Opinion on a looming farce
There is a battle being fought over the presidency of the UCI's Oceania Continental Confederation (OCC). The incumbent President, Australian Mike Turtur, is being challenged by another Australian, Tracey Gaudry. Gaudry has been put forward by Cycling Australia as an advocate of genuine reform and is supported by Bike NZ. CA is also concerned about the conflict of interest held by Turtur.
Although relatively insignificant globally, this Oceania election, to be decided on 2 December 2012, has broad ramifications for the future of cycling. As well as determining who will be Oceania's representative on the body that effectively governs the sport of cycling, the UCI Management Committee, this contest reflects the battle between those who have led the sport into its current malaise and those who seek genuine reform.
Mike Turtur and an unresolvable conflict of interest
That Mike Turtur is even involved in a contest for the Presidency of the Oceania Confederation is an indictment on the poor state of governance that pervades cycling. There is a clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest between Mike Turtur's role as the Race Director of the Tour Down Under (TDU) and his role as President of the UCI's Oceania Continental Confederation.
The TDU is owned and managed by Events South Australia, a division of the South Australian Tourism Commission on behalf of the South Australian Government. The SA Government funds the event and engages Mike Turtur as the TDU Race Director.
One of the principal roles of the OCC under both the UCI Constitution and the Oceania Cycling Confederation Constitution is to promote the development of cycling in the continent. Continental Confederations are specifically required to submit proposals to the UCI Management Committee regarding the drawing up of the continental calendar of cycling events.
Despite the equivocal nature of public comments made about this issue to date, there is a clear and unmistakable conflict of interest for Mike Turtur who takes a personal economic return from his role of promoting the TDU to simultaneously perform the role of President of the Oceania Confederation. If nothing else, all events compete to some extent for sponsors, riders and teams, media coverage and government funding. Any consideration of other events in the region, existing or future, by a President who has a financial stake in the outcome cannot be seen to be impartial.
Nor is this a mere theoretical issue. Illustrative of this was the reaction of Turtur to the proposal in 2009 to move the date of Oceania's second biggest road race, the Herald Sun Tour, to a date shortly after the TDU. Turtur was highly critical of the proposal, considering that it jeopardized government support for his event. However, many considered that the proposal was in the best interests of growing the sport in Australia and it was supported by a number of professional cycling teams and riders. Turtur was also reported to have required one professional cycling team to remove a number of its riders from another event on the basis that Turtur's TDU had exclusive access to the riders.
Acknowledging the conflict of interest concerning race calendars, Turtur said he would not play a role in a debate about the issue if it came before an OCC executive meeting. Shortly after, Turtur is reported to have indicated that he would remove himself from any decision-making process on Australia's competition calendar - adding the qualification - ‘if asked to by Cycling Australia'. But this inappropriate ‘concession' entirely missed the point.
Merely having Mike Turtur leave the room when decisions involving the TDU arise cannot resolve the conflict of interest that exists. The conflict is so fundamental: virtually any consideration of any calendar change or proposal for or promotion of any new race in the region would have some impact on the TDU and generate possible, if not real, conflicts of interest. In fact, it is difficult to imagine calendar issues in which Turtur would not be required to disqualify himself, making the positions simply incompatible. He is simply unable to perform his role as President of Oceania of promoting the development of cycling in the region because of his role as TDU Race Director. The interests of Oceania cannot be protected at the UCI if the region's representative is unable to fully and properly participate in the consideration of issues affecting the region.
An associated concern is the virtual lack of any promotional or developmental activity that has in fact been organized or developed at the Oceania level - in stark contrast to the TDU. In fact, the Oceania Confederation could almost be regarded as moribund, standing alone amongst the UCI Confederations in not even having an active website. This dormancy has been taken advantage of by an anti-UCI group who have taken control of the unused Oceania Confederation website address to promote the defense fund established to defend UCI critic journalist Paul Kimmage against defamation proceedings brought against him by the UCI's President and former President. This situation would be comical if not for the role played by the Continental Confederations in the UCI's governance structure.
The Oceania election - a farce?
There are four votes to be cast for the President of the Oceania Continental Confederation - Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Guam. Australia and New Zealand are by far the biggest cycling nations in the region. Both support Tracey Gaudry. Ignoring this opposition, Mike Turtur is relying on the votes of Fiji and Guam, and then is proposing to rely upon a questionable interpretation of the UCI's and the Oceania Confederation's rules to continue on the UCI Management Committee until the next UCI Congress at the end of 2013. Accordingly, there is a significant question over the legitimacy of Mike Turtur relying upon this process to cling to office.
Turtur's position involves ignoring his conflict of interest and riding roughshod over the most prominent nations in the region. When both Turtur's own Federation, Cycling Australia, and New Zealand who together host virtually all of the cycling activity in the region, a victory by Turtur has the potential to make the OCC a farce. It will do nothing to encourage those concerned about the future of cycling.
Lloyd Freeburn holds a Bachelor Of Law from Queensland University and a Master of Laws from the University of Melbourne. He is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne Law School where he lectures in Event Management Law, part of the Law School’s Master Program.
Lloyd has published a number of articles in legal journals on cycling and other sports law issues including:
• 'The Unrepresentative and Discriminatory Governance Structure of Cycling – What Role for the International Olympic Committee?' (2012) 1/2 International Sports Law Journal 27
• 'National Sporting Organisations and the Good Governance Principles of the Australian Sports Commission' (2010) 5 The Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Journal, Number 1, 43;
• 'The UCI ProTour: An Enduring Reform or a 'Train Wreck' Waiting to Happen?' (2007) 2 Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Journal 15.
Back to top