Change Cycling Now founder Jaimie Fuller talks to Cyclingnews about Greg LeMond's presidential bid, Michael Ashenden's anti-blood-doping solution and other issues arising from CCN's Charter of the Willing.
CN: Let’s start with the big headline arising from your London summit, LeMond for president. That’s not as clear as it first seemed.
JF: It was never about Greg LeMond for president. That came out of the French newspaper, Le Monde, and it spread from there.
If you look at what we said in our press conference, and then subsequent to that when Greg was interviewed, it was only about him serving in an interim president role, if required. Naturally, we want it to be required. The purpose was to ensure two things. It wasn't for him to perform the normal presidential duties, to go around and wine and dine and sew up the votes and all that stuff.
Firstly, it was to make sure that there would be full co-operation with the independent commission. Understandably, we are concerned that information could disappear, or change or what have you. We felt that it was important to have an independent person in there who has nothing to hide, no axe to grind or anything to cover up. We felt that it was important that we had somebody with that perspective in that role.
Secondly, it was to oversee the search for a new president. Now I know that that’s not exactly as per the UCI’s constitution.
CN: No, it's not. The UCI's Constitution has a specific line of succession in the absence of the President, which is to the senior Vice President, Artur Lopes. Within the rules, there's no role for someone like Greg LeMond, not without waiting for the annual Congress in September, or forcing an extraordinary Congress before then.
JF: Absolutely. But one of our desires is to break the chain of self-feeding, self-serving and I’ll call it corruption. It’s not corruption in the normal sense of the word, it's a corrupted process. We feel that the president of the organisation needs to be a professional and independent.
We were advocating that Greg would oversee the search for the right person. Greg’s the first one to admit that the president's role is not for someone like him, number one, and number two, he doesn’t want to do it anyway. He's got business interests in the United States. He wants to stay involved with cycling and there’s no way he can do that in a role like that.
CN: This is where some confusion arises. Greg LeMond is seen to have similar conflicts of interests that others are accused of having. As do others involved in the Change Cycling Now group.
JF: It's hard to find anybody who has a desire to lead change that isn't conflicted somehow. Maybe conflicted is too harsh a word.
CN: It's the Caesar's wife thing we're talking about here I think. It's not necessarily about real conflict, it's about the perception of conflict.
JF: If you take that to its ultimate conclusion it means that you just grind into a sense of inertia, because nothing can happen in case there may be perception of conflict.
If you take my position, for example. I was faced with the decision that, if I'd said I can’t really be seen to do this because it could be perceived as bring a PR stunt. or maybe I could be perceived to have an ulterior motive, then I shouldn’t do it. In my opinion, that would be detrimental to what needs to be done. It’s not like there’s a plethora of people scrabbling to do what I’m doing.
CN: This is true. But I think you have to accept that you and Skins are inextricably linked, publicity for you is publicity for the company. And there's a perception at least that Skins has – certainly in the past – what can best be described as an aggressive marketing strategy. You’ve had your knuckles rapped by the advertising standards authority.
JF: I can’t change the genesis of this story. It’s linked to the Skins journey.
The first step was a blog I wrote to Lance Armstrong, when he said he wasn’t going to fight the USADA case. I wrote it on my Skin’s blog, and I had no idea we would be where we are today when I wrote that blog. It was the first blog I’ve ever written. All it said was either fight it or confess, don’t leave it hanging.
Then I was so upset with the response, or the lack of response and the lack of leadership from the UCI that I published an open letter to Pat McQuaid. And that said either support USADA or step aside in favour of somebody else who is not conflicted to do so
Then there’s there court case. No mater who I sit down with, they're all asking me about the court case. And that’s another pressure point on the UCI, and that’s part of my strategy.
CN: The Change Cycling Now group’s tactics are one way to take that opportunity. David Millar has suggested an entirely different way of doing it. He's said that things can only change from within, that change can’t be forced on the UCI, it’ll have to want to change. Are you reaching out to people within the organisation itself, Management Committee members or people who can influence the UCI?
