The UCI has made necessary amendments to its Code of Ethics, regarding harassment and abuse, which took effect on November 1.
The three main changes include; 'anonymity of plaintiff' to better protect the victim’s privacy, dedicated reporting channels for filing complaints, and teams are now encouraged to identify a person of contact who has the right to collect information relating to situations of sexual harassment and abuse, and take action with the UCI Ethics Committee on behalf of a team or rider.
The UCI Code of Ethics was last updated in 2016, but the need for amendments was spurred on by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recent introduction of the Safeguarding Toolkit, launched ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. The toolkit aims to assist National Olympic Committees (NOC) and International Federations (IF) in the development of policies and procedures to safeguard athletes from harassment and abuse in sport.
The UCI discussed possible amendments to its own Code of Ethics at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, and subsequently made the changes to its 30-page document this autumn.
News of the amendments comes on the heels of a damning investigative report published in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant on Thursday, which detailed accusations of abuse laid out against Cervelo-Bigla owner Thomas Campana.
The long list of allegations against Campana includes bullying, fat shaming and intimidating riders. He is also accused of insulting riders in front of other team members, pulling riders from races if he didn't like something they had done, ignoring medical concerns such as a concussion and an episode of heart palpitations, trying to control riders' diets and not paying prize money. The offences detailed in the de Volkskrant article took place, predominantly, during the 2015 season.
In 2016, 10 riders and staff members of Cervelo-Bigla, including Iris Slappendel, Carmen Small, Vera Koedooder and Doris Schweizer, reportedly took their complaints about Campana to the UCI Ethics Committee, but half withdrew when they found out that their names would not be anonymous and that they would be public knowledge to Campana.
In addition, the events in the indictment happened in 2015 and under an older version of the Code of Ethics that did not include teams or staff.
Cyclingnews reported, that previous to the updated 2016 version, the ethics code only applied to UCI staff, commissaires, technical delegates and members of the various commissions and councils. Therefore, there was no legal basis to sanction Campana and he could not be held liable in the offences he was accused of in the de Volkskrant report.
In a brief interview with Cyclingnews, Campana denied all the allegations saying: "What has been written is definitely not our side." He also said there was more to the story, and documentation to back his claims, but would not comment further.
While the UCI cannot discuss this particular case with the press, the sport governing body pointed Cyclingnews to the new ‘declaration of recognition of ethical principles’, and the three changes made to its Code of Ethics concerning harassment and abuse, which are meant to provide additional protections to all employees of UCI Women’s Teams.
Declaration of recognition of ethical principles
The UCI has made it clear that it intends to increase the protection of women in cycling after announcing its commitment to gender equality within the sport, as part of its Agenda 2022, under President David Lappartient.
The agenda includes a number of new structural initiatives that Cyclingnews reported on in June. The UCI promised to enforce a stricter 'Code of Conduct' a declaration to be signed by all employees of UCI Women's Teams, with the aim of raising awareness of harassment.
Lappartient told Cyclingnews that it should be considered as a 'declaration of recognition of ethical principles' that applies to all staff members of UCI Women’s Teams. He went on to outline how riders or staff members of teams are meant to interpret the declaration and how to make any complaints.
"To be precise, it is a declaration of recognition of ethical principles, which was voted unanimously by the UCI Management Committee at the urging of the UCI Women's WorldTour Committee, on which all players in women's professional road cycling, notably teams, are represented," Lappartient said.
From a regulatory point of view, however, the declaration is based on the current UCI Code of Ethics, introduced in 2016. Lappartient told Cyclingnews that any licenced rider, victim or witness of a breach of the Code, can refer either to the UCI Ethics Commission or to the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), depending on the nature of the violation.
"This declaration will be compulsory and will be included in the UCI Women's Teams Registration Guide for the 2019 season. In the near future, the declaration should apply to all UCI teams,” Lappartient said.
