Jaimie Fuller: “I don’t see why the UCI is so powerful…”
Jaimie Fuller has copped criticism because he’s got no history in sports administration yet he’s traversing the world talking up the need to change cycling now. In part three of an extended interview with RIDE, the agitator explains who believes the key stakeholders are – the riders, the teams, and the race organisers – and why he believes that a truth and reconciliation charter is the best way forward following the USADA’s ‘Reasoned Decision’.
Jaimie Fuller interview (part 03): Small steps forward…
– Interview by Rob Arnold
Jaimie Fuller: “There are plenty of people firing arrows at guys like Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis but I don’t think you should disregard what they’re saying. But there are people like Pat McQuaid saying that we shouldn’t even listen to those people because they’re being forced to talk.”
RIDE: But that’s why cycling got into the situation we’re in the first place…
Fuller: “Correct. It’s a bit like having a damn and some cracks appear and they lead to more cracks and suddenly there are more and more. That’s what I feel we’ve got now in cycling. If the first cracks had to be forced by Jeff Novitsky and Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, then so be it. But we need more.
“That’s why, if you look at our Truth and Reconciliation charter, it’s easy to recognise that it’s so important.
“Priority number one is the sport, priority number two is eradicating doping, then surely the first step has got to be: let’s understand what’s been going on. And the best way to do that is to hold a truth and reconciliation commission and to incentivise not just cyclists but also soigneurs, directeurs sportif, administrators, media, sponsors… Pat McQuaid to give their honest account of what has happened in the past.
“I would love to say to Pat McQuaid, ‘What do you know? Here’s an opportunity… and you’ve got an amnesty.’ It would be wonderful to offer it to Lance Armstrong or Johan Bruyneel.
“The only area where I acknowledge that there is definitely difficulty [with a truth and reconciliation] is with the doctors. We talked a lot about this in our conference in London and there’s a real unease about doctors being offered amnesty to talk about this stuff when they have been breaching their hippocratic oath, when we felt they needed to be turfed out of the sport.
“But it needs to be looked at pragmatically and our view is quite simple: it’s not about blame and it’s not about punishment. And if you get that through your head, you can move forward. It’s not about blame or punishment, it’s about truth. If you want to incentivise these guys to tell the truth, you take away all reasons for them not to tell the truth. Therefore an amnesty is the best option. I know it’s going to be unfair to have somebody come in and tell you all about his doping and he gets no punishment whereas George Hincapie and the others who did so with USADA and copped six months… I’m terribly sorry, but this is a different process for a different time and a different purpose.
“The problem, of course, is that you can’t do that under the WADA code today. First of all, you need to get the executive behind it; David Howman and his team would need to propose it to the board so sign off on an amnesty.
“David told me himself, he said: ‘Jaimie, I’ve got a couple of challenges – one, I’ve got to get it through my board; and two, if we were to do it, then the next question is going to be from all the other sports – well, what about us?’
“And my attitude is: great! Because this is not just a cycling problem – we know that. But we can’t get defensive and the moment we [cycling] start answering questions with, ‘Don’t look at us, go and have a look at tennis…’ we lose. So we’ve got to say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got an opportunity to lead the way here and show that we can take this sport with its credibility and its reputation shot to pieces and – through truth and recon, through removing the testing from the UCI which is another one of our charter points – we’ll find that in three or five years we’re going to have a really strong sport.’ Money will come pouring in and we’ll be able to turn around to all the other international federations and say, ‘See how we can take something from the shitter and turn it into the leading light.’ That’s my objective. If I can play a part in that, I’ll be as happy as a pig in poo.”
RIDE: Who do you see as a viable replacement alternative to Pat McQuaid? Do you have greater ambitions yourself?
Fuller: “Oh god no! No way in the world. It couldn’t even be ‘Plan F’ in a coincidental sequence that’s up to about ‘Plan D’. I’ve got a business to run. I’m involved in Skins – I own Skins. Even apart from the fact that I would be completely and utterly incompetent – please put that in bold letters – I could not do that!
“I’ll tell you what I’d like to see: a re-framing of that role. There are two key roles here: one is president and one is director general. The problem is that the president role, if it is to remain that way, needs to become a non-executive honorary political position. That should not be the role that runs the UCI. What I would call the CEO would be the director general.
“From what I see, Pat McQuaid in his role as president is also effectively the CEO. You’ve either got to say, if we want that president role to retain those powers, that person has to be a professional not a political elected person from the management committee which is a busted process where Burkina Faso or Guam has the same vote as Australia or the United States. That’s why you see guys like Pat McQuaid running around the world and spending a heap of his time in third-world countries wining and dining these guys – it’s to sure up his power. It’s busted!
