CN's Shane Stokes has clearly done something to piss off his editors, having been assigned to cover Pat McQuaid's speech on all things Cycling during last week's World Track Championships. At this point, all the wrangling with ASO has apparently morphed into an uneasy stalemate, with the UCI doing little more than saying the vulnerability of riders at ASO races to incur punishment remains unclear. I guess that's somehow better than simply admitting defeat, from the UCI's standpoint. But McQuaid did have one (and I mean only one) interesting thing to say...
Stokes, fighting gamely through what must be crushing boredom, raises the point that the riders are holding some serious power to settle the dispute, by organizing against ASO or submitting to their demands. This may come as news to the riders, and their choice of the latter course was more of a non-decision decision. But consider this:
- First, forget about 2008. ASO have set things up for their races, and the UCI has little leverage for the remainder of the calendar. Plus, the teams have no time to deal with anything more than racing now. So the UCI should just keep mumbling into its chest on the issues til October.
- Come this offseason, ASO's contracts are history, and the fight can begin anew. McQuaid appears to be talking to the teams, presumably trying to win them to his side. While ASO are busy running their events, McQuaid can lay the groundwork for organizing the teams and riders, and presenting them with a real choice.
- And that real choice is: sell the teams/riders on the UCI setting up an anti-doping and disciplinary system that will respect their rights! Not pander to them, I think the riders mostly want real checks on doping, but surely everyone can agree that such a system must be fair to the riders.
This is where UCI have a leg up: how on Earth can ASO impose a comprehensive system of checks and balances, which sound fair to all riders? By their nature, they are events organizers, which doesn't qualify them to run a judicial system or a season-long testing system or what have you. They're also French, which is not a criticism, but Cycling is utterly international by nature and entrusting large chunks of its governance to one country is guaranteed to lead to trouble. Lastly, and this is the most obvious criticism, ASO have a huge financial interest in the Tour de France, and will always place that interest above any rider or team. Ask Alberto Contador.
Seems like the UCI still has a case to make, and a chance to make it. If they're smart. Unfortunately, that's usually where the trouble begins.