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AN OPEN LETTER TO PAT McQUAID

The Wednesday Comment returns after a three-week break to find cycling’s credibility once again teetering on the edge of an abyss.

The sport is dominated by a culture of one-eyed self-interest, with seemingly few people prepared to stand up for the notion of clean, fair competition.

So I emailed the UCI president, Pat McQuaid, to see if an emotive call to arms would shake the governing body out of its perpetual rabbit-in-the-headlights state and spark an attempt to generate a cohesive strategy.

If Mr McQuaid responds, we’ll post his words on this website.

Dear Mr McQuaid,

How do we keep reporting this sport without supplying a laughter track for the readers to listen to simultaneously?

It’s like a bad sitcom.

Rules bent for Armstrong left, right and centre. The only credible member of the UCI silenced (Anne Gripper), the biological passport ridiculed before it’s even started, race after race after race made a mockery of by cheats past and present, the UCI obsessed with petty squabbles and pathetic point-scoring (the Dick Pound statement), Spain allowed to continue as some kind of wild west of doping, riders falling off or suffering mystery viruses while controversies rumble in the background.

I want to be optimistic for the future but the sport is a laughing stock.

What can the UCI do to wrestle control or is the governing body going to bail out to Armstrong and Bruyneel, effectively giving up on it as a sport?

Still, at least there’s the Tours of Russia and China to look forward to. Oh.

I’m sorry to be so damning but it is actually beyond a joke now.

Regards,
Lionel Birnie

A WASTE OF TIME

So, the 2009 Flèche Wallonne looks like it must be filed under the heading ‘Races that were a total waste of everyone’s time’.

The Olympic Games silver medalist Davide Rebellin was one of the athletes who tested positive for CERA in a series of retrospective tests done on samples taken in Beijing.

Rebellin has denied he’s done anything wrong and has requested his ‘B’ sample is tested, of course he has, that’s what cyclists do. For too many there is a culture of cheat, cheat, cheat some more. Then they appeal, appeal, appeal, before they are welcomed back with open arms to taint every race they take part in. It’s the way the sport works.

Eyebrows were raised pretty high by Rebellin’s performance on the Mur de Huy last Wednesday, but to say that makes you sound wise after the event. I sympathise with people who complain that every extraordinary performance is cast in the shadow of doubt, but what do we expect? Time after time, the results have to be revised.

And I sympathise with those who complain that of the athletes reported to have tested positive for CERA in Beijing, only a cyclist has been named. Again cycling bears the brunt and protects the other sports from the controversy. But what do we expect?

To be frank, I couldn’t care less about other sports. Let cycling get its house in some sort of order before pointing the finger at others.

BRUYNEEL THE VISIONARY

Johan Bruyneel has the answer to cycling’s ills, it seems. Silence the press.

In his latest blog he writes: “Look how Le Monde was tackled by Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The French newspaper had a story about the Spanish football clubs being clients of the blood bank of Eufemiano Fuentes.

“I have lived for several years in Madrid and I know how these clubs hate each other but… they are smart enough to support each other when their same interests have to be defended. Together they attacked Le Monde.

A claim of 300,000 euros was imposed to the newspaper. I am convinced that the media will think twice before they will again attack some Spanish football clubs.”

He calls on cycling teams to demonstrate the same unity. Yes, Johan, that’s the answer. If you can stop the media writing about it, it isn’t really happening.

THE GIRO IS ROUND THE CORNER

The first grand tour of the season is just over a week away, and Angelo Zomegnan must be mighty relieved to hear that Lance Armstrong is fit enough to make the start line.

I still can’t quite bring myself to believe Armstrong will be competitive in his first three-week stage race for almost four years.

The broken collarbone sustained in a crash at the Tour of Castilla y Leon in March derailed his training. His determination to push for the UCI rules to be bent to allow him to race in the small Tour of Gila event in America perhaps owes much to him needing a confidence boost before he takes his place in the Giro peloton.

But I think back to the way he disappeared backwards on the Cipressa during Milan-San Remo as the only real evidence of his condition this season. If he rides like that, he’ll be absolutely nowhere.

THE WEDNESDAY COMMENT IN 2009
Find links to all this year’s Wednesday Comments here.