International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid has indicated that cycling's governing body will move to tighten the rules on rider transfers following a series of off-season controversies involving new British squad, Team Sky. McQuaid's comments came on Saturday at the Tour Down Under where Team Sky is making its professional debut.
"Since other teams believe that Sky has acted quite aggressively in its efforts to attract exactly the riders it wanted, we should perhaps tighten the rules on transfers. It's something we're looking at right now" McQuaid told AFP on Saturday.
Despite both riders being under contract with their previous employers, Team Sky secured British riders Bradley Wiggins from Garmin-Slipstream and Ben Swift from Katusha. While settled behind closed doors, the transfers had raised the ire of management at both Garmin and Katusha, who had been reluctant to let go of their now former riders.
While UCI regulations set out penalties for both teams and riders who breach the terms of existing contract, the settlement achieved by Sky meant the British squad was able to avoid action from the UCI. Concerned about the precedents that may have been set, McQuaid said an overhaul of the current regulations could take place as a result of the turbulent transfer season.
"We probably need to tighten controls and rules of the transfer system," he said. "We're working because there have been many controversies about this last winter."
Although changes could be made to the UCI's regulations, McQuaid indicated that a compromise would need to be reached in order to ensure a level playing field for all teams.
"There is no [easy answer], because when a new team comes on the market ... as Sky last year, it must have 25 or 30 riders and most of them are already under contract, of one form or another," he said. "It's hard for them to arrive at a good level and take only the riders that are available out of contract."
While Sky was able to achieve its coups, the case of Japan's Fumiyuki Beppu has shown that the current regulations do hold some clout. With a year remaining on his contract with Dutch team Skil-Shimano, Beppu signed a second contract with Lance Armstrong's RadioShack squad. The US ProTour team has acknowledged the existing contract, leaving Beppu in limbo as Skil continues to assert the validity of its current contract.
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