USA Cycling today issued a clarification on its enforcement of the "forbidden races" rule, and the list of riders barred from participating in "unsanctioned" events now includes all riders with a UCI license.
A letter from UCI President Pat McQuaid to USA Cycling makes it clear that rule 1.2.019, which prohibits all UCI licensed riders from competing in events that are not sanctioned by a national federation, should not only apply to riders on UCI-registered teams, as a USA Cycling spokesman previously told Cyclingnews, but to all riders who hold a UCI license. Athletes who participate in a "forbidden race" can be fined by their national federation and/or suspended up to 30 days.
In a statement released simultaneously to its members and to the media, USA Cycling attached a copy of McQuaid's letter and said it has no choice but to enforce the UCI directive.
"The UCI confirmed that Rule 1.2.019 and the related sanctions in 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 must apply to every UCI-recognized national federation in the world," USA Cycling claimed in its statement. "Therefore, as a member of the International Federation, USA Cycling will comply with the direction from the UCI."
The UCI letter from McQuaid, dated March 26 and addressed to the presidents of all national federations, stated that the international governing body had become aware that some federations were experiencing difficulties in the interpretation and application of rules relating to "forbidden races." McQuaid's clarification was unambiguous about what the UCI expects from the national governing bodies.
"No license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI," McQuaid stated in the letter to national federation presidents. "Article 1.2.019 applies to all license holders, without exception. It does not solely concern professional riders or just the members of UCI teams, contrary to certain statements in the press and on some blogs."
The enforcement switch from banning just riders on UCI teams to any rider holding a UCI license expands the pool of prohibited athletes to also include amateurs and Masters racers, a move that will largely affect the growing number of cyclo-cross and mountain bike races that are not sanctioned under USA Cycling. Road races in Oregon, which are sanctioned under the independent Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, would also be affected.
McQuaid stated in his letter that the intent of the "forbidden races" rule is to protect the work and resources that national federations put into the development of national level events. He said the rule also promotes uniform regulation and allows for a "federative" structure, something which he said is inherent in organized sport and which is essential to being a part of the Olympic movement.
McQuaid's letter also offered possible exemptions, which he said generally concern events that are occasional and are most often organized by people or entities that "do not belong to the world of organized sport."
"With the exception of these special cases," McQuaid stated, "the National Federation is not permitted to grant an exemption to a cycle event which is held, deliberately or not, outside the federative movement. For example, in no case should an exception be granted to a cycling event that is organized by a person or entity who regularly organizes cycling events."
Online reaction to the enforcement change was swift and mostly critical.
Mountain Bike pro Barry Wicks, an Oregon-based Kona Factory Team rider and outspoken critic of the rule, voiced his concern on Twitter: "UCI/USAC once again fails to address the underlying issue: Why do race promoters not want to use their product? #freemarket."
Three-time US cyclo-cross national champion and former road pro Tim Johnson used Twitter to question where enforcement of the rule would lead: "Let's see where these brainiacs [at UCI headquarters] in Aigle continue to take the sport, shall we? Plenty of debate surely to follow..."