Jaimie Fuller wants to change cycling now!
“This is an absolutely genuine situation where we’ve sat down and said, ‘You know what? F— this! There’s been too much shit going on for too long and somebody has got to put their hand up and do something about it.”
Jaimie Fuller is a passionate man. He came to cycling because the company he owns started making products for cyclists. And now he’s at the helm of an organisation called ‘Change Cycling Now’. He is the owner of Skins, a sports clothing company that has an association with cycling since 2005 when they started marketing their compression wear to cyclists. In subsequent years, a specific range of clothing was released. He admits that cycling accounts for “only about 10 per cent” of his core business but he has become a key player in the sport in recent months.
Several serendipitous events have led to the creation of ‘Change Cycling Now’. He recently visited the office of RIDE Cycling Review and admitted that the title “took all of 15 minutes to come up with” but that doesn’t mean it’s a half-baked proposition. The name spells out the intentions of the group and we began what became a long discussion by getting a time-line of how it came to be that he has found himself in cahoots with the likes of Paul Kimmage, David Walsh, Travis Tygart, Greg LeMond, Michael Ashenden and several others who are attempting to find a better way to manage the sport of cycling.
This is part one a long interview and it’s an opportunity to explain his motivations, as well as explain his perspective on innuendo that has been thrown his way…
[In part two he answers the critics...]
Jaimie Fuller interview (part 01): the need for change
18 December 2012
– Interview by Rob Arnold
RIDE Cycling Review: How long did you think about it before starting up the Change Cycling Now movement?
Jaimie Fuller: “The sequence actually started back when USADA said they were going to strip Lance Armstrong of his results since 1999 and he said that he wasn’t going to fight it. After that, I wrote a blog and the theme was: either fight it, or confess – you’ve got to do one or the other. I was very careful about it. I didn’t want to be accusatory… at that time, it was still important to be very delicate.
“USADA had just come out with its decision but they hadn’t given any data so Armstrong was still maintaining the whole ‘witch hunt’ routine. And that’s what that blog was all about: please, don’t go the third route – either fight this thing or confess and tell us what you’ve done.
“Then I sat back and watched and the next key moment was the [release of] the ‘Reasoned Decision’ and the funny thing was, I was in Austin with the guy who was a sports doping historian at the University of Texas, professor John Hoberman. I’d looked him up because I’d seen him on a BBC program called ‘The race that shocked the world’ about the 1988 [Olympic] 100 metres final. Of the eight people in that final, six had been done for doping. I wrote to Hoberman and told him, ‘The next time I visited the States, I’d like to meet with you – this is who I am, this is what I do…’ and lo and behold, we had this fascinating five-and-a-half hour meeting and halfway through, while sitting in a restaurant, up on television screen comes Travis Tygart who is releasing all his information. It happened whilst we were talking, that was when he released the ‘Reasoned Decision’.
“Shortly afterwards, I flew from Austin to Los Angeles for a transfer before flying back to Sydney. I had a few hours to spare and while waiting for the second plane, I downloaded USADA link. In transit, I read all the stuff in the report and by the time I arrived in Sydney it was clear that this was no witch hunt.”
RIDE: So you hadn’t read, for example, [Tyler] Hamilton’s book and therefore it was – more-or-less – all ‘new’ to you?
Fuller: “It was ‘new’ in terms of the detail but let me put this way: if I’d read Hamilton’s book I probably wouldn’t have been as definite as I was after having read the USADA document. It’s one thing hearing it from Hamilton but it’s another thing hearing it from 17 riders. And the thing that really did it for me was George Hincapie.
“I figured, for George to say what he said… you can’t even start to question it. I don’t know why but I just felt that his relationship with Armstrong was so strong that there was no way he’d make that up.
“I only know him through reputation. But him having ridden with Armstrong for everyone of those races [the Tours de France from 1999 to 2005] for me he represented the ultimate in the honest lieutenant and supporter – the guy who was always there for him.
“So, by time I landed in Sydney, it was clear. And I sat back and waited. I waited for the UCI to do something. A week went by and they did nothing. And the silence was the deafening; that was when I wrote that open letter to Pat McQuaid which was ‘Do something. Say something. The sport is suffering, you have to come out and support USADA. The evidence is overwhelming but you guys are saying nothing. And, you know what? If you’re so conflicted that you can’t, then step aside and let somebody come in who can do it.’”
RIDE: When you wrote it, was it our of fury or frustration?
Fuller: “Both. I was upset that the UCI was sitting by while the sport was imploding. When a sport is in trouble like this, everybody should turn to the governing body for leadership. You look for the leader to put their hand up with a torch saying ‘follow me guys, I’ll show you the way!’