UCI Code of Ethics: harassment and abuse, and three fundamental changes
The UCI Code of Ethics is a 30-page document that serves to define core values for behaviours and conduct within the UCI and its affiliates. At the Innsbruck World Championships, the UCI added two new amendments; regarding physical and mental integrity (harassment and abuse), and prevention of manipulation of events.
Pertaining specifically to harassment and abuse, however, there were three additions made to the code that aim to better protect the complainants.
Article 26.2 explicitly provides for the anonymity of the plaintiff for cases of a sensitive nature. The article states;
“Upon request and/or if the circumstances so require, the sender of the complaint or denunciation shall have a right for his/her personal information as well as the personal information of the victim of the alleged violation of the Code, if any, not to be disclosed to the parties. In particular, pertaining to allegations of breaches of the rules of conduct laid down in Appendices 1 and 2 of the Code, the UCI Ethics Commission shall consider the particularly sensitive nature of such cases when deciding the appropriateness of not disclosing the personal information of the persons concerned."
Prior to this amendment, some complaints would not go forward because there was no protection of anonymity for the victim or plaintiff under the Code of Ethics. The introduction of a new ‘anonymity of the plaintiff’ section in the Code, means that athletes can feel more secure that they will remain anonymous, at least for the initial steps they take to lodge a complaint.
Unfortunately, the plaintiff's identity cannot be protected throughout the entire process because, at a certain point, the evidence of the abuse must be presented in order for the Ethics Commission or Disciplinary Commission to make a final decision or sanction. However, the Code of Ethics now aims to protect the anonymity of the victim as much as possible.
Contrary to a criminal proceeding, a victim who files a complaint to the Ethics Commission is not granted the qualification of being a party to a case, meaning they don’t have access to the files after the case has been lodged against the accused.
Victims and witnesses will be heard by the Ethics Commission, but only the accused individual is considered a party to the proceedings. That may be a cause for concern and frustration for the person who lodges a complaint because they have no access to the final and full decision. However, Cyclingnews understands that out of courtesy, the UCI Ethics Commission informs the victim of the outcome of the case, without releasing all of the details.
Appendix 1: reporting channels and person of contact
Appendix 1 provides specific rules relating to harassment and abuse, including definitions of forbidden behaviour as well as procedural rules. There are two additions to Article 3.2.
Firstly, there will be dedicated reporting channels for filing a complaint and providing relevant information. Direct channels of communication include the Ethics Commission. However, the decision was made to also include the President and Athlete Representatives of the Athletes’ Commission, Medical Director or Medical Commission, and UCI Legal Services.
Athletes can now choose who they feel most comfortable to receive their complaints, and that person will address how best to lodge a formal complaint before the Ethics Commission. A formal person of contact has been taken on but has not yet been announced. Full contacts (email addresses) will be available and listed in the Code of Ethics in due course.
Secondly, and in combination with the 'declaration of recognition of ethical principles', teams are encouraged to identify a person of contact having the right to collect information relating to potential situations of sexual harassment and abuse, and take action with the UCI Ethics Commission on the team's and/or riders' behalf.
There have been requests to bring in an ombudsman, and the UCI is considering this as an option, however, any alternatives made to the Code of Ethics needs careful consideration.
If the UCI Code of Ethics is breached, sanctions are referenced in Articles 36 and 38.4, which explain the respective competence of the UCI Ethics Commission and UCI Disciplinary Commission, and list the sanctions available.
The list of possible sanctions includes a reprimand, fine up to a maximum of CHF 1 million, the return of awards, withdrawal of title, suspension, ban from taking part in any cycling-related activity, or specific cycling-related activity, event or meeting organised by the UCI or any of its affiliates.
The UCI's Code of Ethics is an evolving document, and it needs to be adapted to unique and sensitive cases brought forward by victims of harassment and abuse in cycling. It's the only safeguard athletes have from the kind of allegations laid out against Campana in the de Volkskrant report.