By Shane Stokes
UCI President Pat McQuaid has expressed strong dissatisfaction to the news that ASO and the French cycling federation (FFC) will combine to hold the Tour de France outside the aegis of the governing body this July. Speaking from the IOC meetings being held in Athens, McQuaid told Cyclingnews that he was not impressed by the decision, and that he felt it posed a great danger to the sport.
"My overall reaction is one of great anger that they have decided to take this route," he stated. "They have consistently refused to accept decisions taken by the UCI management committee, and it is obvious that they are out to create another international federation. The contract which they have put out to the teams is a Draconian one, and one which is only going to get worse because it is a one-sided contract and it will be written into their rules as and from next year.
"It is very disappointing that the biggest player in the sport refuses to respect order, refuses to respect regulations. I am here in Greece at a conference with all of the federations from the summer and winter Olympics, and many of them are discussing what is going on with me. Every one of them is in complete agreement that as an international authority, our role is to lay down the rules and regulations of the sport. Yet these guys refuse to respect that."
At a press conference held in Paris on Tuesday, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme faulted the UCI's stipulation that the 18 ProTour teams must be allowed to take part in the race. This is being highlighted as one of the main reasons for ASO's decision to go outside the UCI, but McQuaid rejects that this is a valid reason. He states that the teams agreed amongst themselves that all the ProTour squads should be allowed compete, and that the UCI is following on from that decision.
"They are using the excuse of the 18 teams, but that is not the issue at all. Remember that when we talked about the ProTour last September, the 18 teams came out afterwards and had a meeting with the AIGCP (International Association of Professional Cycling Teams). At that meeting, these races were discussed, plus the fact that they are going onto the Europe Tour and going outside the ProTour calendar. There was a decision taken by the AIGCP that the 18 teams in the ProTour should have the right to participate in the Tour de France.
"That went to the CUPT (UCI ProTour Council) via the two representatives there - at that time they were Roger Legeay and Patrick Levefre - and this was discussed and agreed at the council there. It then went to the management committee of the UCI which has the ultimate responsibility for rules and regulations, and it was discussed and agreed there. That to me is a democratic process, in terms of putting a regulation into place. But ASO refused to respect that regulation.
"This isn't really a question of the 18 teams, they are putting that forward as an excuse. What they want to do is make their own rules. They are talking about having their own rules about radios, they are talking about having their own rules about anti-doping, and the contract that they have given to teams is one-sided and Draconian. For example, if the team has a doping problem in the Tour de France, they have to pay the French federation 100,000 euros. So it is obvious that the French federation are in cahoots with ASO."
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