“Having waited so long only to hear nothing, it prompted me to act out of anger and out of frustration.”
RIDE: Were you acting as a fan, a sponsor, an observer?
Fuller: “I wrote as both a fan and a sponsor. Or, rather, a fan and an industry participant.
“But then I thought, ‘What am I going to do with this?’
“After all that L’Equipe had done, I thought the paper would be a good medium to spread my message. We contacted L’Equipe, gave them the copy and we brought a full page [for 35,000 euros] on which my note to McQuaid was to be printed.
“I thought, ‘I need to get the ball rolling… I’ve got to get the message out.’
“Originally I wanted to put it in a Swiss newspaper. I was hoping to get editorial. The most dominant ones [in Switzerland] and the German language ones but the UCI [HQ] is located in the French area so one of my guys in Switzerland said, ‘Jaimie, why don’t we put it in a French newspaper?’ And then, bingo: L’Equipe.
“We sent it to L’Equipe, went through their legals and had to change only a couple of words to make sure it was clear that it was advertising and make sure it didn’t come across as editorial on behalf of L’Equipe. It was going to press on a Thursday night and, at 8.20pm, it got pulled. We were told informally by our contacts at L’Equipe that it was pulled by the very top of the tree… Marie Odile Amaury – that was the way that it was presented to us.
“Fortunately, my Aussie guys [from Skins] had convinced me to run it in the Sydney Morning Herald and we did. It was on page two… I say ‘fortunately’ because we had sent out a press release saying that it had been published in a national newspaper.
“It ran in the Herald and then, boom – everybody wanted to talk. It was unusual for a sponsor to demand that the head of a federation resign. That was my attempt to get some action from the UCI and that happened on the Thursday evening and Friday… the ‘Reasoned Decision’ announcement happened on a Wednesday [10 October 2012]; I landed in Sydney on a Friday morning and my open letter was published the following Friday.
“At the end of the week after that the UCI announced that they would hold a press conference the following week. In other words, it was three weeks less one day after the USADA released their file!
“In my open letter, I figured it was best to appeal to the better nature of McQuaid, so he could retain a sense of integrity, a sense of honour… but, for fuck’s sake: do something. I got that wrong.
“Eventually, there was the press conference and I thought it was appalling. Effectively, it became very clear that – and I’m positive this is the case – if Travis Tygart hadn’t published all the data behind the ‘Reasoned Decision’, I believe the UCI would have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. They would have contested the USADA findings…”
RIDE: …because you think they’re so complicit with Armstrong?
Fuller: “Absolutely. Well, I think it’s a combination of things: they are complicit with Armstrong and they’re concerned about scandal.
“The problem that I see with the UCI is that it’s so focussed on eradicating scandal, not eradicating doping. And they’re two very different things.
“I believe McQuaid was snookered, Travis [Tygart] did that by making all the information public. Therefore, in his press conference, he did the absolute bare minimum that he could. He could not contest it. The evidence was so overwhelming. Not only that, but it was out there in the public domain.
“They said, ‘We’re not going to contest it.’ He then questioned some of the USADA motives and actions – which I thought was mindboggling – and then, if you remember, he went on to call whistleblowers ‘Scumbags’…*”
[*As pointed out in an email from Kenny Pryde, who was at the meeting in question when this reference was made, McQuaid did say the word 'scumbags' about Landis and Hamilton but his quote has been taken out of context. Pryde was at the gathering and he offers the official version of events surrounding that quote: "23 minutes in, having just finished speaking about David Zabriske and not having been asked another question, McQuaid continued: “And he (Zabriske) could have said no to Bruyneel and Armstrong at the time, but he didn’t say no and he could have done and should have done. But, these guys, you know, I don’t have any…(trails off). Another thing that annoys me is the fact that Landis and, and.. (pause)…Hamilton are being made out to be heroes…(pause)…they are as far from heroes as, you know, as, as..light and dark, as light and day. They are not heroes, they are scumbags, excuse that...maybe you shouldn’t use, (or) write that down, but all they have done is damage to the sport. You take Hamilton who, who, em, and we called in (to the UCI) and he said that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, it’s your machines that are wrong, I’m not doing anything wrong. And we said ‘We’re going to target you and we are after you. We are on to you and we are after you.’”]
RIDE: And we’ve just seen on the weekend [15 December] that Stephen Swart was awarded the title of ‘New Zealander of the Year’ because he was a whistleblower. So he’s a ‘scumbag’ and an exemplary citizen!