JF: I’ve attempted to have dialogue with some people and I’m meeting with some people in the next few weeks. For instance, I'm in Colorado this week to meet with people from USA Cycling.
I don’t agree with David Millar on this. I think that this thing has shown itself to be so wrong and so heinous that it needs a bloody big shake up. I mean cultural change within. You can’t have cultural change within without some big changes.
One of those changes, like I've said before, is to try to break what I've called this corrupt system of self-feeding, and self-serving and self-electing. And I know that that can’t be done today under the UCI’s Constitution, I know that. And that’s part of the problem. You know better than me who is supposedly the next president …
CN: … I've heard the same name everybody else has heard, but after recent events maybe that needs to be questioned ….
JF: …well everybody says to me, and I don't know the individual, but everybody says to me that he will be way worse than what we've got.
CN: In that case would you not be better off working with somebody who might be capable of making changes? Is there any way at all that, taking a leaf from the Northern Ireland peace process, Paul Kimmage and David Walsh can play Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to Pat McQuaid’s Ian Paisley, that they can sit down with him and work together?
JF: That’s a question you’ve got to ask David and Paul, I can’t answer for them. But I can tell you this, as you know we’ve advocated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And Truth and Reconciliation is hugely complex. Who do you offer it to? Everybody assumes it's just riders but it's not, it's support staff and directeurs sportif and that. And then you get into administration.
I’d be pretty interested if Pat McQuaid turned around and put his hands up and said, 'You know what, I've got a story to tell and I'd like to participate in Truth and Reconciliation myself'. It's not my decision whether he stays or goes. I can advocate and agitate. But if he wants to show whatever it is, contrition or transparency or whatever, then whoever it whose call it will be would be would have to take that into account. Because I do believe that there have been improvements since 2005.
But there are still those cultural issues that are going on in that organisation and those cultural issues, they have got to change. And we've been saying that the only way to change those cultural issues is by bringing in a new guy at the top. But if somebody can convince us it doesn't need to be like that, then of course we're going to listen.
CN: Let’s move on to the comments Michael Ashenden made at your press conference in London, to the effect that there are doubts in the minds of some about Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France victories, and that he is proposing an anti-doping solution that will produce a Tour winner next year over whom there will be no doubt …
JF: … with respect to blood doping ..
CN: Aren't we just effectively redefining doping, by limiting it to blood doping?
JF: This is something that I can't comment on because I'm not technically proficient enough. I say with respect to blood doping because Michael made that caveat. I understood that what he was saying was there are other ways of controlling the non-blood stuff. My role in this has been to act as a catalyst, I'm not an expert, my role has been to reach out and try and get people who I can work with, who could contribute to identifying the problem and proposing a solution,. I don’t think that it’s unreasonable for me not to be technically proficient.
I think it’s important to stress what Michael said. He said the problem is that everything that Bradley is saying was said by Lance Armstrong and that’s what we, as a group, want to be able to remove. From a rider’s perspective, if you go and win the Tour de France and the first thing people do is ask you were you doping, that must be dreadful. Which is why I think Gianni Bugno was so positive about what we're proposing. We were proposing to Gianni [who was at the meeting representing the interests of the CPA] that this was a solution for the Tour de France, and it was interesting that Gianni said he’d like to incorporate it into the Giro and the Vuelta too.
CN: Let's move on to the other point about doping that came out of your meeting, and this was the call in your Charter of the Willing for anti-doping tests to be carried out by a body independent of the UCI. Do you have someone in mind for that role, maybe someone like WADA, or SportAccord …
JF: … [laughs] You’re trying to trap me now! No, definitely not Sport Accord. Even someone as not in touch with cycling as me can say no to SportAccord!
This is another one for Michael Ashenden to elaborate on. He did talk about some organisations, some Swiss-based independent organisations. At a very simple level, there are just three things involved here: who’s going to be tested; when are they going to be tested; and what are they going to be tested for.
