsorship of the Mars cycling team (1970-1971). I was also a member of the Dutch cycling federation between 1975 and 1985. I had nine years of experience working in cycling before I was elected onto the FICP board in 1979. As a FICP board member dating from 1979 and as FICP president from 1984, I acquired considerable experience in all aspects of the sport before I was eventually elected UCI President in 1991.

In 1988, I was even asked to take the position of director of the Tour de France. Let’s be crystal clear: it is not very often that France asks a ‘foreigner’ to run one of its national flagship events! In short, I had 20 years experience in cycling before I was elected UCI President. However, all of these facts, which the CIRC knew only too well, did not fit with the caricature of ‘businessmen’ which the CIRC wished to portray me as – and so they were conveniently ignored in the final report.

The final paragraph on page 92 of the report, where it states that ‘as a business man I understood the importance of a celebrity rider’, is particularly pernicious. This paragraph is designed to set up the character assassination that follows, both of me and of my Presidency of the UCI. It offers readers of the report all of the shallow ingredients that seduce the readers of gossip magazines – money, celebrity, power.

It is an example of ‘hineininterpretierung’, where events that happened in the past are presented as all being part of a plan that is attributed to me. I had no ambitions for power, my ambition was to build the UCI into a top tier international federation in all aspects. And to do that, I did not need Lance Armstrong who, while he was indeed a star, was also under suspicion of doping which was not very helpful to the UCI and which was a stick used by others to attack cycling and the UCI.

Another example of false framing, is the CIRC’s caricature of the conflict between UCI and ASO, as well as the reasons for that conflict.

On page 93, the CIRC writes that I had “ambitions for power”, that “…UCI wanted to control how races were conducted” (as if this were not the primary role of an international sports federation) and that “…above all, UCI wanted sole control over the television rights for major races and, of course, to benefit financially from this”. This is is completely false and, as usual, the CIRC does not give one single piece of corroborative evidence to back up these sweeping statements. It does not refer to any fact, or document, that could back up this opinion.

The only possible explanation for this extraordinary set of allegations is that the CIRC has simply copied and pasted the ‘procès d’intention’ from Patrice Clerc, who was ASO President during its conflict with UCI. Incidentally, Clerc was subsequently fired by ASO shortly after it reached an agreement with the UCI (a fact which is, naturally, also omitted in the CIRC report) – and his dismissal by ASO is something which he holds me responsible for. Needless to say, all of the input that I personally provided to the CIRC relating to the UCI’s conflict with ASO is totally omitted from its final report, as though I were not involved.

A further example of the CIRC’s framing its character assassination of me occurs on page 94, where it states that I wanted to transfrom the UCI into an important IF “as a businessman, in a somewhat forceful manner with a lack of transparency and in breach of certain sporting requirements”. The least that one might expect from a proper independent review is that it would explain what it meant when it referred to this “lack of transparency”, this “somewhat forceful manner” and these “breaches of certain sporting requirements”. The least that one might also have expected would be that the CIRC explained on what evidence these accusations are based. Finally, the very least that one might expect is that the CIRC would have asked me what I had to say about these allegations.   The CIRC did none of these.

The CIRC has gone out of its way to seek only general and unsubstantiated negative opinions about me. It has paid no attention to – or shown any interest in – any of the elements which a neutral observer might have give me credit for. These might include the UCI’s new and modern constitution and rules (including anti-doping rules); the annual external financial audit; the UCI’s sound finances which were never once received criticism from auditors, Congress or financial authorities throughout all of the years I led the organisation; the model contracts for riders with guaranteed rights; the introduction of bank guarantees for the payment of riders’ salaries (a unique system in sport and beyond); the rules for team managers, team doctors and paramedical assistants; the creation of an Ethics Commission (UCI was one of the first IF’s to do so); fundamental reflection on the bicycle asserting the primacy of man over machine; the introduction of an independent Licence Commission examining and selecting the pro teams on ethical, sports, financial and administrative criteria; the financial audit of the pro teams by an international accounting firm; the creation of development programs for young promising riders all over the world (the CIRC mentions the World Cycling Center, but not what happened there, nor the vision behind); and other beneficial and (at the time) innovative measures taken under my leadership, not to mention all aspects of the pioneering role of the UCI in anti-doping.

You will easily understand why I call this a character assassination.

One small detail, which is very illustrative of the CIRC’s lack of concern for facts: it writes on page 94 that the conflict with ASO came to an abrupt end at a meeting in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games, which took place in August of that year. In fact, the dispute came to an end after intense negotiations on 25 September 2008.   All of the relevant documents were at the disposal of the CIRC. Yet more proof, if any more were needed, of how sloppy the report is with facts.

Another telling detail: on page 94-95 the report, referring to Paris’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, says that “…politicians attempted to influence decisions in the field of anti-doping that were likely to compromise the candidate city’s chances. Conflicts arose between the UCI and the AFLD and ministers also got involved.”

The reality is that the UCI had nothing whatsoever to do with the Paris 2012 Bid. This reference to the Paris Bid is included in the report only in an attempt to damage my reputation, and most unfairly so.