“On another tangent, I voted for Travis Tygart to be the Sports Illustrated ‘Sportsman of the Year’. I think what he’s done is amazing. There is a cabal of people who think it’s dangerous for the sport and bad for it, but I think that’s absolutely crap. I think it’s the greatest thing that could have been done. We should not be scared of the truth.
“But having watched McQuaid and heard him during his press conference, it got me really angry. That’s when I sat down with a couple of my guys and we had a little bit of a strategy discussion. We came to a conclusion: ‘Right, we’ve tried appealing to the better nature of these guys. What else can we do because they’re just ignoring the open letter.’ I’d also couriered it to Pat McQuaid, but got no acknowledgement. So we started thinking, ‘What can we do?’
“My CEO actually said, ‘What we should do is look how much money we’ve spent on Bike Pure – because we’re partners of theirs – and we should sue the UCI for what we’ve spent with them.’ And I said, ‘Well, why stop there?’”
RIDE: How much had you invested in Bike Pure?
Fuller: “Not much. Less than $10,000… but this was to be more of a symbolic gesture.
“We talk constantly about our brand being underpinned by the values of the true spirit of competition and integrity in sport – and we have cut ties with teams and sponsored athletes who have shown that they don’t embrace those values, like the Melbourne Storm. When we decided to articulate those values, we knew we were going to come up against obstacles. We thought the obvious one would be cycling and it might be, for example, a team in which a rider has been done for doping. What would we do in that situation? We said that, unlike most brands who quietly back away – silently terminating an association hoping that it disappears – we would go the other way. We wanted to be very loud and we’d say, ‘We fucked up. We’re sorry. We’ve made a mistake but we’re fixing it and this is what we’re doing.’ That’s why we dealt with the Melbourne Storm the way we did and I got some death threats because of that. It was quite an unpleasant process, a most nasty situation at the time.”
RIDE: What sort of investment was it with the Storm and did you have a clause in your contract that allowed an easy escape?
Fuller: “First of all, the investment was a very small amount of cash and a lot of product. The Melbourne Storm deal was one of the best commercial deals that we’ve ever done and we’d only been involved four or five weeks when it all blew up and ended.”
RIDE: And you broke the relationship because of some meddling with the salary cap?
Fuller: “It wasn’t an individual case of salary cap cheating. It was really systemic throughout the club and it was a cultural issue. And we said, ‘It doesn’t matter how good the commercial deal is, we would be hypocritical as a brand if we espouse the values that we have but continue in this relationship with the Melbourne Storm. It would be so hypocritical that we wouldn’t do it. That’s why we terminated within six hours. It was a very quick thing because you cannot be exposed to being a hypocrite.
“We’d shown that that was the way we had to behave. And when you look at all the things that had happened – all the past history… it was too much.
“If there’s a rider in, for example, ‘Team X’ who is caught doping, we’re not going to dump [our association] with ‘Team X’ unless the team is complicit and there’s managed doping going on. If the team is complicit or engaged in a cover up, that’s when you dump the team.
“Getting back to the Melbourne Storm and if we had anything in our contract: the very first words in our contract set out our brand manifesto about the true spirit of competition. In all our contracts that’s the very first passage as it goes in the preamble…
“The true spirit of competition entails anything to do with cheating, respect, tradition, match-fixing all that sort of stuff – anything that you would think would go to the heart of the true spirit of competition.
“So if you fast-forward to the discussion I’m having with my CEO – about having tried the open letter and so on – we recognised that we were getting no where. After the suggestion relating to Bike Pure, I noted that it was a very unusual situation where there was a governing body that is complicit in these breaches and there was us [Skins] as a sponsor with the values that we shout about. We could, therefore, argue that we could be forced to exit cycling completely.
“And if we’re forced to exit cycling completely, we should be able to look at how much of a loss would we crystallise? And we should be able to say, ‘Well, we should get compensation for that loss’.
“So, we went and saw a lawyer in Zug, Switzerland [where Fuller’s office is based] and I explained the situation and he said, ‘You guys have got a very good case but I can’t deal with this because it has to be done in the canton where Aigle [and the UCI HQ] is. He put us on to some French-speaking Swiss lawyers. We tried briefing them but they had no idea about cycling, so you could imagine what it was like trying to get them to understand the concept. That was on a Wednesday but on the Thursday, [Paul] Kimmage hits back at an action by McQuaid, [Hein] Verbruggen and the UCI. Obviously, he’s got a lawyer who knows exactly what’s going on. So on the Friday morning we were straight on to him… and that’s why it was able to be dealt with so quickly because on Friday afternoon we served the letter of demand.
“We briefed Kimmage’s lawyers. He then explained the processes in Switzerland: 1. You issue a letter of demand; 2. You go into a conciliation process with a court-appointed arbiter and, if you don’t get a resolution there, then; 3. You go to court.