CN: Ok, let me suggest a more realistic candidate to carry out the testing. Over the last few years the UCI have been preparing the CADF to be spun off as an independent entity. Is it possible that the CADF could be the independent body that takes charge of anti-doping?
JF: We’re talking about possibilities here, speculation.
I get frustrated with some of this. Some of the guys said to me, 'You know Jaimie, there’s nothing truly spectacular about your Charter, we could have put it together over a beer in the pub.' And that's a valid comment, but it's not one I agree with. We didn't sit around playing Angry Bird for twelve hours. There was a lot of discussion. I’m frustrated at a high level that the things we’re talking about are, to me, commonsense, and I ask why haven't the UCI been doing this? Why haven't they been communicating and explaining? I think what we’ve done – and other recent events - has lit a bloody great fire under them. Suddenly there’s been a plethora of public relations activity going on there. They've needed to, to a certain degree, otherwise it's just the same old same old.
CN: With regard to the Change Cycling Now group, so far we've all been referring to it as a group but just who exactly are its members?
JF: Can I just clarify a couple of bits? This has all moved so quickly, happened so quickly. There’s been an element of discussion around whether we should formalise the organisation, should we put in place some structure and how should we do that. I preferred not to formalise an organisation. When you formalise an organisation it involves a load of position holders, secretaries and all that sort of crap. I fear that it also will suppress a degree of creativity and of flexibility. I'd like to have a virtual organisation, a virtual movement. I want us to be united at a high level about our vision for the sport and about our priorities and particularly about doping. There are other things that need to come into it, you could list ten things that need to be addressed, women’s cycling, non-pro categories, you could list a whole bunch of stuff.
What I don't want to do is to have anything that people feel they have to toe the line with in their opinions. I want people to be able to express their opinions. Naturally, I want people who are part of the bigger picture and I think it's only when we get those different opinions that we're going to be able to come up with the right way forward. So I’m not calling it an organisation, or a group, I’m calling it a movement.
There are other people who want to be part of it and that's great and we'd like other people to be part of it. But it doesn't mean that we're going to hold massive six-monthly meetings and have five hundred people in a hall. It doesn't need that. It's more a nebulous thing. Anarchy is probably the wrong word but there is a slightly anarchic streak when we're talking about the degree of change that we need to happen because of the nature of the problems that are involved.
Organisation, to me that means vested interests. I've heard all sorts of stuff, that Oleg Tinkov's funding me because he wants to remove the head of the UCI and it's nothing like that. This is just a mouthpiece to get smart, articulate people who have a united vision, to be able to articulate what they think needs to be done. And that opens us up for a lot of criticism, because as you know unity is very important in some of this stuff. I accept I'm going to have to deal with that if that's the way we go. It's something I need to consult with the other guys on.
CN: Jonathan Vaughters was at your meeting in London representing the interests of the AIGCP, and Gianni Bugno was there representing the interests of the CPA, but does that make them group members?
JF: No not necessarily, not necessarily. Sometimes you’ve got to sit down with people you don't necessarily agree with even on a high level in order to understand better where they’re coming from.
I want to very careful here that we don’t become just another mouthpiece for vested interests by not being diverse enough. If you look at the people we had gathered around the table, I think it was diverse enough.
CN: In terms of diversity there were some interesting gaps in it. There were no current riders on the panel, there was no one representing the interests of the women's peloton, there were no race organisers.
JF: You know what I’ve already said about the lack of riders. And I know that I’ve copped a lot of stick over David Millar. He was absolutely the first person on my list. I reached out to somebody and was told, categorically, that he was not available, he was going to be in Tucson and that could not and would not change. And so I did not particularly appreciate when his Tweet came through on the Monday night, or the Tuesday night, I can’t remember which one, to say that not only would he have loved to have participated, but he was in London, at the Rapha party. And I’ve taken that up with the person I originally spoke to about David, and I’ve made my feelings very clear. Because I look like a fucking idiot. And I understand that.
