Following last week's announcement that the Tour de France would be held under the auspices of the French Cycling Federation (FFC), rather than under the control of the International Cycling Union (UCI), the sport's governing body has decided to suspend the FFC through the end of 2008 with immediate effect.
According to a press release, the UCI Management Committee made the decision during its meeting in Snekkersten, Denmark, after a request from UCI president Pat McQuaid. It also imposed a 10,000 Swiss franc fine.
The UCI President criticized the FFC for "a lack of loyalty to the UCI and its members, and for having breached UCI Statutes and Regulations by actively and openly supporting the organisation, outside the UCI framework, of the last edition of the Paris-Nice," according to the statement. McQuaid called the committee's act, "a strong decision that demonstrates that the UCI will not tolerate one of its members flouting international cycling regulations."
The sanction will not affect French riders or events, nor will it exclude the French riders from Worlds or the Olympic Games, however, it does shut the French representatives who are part of the UCI out of the next UCI Congress, and makes them ineligible as candidates for elections. The French representatives will not be allowed to partake in committees and commissions, or the organisation of the World Championships.
The FFC responded harshly to the news, calling the decision "a new escalation in intimidation". It called the suspension a "threat to impose silence all those who do not approve [of the UCI's plans for the sport] without reservation".
The statement from the French federation continued, saying, "This penalty will change absolutely nothing in the serious crisis that currently present in international cycling."
FFC president Jean Pitallier condemned the action, which he called "undemocratic" in that it affected people who were elected by the European Cycling Union.
"This does not mean that I will throw in the towel," Pitallier told AFP. "We must review the ProTour. I ask once again to hold a round table discussion, and one which really listens to the different parties," he added.
Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, Minister of Health, Youth, Sports and Associations and Bernard Laporte, Secretary of State for Sports, Youth and Associations reacted in a press release by giving their firm support to the FFC.
"The French government supports the French Cycling Federation completely in these difficult times," the statement read. "The sanction imposed by the UCI did nothing to solve the current crisis in international cycling. Only dialogue and consultation will do so."
"The FFC was merely applying the law which gives the authority to allow organizers to promote private events on French soil as long as safeguards, including security, are sufficiently provided". It continued, stating that the FFC "has been the only one to defend the interests of riders, too often overlooked in this conflict. It should not be punished for this."