The reference to the Paris Bid might have been fairly included        in its report if the CIRC had bothered to include the fact that the discussion with Paris concerned the following: what anti-doping rules would apply to the Olympic Games – the French rules, as had been requested by France, or the World Anti-Doping Code, as was requested by the IOC? It would also have been correct, indeed appropriate, concerning this issue if the CIRC had bothered to consult the most interested party, the IOC. But no, mere facts needed to be cast aside in order for the CIRC to reinforce its negative framing around the character of Hein Verbruggen.

Another example, along the same lines: “According to some sources, Hein Verbruggen credited himself with being instrumental in the failure of the candidature of Paris for the Olympic Games” (written on page 95). The CIRC simply did not even bother to ask its sources who actually had the authority in these matters and decisions. I hardly need to repeat that, once again, the CIRC felt no need to ask me for my take on this allegation. It is, of course, pure nonsense, just deliberate mud-slinging to see what might stick.

What is more, I truly fail to understand how all of these issues covered in the CIRC report, which have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with doping (such as Lance Armstrong offering a bike to Nicolas Sarkozy, or Paris not being elected as host city of the 2012 Olympic Games) “…contributed to creating a climate which certainly did not encourage coherent action against doping”, or how this all links back to the UCI.

On page 95, the CIRC writes: “It was in the interests of all parties, particularly UCI and event organisers, that the star riders were able to continue to race and that there were no doping scandals.” Did the CIRC not even bother to count the number of examples of star riders being caught and punished during this period?

The CIRC could easily have listed all the riders that were had been caught and punished by the UCI during that period. But that might have been too objective. So no word on Pantani, Theunisse, Abdoujaparov, Casagrande, Del Olmo, Magnien, De Paoli, Fois, Outchakov, Roux, Massi … to mention only some of the names. If, in the words of the CIRC, “they were able to continue to race” it was only after they had first been caught by the UCI, been punished by the UCI and had served out the full punishment imposed upon them.

 

Governance

On page 97, there is a section on “Ineffective governance”. Alas, it is a section containing almost nothing about ineffective governance. Instead, the entire section is riddled with inconsistencies.

The CIRC writes that “the UCI vested the office of the president with a wide range of powers”. If the CIRC had bothered to read the UCI constitution, it might have noticed the repartition of powers between the Congress, the Management Committee, the Executive Committee and the President. In fact the powers of the UCI President are very small. Apart from representing the organisation, a role common to all organisations, the President’s only power is that in cases of extreme urgency he may take a decision on routine matters alone. However, he or she is obliged to inform the Executive Committee at the next meeting (article 59 of the UCI constitution).

Compare this with the powers of the Congress (article 29) and of the Management Committee (article 46). It is absurd to categorise this system, as the CIRC does, as an “authoritarian management” by the UCI President.

The CIRC also carefully ignores how I consulted with my collegues on the Management Committee, how I prepared meetings, how I laid out and then defended my vision for UCI. When my collegues agreed or approved proposals, or took decisions in the Management Committee, where those issues were discussed, the CIRC dismisses this as “the passive nature of the large majority of the members of the UCI’s governing bodies”.   This is a totally unjustified insult to the many people who devoted their time and effort to the cause of cycling. I wonder how many members of the UCI’s governing bodies have been asked by CIRC to explain on their apparent passive nature.

And when the CIRC casts around looking for examples of issues that relate to the management and implementation of anti-doping policy, or the the use of resources, it can find nothing to throw at me other than the fact that I had apparently chosen, with the agreement of the majority of my collegues, my successor. What on earth does this issue have to do with doping? Was this issue – in truth, mere watercooler gossip – included in the CIRC’s terms of reference? Of course it was not. However, it seems to fit perfectly with a mission to try to throw as much mud as possible at Hein Verbruggen.

On this last point, the CIRC notes (on page 144) that it had found no confirmation from the minutes of meetings that the majority of my colleagues (in truth, all except one) had approved. The CIRC ignores the confirmation that can be found in other documents, in particular the statements made by the other Management Committee members which are contained in the files relating to the complaint from Sylvia Schenk about the candidature of Pat McQuaid. However, this is yet another aspect that the CIRC ignores when dealing with these complaints. I will come back to this issue in more detail elsewhere.

The CIRC report makes reference to an alleged lack of evidence to support anything that is said in my favour, but everywhere else in its report it does not bother to provide a shred of evidence to support the false allegations made against me.

People who are knowledgeable about the world of sports recognize that the UCI was one of the best organized and performing international federations. I gave a witness statement that supported this point of view to the CIRC and I could have provided many more. About a dozen federations have been supported by the UCI in the redrafting of their statutes and their internal organization.

Likewise, at the 2012 London Olympic Games, the WADA General Director David Howman personally told me that there were only two international federations with a serious anti-doping policy, one of them being the UCI. I invited the CIRC to ask David Howman to confirm that he made this statement, but I don’t know whether the CIRC did.

Typical of the CIRC’s methodology is the section on “Poor communication strategy”, on page 97 of the report. This refers to a period of about 23 years (1991-2013), but the CIRC only references the communication following the 2012 decision about Lance Armstrong, which it calls “inadequate”, but without giving any reasons as to why it reached this conclusion. Since the CIRC makes no reference to the UCI’s communication strategy in the time when I was President, may I then conclude that the strategy during this period must have been excellent?

 

 

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