I attempted to reach out to women riders too, and I did that through Bike Pure as well. I wanted to put the women riders' problems on the agenda. After I started trying to reach out to them I then spoke to a couple of other guys involved with what we’re doing and they said – and I agreed with them – that we would dilute our message if we tried to incorporate too many topics. Ultimately, we have to stay on target, we can address the women's thing later. I then went back to Andy from Bike Pure, and I said sorry Andy. And, by the way, by that stage he’d been knocked back by some big names [in the women’s peloton].
CN: And the race organisers?
JF: We reached out to Michele Acquarone [of Giro d’Italia organisers RCS] and got a direct response that he would not participate. I have the email here: 'I would like to thank you for your kind invitation but unfortunately I cannot attend to your meeting in London.' So we definitely had contact with Acquarone. Christian Prudhomme [of Tour de France organisers ASO] we couldn’t get.
CN: You probably have to go through the Luxembourg government.
JF: [laughing] No, I think you’re wrong there mate, I don’t think that works either.
Michele Acquarone did email them on our behalf, so he helped us to try and get to ASO and still we got no response from them. I do understand, we all understand, that the only game in town is ASO.
CN: But that’s not the only game in town. You had a presentation about the other game in town at your London meeting, the proposal from the World Series Cycling group. Where do you stand on that?
JF: We don’t stand anywhere, it's not our job to endorse them. I was approached and the comment that was made to me was, 'if you guys are getting together, you're evidently going to come up with plans to fight doping, you’re going to need to have a funding plan, these are the first questions people are going to ask you, how you’re going to pay for it. We’ve got some really exciting ways of funding doping and would like to come and talk to you about them.'
I agreed for them to come in and make a presentation. It was a one way street. We asked questions, but they just did a presentation. They did ask that it be kept in confidence and I had to respect that. We have no connection to, no relationship with, Zdeněk Bakala [from Omega Pharma-Quick Step] or Jonathan Price [from the Gifted Group], but it just seemed to me churlish not to listen, if somebody said 'we’d like to come and talk to you about how we can help fund this fight against doping.'
CN: You had Jonathan Vaughters at your meeting in London, representing the interests of the AIGCP. He’s a proponent of franchises for life as part of the solution to doping. Is this something you have an opinion of?
JF: No. We didn’t discuss franchises.
I understand that people are saying that this was all behind closed doors, and I didn't announce it up front. I had a strategy, which was to be able to come out with half of the picture on the Tuesday before the summit and the rest after. I wanted to be able to play our cards very carefully, as far as the UCI were concerned. I understand that I’ve been open to accusations of a lack of transparency. That’s just the price to be paid to do the first meeting. But now it’s all open, it’s out there, I’m happy to be open about everything.
CN: Let’s go back to the Charter of the Willing. In that you call for an independent investigation of the UCI. You were rather gazumped somewhat when the UCI announced their Independent Commission, ahead of your London meeting. You’ve been invited to participate in the UCI IC but you're not happy with its independence, is that right?
JF: I’m not completely convinced yet that it is set up solely with the purpose of getting to the complete truth. We’ve seen previously, both in cycling and outside of cycling that investigations and commissions can be set up to be whitewashes. And we have every right as a sport to be paranoid about this, to make sure that this does not happen again.
I am dealing with the likes of USADA and WADA and listening to them and I think it is very wise to take a lead from those guys, to be sure that this is set up to get to the truth. Our position is really simple: we’d love to participate and we’d love to co-operate, we genuinely would, but if USADA and WADA cannot be satisfied that this will not a whitewash then we will not participate or co-operate either.
CN: So your participation is contingent upon WADA/USADA?
JF: Correct. And I’ve made that very clear to everyone.
I believe that WADA are in discussions with the lawyers. I don’t know exactly who with, but they’re in discussion to get a sense of comfort, particularly around the terms of reference. They’ve identified some significant holes there.
CN: Can you identify those holes or do we have to wait for WADA to do that?
JF: We have to wait for WADA.
