Cycling Australia National Performance Director, Kevin Tabotta has told Cyclingnews that the organisation will wait until early next year to fill the position vacated by Matt White after the professional men's road coordinator was sacked for his involvement in what USADA described as "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen".
Speaking in Melbourne last week, Tabotta explained that investigations by the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority were the priority for Cycling Australia.
"At the moment I've asked our CEO Graham Fredericks and our President Klaus Mueller that we just sit on it for a little while, there's no rush," Tabotta told Cyclingnews. "The worlds aren't until September next year. I would much prefer to allow us to get through these challenges that we have right now."
White took up the position with Cycling Australia in January 2011, replacing Neil Stephens who had been in the role for the previous 12 years and had resigned to concentrate on his role in developing the GreenEdge project. That appointment almost immediately came under review after White was dismissed by Garmin-Cervélo at the Tour Down Under for breaches of the team's medical referral policy having sent Trent Lowe to the former US Postal team physician Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral at the Sports Institute of Valencia in April 2009. Cycling Australia reconfirmed White's appointment saying that White's referral was "nothing more" than "an error of judgement". Later in 2011, White devised a cunning plan for the UCI Road World Championships which delivered Matt Goss to a silver medal after the sprinter's campaign appeared doomed after he suffered a stomach ailment which brought a premature end to his Vuelta a España.
Cycling Australia also has funding proposals into the Australian Sports Commission that will have a bearing on the next Olympic cycle. Tabotta is hopeful that Cycling Australia will have a better understanding of the situation "early in the new year."
Tabotta admitted that White will not be easily replaced.
"Matthew White was a great leader of the troops. He had great engagement with the professional men's group. Those 35 guys... He has the ability to pick up the phone, email, or connect with every single one of those guys and that's an essential part of what we're talking about," said Tabotta.
"We've got guys spread out all over Europe and having that familiarity and professionalism through someone like Matt to work with those guys was a huge advantage for Australia. He was very good at his job, and that's the reality. He's very hard to replace but that's our challenge now."
Allan Peiper was added to the Cycling Australia elite men's selection panel in March 2012, joining Tabotta, with Rik Fulcher and Brian Stephens in a clear bid for transparency given White's ties with Orica-GreenEdge.
Whether Peiper will be joined in spearheading the group in Europe remains to be seen with proximity to the racing hub a large part of the equation. It was a prospect Cyclingnews raised with former Saxo - Tinkoff directeur sportif Brad McGee shortly after he announced his resignation from the trade team. McGee who is now based in Australia for the foreseeable future was doubtful over his suitability for the Cycling Australia role.
"I believe you need to be very up to date and current in the European world of cycling," he told Cyclingnews. "Australia's come so far when they go into battle at the worlds or at the Olympics. They deserve the best. And I believe that is someone that, maybe not full-time, but is often in the trenches at the major races and knows what's going on. Cycling is just as much as winning a political game when it comes to worlds or Olympics as it is sheer effort. It's very complex. There's no way you can do it from the other side of the world."
With McGee back in Australia, only Peiper (BMC), Stephens (Orica-GreenEdge) and possibly Nick Gates are left in Europe in equivalent positions. Gates also announced he was leaving Saxo - Tinkoff but it is not yet known where his next move will be. Matthew Wilson retired from Orica-GreenEdge to take up a role as sports director with the team at the Vuelta a España. His comparitive inexperience in such a role would have to come as a consideration.
Tabotta agreed that a European base for the candidate was highly desirable for the right candidate.
"I think certainly for a period of time the person needs to be [in Europe]," he told Cyclingnews. "We can all pick teams off Cyclingnews results. And there're a lot of experts out there who pick Australian teams based on what they see on Cyclingnews and that's my comment all the time. Results are only one part of the equation. If you don't feel the events and hear from the athletes, see what's going on on the road and understand their role every day - and that's why we had Matt and Allan Peiper playing that role this year. They see the riders in action. Then we had independent selectors who can use their expertise with the results and question.
"In terms of the leadership of that group, I really believe that that person should be in Europe but if we want to use Australians for that role, the most effective way to do that is to use an Australian already based out of a team in Europe and there's not a lot of them. We're confident we'll come up with some solutions, even if they're interim to start with. We don't have to pick someone tomorrow. It might be a slow burn on something like this to get it right."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.
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