News feature, March 29, 2006
UCI President Pat McQuaid has said that he is hopeful that a positive outcome will emerge from the current round of talks being held on the ProTour. Speaking to Cyclingnews on Tuesday, he said that several discussions have been held of late and that it seems that some progress may be being made.
"The ProTour talks are ongoing," he confirmed, by phone from the UCI headquarters in Aigle. "There are different groups meeting and dealing with the different areas involved. From the reports that we are hearing back from our people involved in the talks, the talks are positive and it seems that each of the stakeholders involved - and when I say each, I mean each and every one of them - are interested in finding a solution to the problems."
The ProTour was plunged into uncertainty last December when the organisers of the Tours of France, Spain and Italy rejected the series and proposed the establishment of an alternative competition, the Trophy of the Grand Tours. The UCI quickly moved to block this and, although there were doubts as to whether it could continue, McQuaid told Cyclingnews on March 3 that "in the short term, the ProTour is the same in 2006 as it was in 2005, and it's after 2008 we can look at changing the requirements. The rules and regulations are set until the end of 2008."
Current talks are aimed at bringing the Grand Tour organisers on side and restoring harmony between them, the UCI, the sponsors and all others affected by the dispute. McQuaid feels that some progress has been made.
"The various elements and smaller technical details which can be altered to bring about a solution are being laid on the table and discussed," he states. "Hopefully in the coming weeks those meetings may come to a conclusion. If they do, I am hopeful it will be a positive one."
McQuaid also confirmed that Dick Pound will visit the UCI's headquarters next month. The WADA chief had blasted the governing body in the past in relation to doping, most notably telling the Guardian newspaper in October that "cheating goes on under the supposedly watchful eyes of cycling officials, who loudly proclaim that their sport is drug-free and committed to remaining so. Based on performance, they should not be allowed outdoors without white canes and seeing-eye dogs." Somewhat predictably, this statement led to greater tension between the UCI and Pound. However former President Hein Verbruggen spoke with the Canadian at the Winter Olympics in Torino and extended an invitation for Pound to visit the UCI in Aigle and talk about their anti-doping measures.
"He is going to visit us on the 12th of April," confirmed McQuaid. "He is coming here to see what the UCI does in the fight against doping. We feel that we probably do the biggest job of any international Federation in that fight, but he has made public statements contrary to that. So he is coming to Aigle, we will show him around and explain to him what we do, and asking what we can do better, if anything.
"Hopefully it will improve things," he continued. "Hopefully, as a result of this meeting, he will also stop making the kind of public comments that he has made about the UCI and its attitude towards dealing with doping in the peloton."
In a related topic, McQuaid also defended the UCI's recent threat to fine and/or suspend licensed riders if they continued to compete in unsanctioned events. As reported by Cyclingnews on March 17, the participation of banned rider Tyler Hamilton in the Criteriums @ Stazio series was what prompted the move.
McQuaid feels that the UCI is fully justified in this decision, and says that some quarters of the press haven't been fair in their coverage of it. "It was claimed that the UCI is coming down heavy on Hamilton for riding a race," he stated. "I feel that it was reported quite badly in some sections of the American media because, at the end of the day, if the rider is suspended he is suspended. He shouldn't ride and he knows he shouldn't ride against licensed riders. It wasn't a question that the UCI came down heavy and made threats - we were made aware of the facts and therefore we have to react. We have to ensure that the rules are followed, by riders and by Federations."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'