CN: Okay. Let’s got back to something you said about the scope of the investigation. You said you want it to get to the complete truth. Will that, for example, resolve the confusion around the Parc St Cloud races, or the death of Arthur Linton, or are we talking about the much more recent past? To put it another way: where is myth allowed to stand and where do we begin to ask questions?
JF: What concerns me, personally, is the stuff that happened on the watch of the current leadership of the UCI. By that you could go back to the early ‘90s I guess.
CN: From the beginning of Gen-EPO then, effectively.
JF: If that’s when that began, then yes. For me it’s about the truth of the organisation we have and the leadership we have. Whether the leadership have misled the organisation. So that comes down to Hein Verbruggen’s time, and it comes down to a whole raft of allegations about what happened on his watch and subsequently what happened on Pat McQuaid’s watch.
Again, it's not for CCN to prescribe all the detail. We just believe, in principle, that in order to move forward we've got to move on from the past. And if you want to do that Zero Tolerance will not facilitate people telling the truth. The best way to do that is to have some sort of Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I've already said, my passion is all sport, not just cycling, and there are implications for all sport from what's going on. I get really scared when I hear statements like 'If you’ve ever had anything to do with doping you’re fired,' because we know what the upshot's going to be.
We are pushing for Truth and Reconciliation to happen and we are pushing specifically for amnesty. There was a lot of discussion around the table whether amnesty was the right thing, or whether it should be a diminished punishment. We know that six months is the minimum under the WADA code. There were people who thought that three months would be appropriate. At the end of the day most of us agreed, and even the ones that didn’t agree agreed to agree, that any barriers to the truth should be pulled down, and we see this as not being about punishment or blame, it’s simply about truth and that’s why we said we want to see an amnesty. And we believe that can happen through WADA, they have to sign it off obviously.
CN: One of the barriers is the culture of the sport, the mobility of riders and staff, with everyone having to work with everyone else in the long term. People don’t want to make enemies.
JF: Another word for that is omertà.
CN: I’m talking about fear more than omertà. The latter comes down to a corrupted form of respect, what goes on in the peloton stays in the peloton. What I'm talking about here are people being realists, knowing they have to work with other people further down the road.
JF: And there’s a lot of people in that boat. And that's why I think if it was done right, if there was a true purging, then a lot of people would be in the same boat. And that’s why it’s got to be a cultural change, and drawing a line in the sand. I know that sounds easy and it isn't
CN: This is where I get confused by what you’re proposing. You’ve just used the word purge and we’ve been talking about tolerance and reconciliation.
JF: When I use the word purge I mean to purge all the shit and the bile and get it all out. We’ve seen from the guys that have already come out and they’ve been talking about the great weight that was taken off their shoulders when they could finally tell the truth.
It’s like an infection of the soul. You can’t keep sticking a band-aid on it, it will continue to fester. You’ve got to cut it out. And I think at a high level, we have an opportunity to genuinely cut it out. That’s what I mean by purge.
CN: To wrap this up, you’ve said before that your lawyer reckons you have a better than evens chance of winning your legal case against the UCI. How would you rate your chances of success with Change Cycling Now, and how would you define success?
JF: That’s a good question, how do you define success. I was asked this on Sunday by a senior person in cycling administration.
Any progress is one form of success. I keep coming back to the people running the organisation, because I don’t think that you can genuinely implement some of the things, such as Truth and Reconciliation, without having a change in leadership, and without having change of culture within the UCI.. So, for me, I think they’re inextricably linked.
What’s needed then is a totally independent investigation to get to the truth, and we can discuss and argue about the definition of what the truth covers. That's number one.
Number two is a change in leadership, whether that change in leadership is immediate or whether that change in leadership happens next September. But critically linked to that is who, because it won’t be a change of leadership if the goals of the person leading the UCI are the same as today, if it's still going to be 'we won't fight doping, but we're going to fight scandal.'.
Then we're talking about removing the whole anti-doping function from the UCI.
The big one for me is Truth and Reconciliation. I really believe that that’s critical. So if you want my definition of success, that’s it.