When news broke earlier in 2013 that USA Cycling would be enforcing UCI rule 1.2.019 and the related sanctions in rules 1.2.020 and 1.2.021, which forbid riders in all cycling disciplines from competing in non-sanctioned races, many riders, teams and promoters were unhappy that their opportunities to race would be limited. Even as the UCI clarified the meaning of its rules in a March 26th letter, comments, questions and information - some correct and some incorrect - bounced around the Internet.
Looking to find out more about the rules, how they came to be enforced and their consequences and to answer some reader questions, Cyclingnews approached USA Cycling and the UCI with a different list of questions for each governing body. Below is the resulting Q&A with USA Cycling. Cyclingnews is awaiting a reply from the UCI.
Cyclingnews: Earlier in 2013, USA Cycling told Cyclingnews: "It is important to note that the only riders that are affected are riders that have registered with the UCI on a UCI team. This does not affect mountain bike pro riders who are NOT on UCI-registered teams."
However, the UCI letter USAC shared on Friday, April 5 from the UCI said, "Article 1.2.019 applies to all licence 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."
Why the change in interpretation? In light of the March 26th letter, will USA Cycling enforce the rules against all riders in 2013 or just the riders on UCI-registered teams? Will it apply to unsanctioned races that have already happened in 2013 or just those going forward?
USA Cycling: Some teams and riders complained to the UCI after USA Cycling's interpretation of rule 1.2.019 was sent to the American UCI-registered teams earlier this year. The UCI then sent an email to USA Cycling confirming that rule 1.2.019 applied to ALL UCI licensees.
The UCI also read articles and blogs where riders and others were quoted as saying that other countries were not going to enforce rule 1.2.019 and that USA Cycling was unilaterally and unnecessarily enforcing this rule. Many of those articles and blogs were also incorrect in saying that USA Cycling could grant exceptions to allow riders to compete in non-USA Cycling sanctioned events if it chose to.
In order to clear up any confusion surrounding rule 1.2.019 and to explain what events might be considered an exception, the UCI sent a letter to ALL national federations on March 26 to clarify the rule and their expectations on its enforcement. This will rule apply to all UCI licensees from this point forward. And UCI licensees cannot compete in unsanctioned events that don't meet UCI's very limited exception language. So, contrary to what has been stated and written, USA Cycling can't provide exceptions at will to events that don't meet UCI's criteria.
CN: What does USAC say to its licensed riders who are not members of UCI registered teams and have already registered for non-sanctioned events and made travel plans to them based on the earlier interpretation? Some of those riders say they have emails from earlier this year from USAC confirming it is ok for them to participate in non-sanctioned events.
USAC: They should contact us, we will honor any such earlier confirmations.
CN: How has USAC responded (or how will it respond) to rider requests and petitions against this rule and the call for participation in a meeting at Sea Otter and/or for appealing to the UCI for a rules change?
USAC: Rule 1.2.019 is a UCI rule mandated for all riders who have taken out a UCI license who have agreed to abide by UCI rules and for all UCI recognized national federations to enforce. This is not a USA Cycling rule and USA Cycling has no power to change the rule; so a meeting to discuss a UCI rule change with USA Cycling would be unproductive.
That said, riders are encouraged to contact the UCI to discuss potential rule changes. The UCI has a mountain bike commission and an athletes’ commission on which American [mountain biker and 'cross racer - Ed.] Georgia Gould sits.
CN: What does USAC say in response to the comments from many in the sport to the effect that the sport of mountain biking in North America has always included non-sanctioned events, even at a pro level, and there is a longstanding tradition of pros, developing riders and amateurs competing in such events?
USAC: There is nothing restricting or preventing any mountain bike event from taking out a sanction with USA Cycling. Our permit fee structure is fair and ensures a consistent, level playing field and that events will be run under familiar rules and regulations. When compared to similar products, our insurance is second to none and priced below today's market.
The only reasons not to sanction an event with USA Cycling are if the organizer is: 1) under-insuring the volunteers and/or participants, 2) avoiding the requirement to have USA Cycling licensed officials at the event and the athlete protection policies they enforce or 3) avoiding the USA Cycling RaceClean program.
Some of the mountain bike events that haven't been sanctioned by USA Cycling in the past are boasting significant prize lists, so the USA Cycling permit fee does not seem to be a financial burden for those events. Mountain bike permit fees are NOT based on the prize list.
In fact, the organizer of the Whiskey 50 had an offer from a third party to pay ALL USA Cycling permit fees so that UCI licensed riders could compete in the event. The organizer declined that generous offer.
A USA Cycling event also provides the opportunity and possibility for drug testing in conjunction with USADA.
CN: What is USAC's response to the argument that domestic pro mountain bike riders cannot make a living on the prize money offered only at sanctioned events in the US? Some pros have said they need to participate in non-sanctioned events, such as the Whiskey Off-Road, to make enough money to pay the bills and get the requisite media attention to get/keep their sponsorship?
USAC: Again, there is nothing restricting or prohibiting Whiskey Off-Road and other events from permitting with USA Cycling. We've heard many comments that this rule and its enforcement would kill "grassroots" mountain bike events but the conversation always turns to the pros.
This rule will not affect the recreational racer who doesn't have a UCI license. The pro riders are part of the international structure of the sport. And, USA Cycling spent more $530,000 on mountain bike athlete development and pre-Olympic preparation in 2012. Events that are not sanctioned by USA Cycling don't contribute to that development.
CN: Does the rule apply to categorized riders, who hold USAC, but not UCI licenses? For example, can John Smith, USAC Cat. 1 license holder, race his local grassroots events which are not sanctioned, without punishment?
USAC: The rule applies to holders of international UCI licenses.
CN: Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, where does this change in enforcement come from? Yes, the rules have been there for a long time, but it seems as if the enforcement of them only came into action on a more regular basis last year? Why the change? Did the impetus from within USAC or the UCI?
USAC: USA Cycling received a complaint from a rider about UCI pros on UCI registered road and mountain bike teams competing in the 2012 Teva Games that were not sanctioned by USA Cycling.
USA Cycling investigated and fined the riders involved. We warned the riders and their teams that the UCI rule and its associated penalties in rules 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 would be enforced going forward.
There was continued discussion with teams and riders on this rule after the Teva Games and into the fall of 2012. Some of the UCI teams contacted the UCI for clarification, and UCI confirmed that rule 1.2.019 must be enforced. Again, a UCI licensed rider has agreed to abide by UCI rules and USA Cycling has an obligation to enforce the UCI rules just like every other UCI recognized national federation in the world.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for further coverage of this issue.