UCI fury as Tour put under French jurisdiction

PARIS (AFP) – The International Cycling Union (UCI) have threatened sanctions against riders and teams competing in this year’s Tour de France after organisers announced Tuesday that the race will take place under the jurisdiction of the French Cycling Federation (FFC).

The decision follows a long-running dispute between the two bodies which stems from whether race organisers including ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), who organise the Tour de France, or the sport’s governing body, the UCI, have the final say over who rides in their races.

As with the Paris-Nice race earlier this year, the 2008 Tour will be organised under the authority of the FFC with the country’s anti-doping agency AFLD in charge of doping controls.

“We have asked the FFC that the Tour be organised under their authority. The AFLD will therefore be in charge of the doping tests before and during the race,” Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme said.

The UCI, meanwhile, slammed the move as “a bad decision for cycling” and judged it as “extremely regrettable for the sport and the unity of the cycling family”.

“It is not correct that ASO leaders, backed by the FFC, preferred to make the announcement during a press conference before warning the international federation beforehand,” the UCI said in a statement.

“It constitutes additional evidence of the ASO’s wish to no longer take into account the authority of the UCI concerning international cycling.”

And they warned that riders and teams could face sanctions for competing in a race being run outside the UCI authority.

“Riders and teams by competing will expose themselves to sanctions through the fault of ASO leaders,” the UCI said.

So, UCI … are you going to ban 200 professional cyclists from racing in events that ARE on the UCI calendar, thus depriving those races of the very cyclists that make them a success? Do you not realize that ASO actually has the power here?

If the UCI sanctions cyclists, more races will seek sanctioning from national federations, rather than from the UCI; because the races want riders.

The UCI is becoming increasingly irrelevant … and carrying through on a threat like this will do your cause more harm than good.

Unfortunately, until the riders get involved, there’s not going to be a resolution.

Here’s a scenario. All the teams that have been invited start the Tour. The UCI announces sanctions mid-way through the race.

What should the riders do? Do they strike against ASO, backing the UCI, and refusing to race? Or do they continue to ride, backing the organisers’ rights to invite whom they choose? Regardless, unless the teams act unanimously, the issue is not going to be resolved.

Multiple (and competing) governing bodies will emerge. Cycling will lose its status as an Olympic sport. More sponsorship dollars will flow away from the sport … and we can all get back to just riding our bikes.