“I don’t mind if it’s there in the political sense and you’ve got a professional from outside the sport who comes in to administer and run the bloody thing. You either de-politicise that role or you take away its executive powers. The problem, of course, is that to do this you’re asking the UCI to voluntarily remove their own powers.
“But if you start again and look at what’s the best thing to do by the sport, we need to break this cycle of this cancerous corruption of the culture which stems from the IOC model: one country, one vote.
“If you ever read this brilliant book by Barbara Smit called ‘Sneaker Wars’ which talks about Adidas and Puma and Horst Dassler, the son of Adi Dassler, when he was running Adidas he didn’t give a flying fuck about the shoes or the apparel or anything. All he did was hang around [Juan Antonio] Samaranch, Primo Nebiolo, Joseph Blatter… and his role was as a sponsor. [Horst] would sponsor all these third-world and Eastern Bloc countries and he’d have their votes in his pocket and he’d turn around to Juan Antonio Samaranch and say, ‘I’ve got 25 votes. Would you like me to help you with your election to president? And, if I do, what’s in it for me?’ You know what I mean? That’s the culture of what we’re talking about that has pervaded itself down into the UCI. And what we’ve got is a bunch of people in a management committee – and they’re not all fucked, don’t get me wrong – but there are a number of people who are there not for their love of the sport but they’re there because they’re political animals.”
RIDE: One thing that surprises me about all this relates to something that came out before the ‘Reasoned Decision’. It’s that the UCI handed over their commercial properties [“broadcast coverage of the UCI road, track, mountain bike and BMX world championships as well as the UCI Track Cycling World Cup for the years 2013 to 2016”] to [Infront Sports and Media’s Philippe Blatter], ‘Sepp’ Blatter’s nephew. That didn’t seem to gain any traction in the media. Is Change Cycling Now paying attention to details like that or is it concerned with doping alone?
Fuller: “Not yet. It’s doping now and the next step will be women’s cycling. We can’t attack everything at once. And frankly, I’m just not familiar with exactly what’s gone on where. I do understand that they [the UCI] have created a different commercial entity, which I think has got some question marks over who the owners are, that enjoy some of the assets – or management rights for some of the assets – of the UCI.
“My believe is really simple: the UCI should be personified by a person with a blazer and a clipboard – that’s the role of the UCI, they’re there to administrate and to coordinate insurance and membership.
“When you’ve got situations like we’ve seen, where individuals within the UCI are making shitloads of money through all sorts of nefarious operations, you’ve surely got to sit back and go, ‘Hang on a tick! This is wildly inappropriate!’ When you’ve got them taking $125,000 payments from Lance Armstrong… how farcical is that? And when Lance says, ‘Oh it’s because I wanted to support clean cycling…’ Fuck! What does that mean?”
RIDE: Well, it is a comedy isn’t it? Or is it really a tragedy?
Fuller: “It’s both. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be a comedy.
“But, getting back to where we started… I’ve got to sit back and let this happen and not say anything?
“As I’m learning this shit, I’m thinking: ‘Well somebody has got to say something!’ Where is everybody else? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a combination of apathy and lack of courage, frankly.”
RIDE: The problem with cycling – and I guess it relates to all sports – is that ‘everyone’ considers themselves to be the most important element. In this instance let’s consider the parties: the rider believes they are the most important, the race promoter too, the administrator, the sponsor, the fan, the media… everyone believes that their part in the game is pivotal.
Fuller: “My view is this: the three key groups are the organisers, the riders and the teams. For example, I’ve been asked about my opinion of Jonathan Price and [Zdenek] Bakala’s ‘World Series of Cycling’ and I say, ‘It’s not up to CCN to have a view on that.’ We have no view on that whatsoever. The people who should be deciding what’s going on are the organisers, the riders and the teams.
“As far as the fans are concerned: they’ll come and go. You fuck it up, the fans will go; you do it right, the fans will come.
“There’s an obligation on each of those stakeholder groups – the riders, the teams and the organisers – to build the sport because the fans make it healthy. They make their money because the fans want to both participate and watch cycling. If they fuck it up, they suffer the consequences. So I don’t see why the UCI is so powerful. I really don’t.
“If you simplify it all and look at anti-doping, if I was part of the riders, the teams or the organisers – and if I’d bought into the concept that the best thing we can do is do everything to eradicate doping, then I would be demanding that whatever had to be done was done.
“They’re all putting money into it: the riders are funding it, through a percentage of their prizemoney, the organisers are, the teams are… and there’s this bunch of incompetent/corrupt people sitting at the UCI who have in the past shown a terrible culture of cover-up, even enabling Armstrong and his cronies to do what they did.”
– By Rob Arnold
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