“When we worked out roughly how much we were talking about – a couple of million dollars – we also said at the time that we didn’t want to be open to accusations of trying to have some kind of get-rich-quick opportunity. We stated that anything we get out of the action would go straight back into ‘clean’ cycling… somehow.
“There was never any question of, ‘How do we make money out of this?’
“That was it, and the whole point about it was that we’d tried speaking to these guys [from the UCI] in what one would ordinarily think is the right language – of integrity and honour – but we had to resort to speaking to them in a language they can understand which is money. Hence the court case.
“We did that and again generated lots of interest from the media. Then I was approached by a guy in London who told me that he wanted to put on a conference specifically around what needs to be done to combat the doping problem in cycling. He owned some conference organising business and he asked me if I’d be prepared to go to London and talk as a guest speaker. I said, ‘Sure.’ He told he had Dick Pound and a couple of others lined up. Three days later I get contacted by his commercial guys asking me to sponsor the thing for 100,000 pounds.
“It became obvious what it was: these guys were just trying to make a buck. But the thing was: it planted, in the back of my mind, the idea to try and get a group of people together to discuss the matter.
“I sat on that for a while and then reached out to some people. I started with Travis Tygart and David Howman and told them what we were doing, what I believed in, and what I thought needed to happen. And they were interested in what I was doing as a sponsor and where I wanted to go with this. I asked if they would be prepared to talk to us from the USADA and the WADA perspective if I was able to get a group of people together. They said that, as long as they could do so from their independent perspective – ie. that it wasn’t an endorsement of what we were doing – that they would be prepared to do that.
“Then I started to think, ‘If I’m going to do this, who else am I going to get?’
“Ideally, I’d have representatives from each of the stakeholder groups. The first one that I thought of was, of course, the riders. And the first rider I thought of was, of course, David Millar. I reached out to him through someone involved with his team and told him that I had a date in mind but I was told that he wouldn’t be available because he was at a training camp in Tuscon.
“I then reached out to others. I spoke with Hoberman at the University of Texas. I spoke to Mike Ashenden to explain who I was and what I was doing. I got hold of Paul Kimmage, David Walsh…”
RIDE: And when did [Greg] LeMond come in?
Fuller: “Well, he was one that I wanted to target but I didn’t know how to get him. Eventually I tracked him down through his wife and I sent Kathy a bunch of details about the idea.
“All this happened inside of two weeks. It happened very quickly. And this is also indicative of the passion that everybody had for it; they were prepared to drop everything and go to London to do this. It was all from the heart.
“Once I articulated what we were about and what the motivation was behind it and the fact that I was prepared to put my hand in my own pocket to make it happen, then it all came together rapidly.”
RIDE: What sum of money did you end up throwing on the table?
Fuller: “About $100,000 [Australian]. I didn’t pay for appearances. I paid for the venue, for PR agencies, for support staff, for flights – but not for everybody as some paid their own way… and it was one of those things: once I started the ball rolling, I had to keep it going. I didn’t sit down and plan it and state that I was going to spend ‘X’ amount of dollars. I was just going to do it.”
RIDE: The way you describe your whole involvement in this is that it’s all just happened – it came about through no deliberate planning.
RIDE: The assumption would be, ‘Here’s Jaimie Fuller, he wants to make some money, gain publicity for his brand, get a little bit of notoriety…
In the course of you explaining it all, I’ve made a few notes about things to talk about. First up, there are cynics out there saying that compression is just a placebo – that it’s a load of crap. And that you’ve founded a company that’s based around a product that has no real function beyond being clothing.
Fuller: “Let’s do this in sequence and start with what the motivation is because a cynic would also say, ‘Ah hah! If I go back to when he [Fuller] wrote his first blog it’s clear that he had a whole series of steps in mind: he’s going to do a blog, then an open letter to publicise the shit out of that, then he’s going to sue them, then he’s going to bring it all to crescendo by getting a bunch of people together for a conference.”
RIDE: But it’s happened that way…
Fuller: “Yes, but step two happened after step one was done. I didn’t even think about step two until after we’d done step one. And likewise for step three and step four.
“When we did the legal action, I had no intention of trying to bring everybody together later in London.
“The sequence is: the legal action, the guy contacting me planting the seed, me thinking ‘Fuck, that’s a good idea – I should do that’…
“To take it one step further: once I got everybody on board and I had a quorum of 12 people, I wrote to everybody and we did a little presentation – a one-page bio on each person who was going to be there – and in my covering email, the last thing I wrote was: ‘I’m very, very aware that there will be accusations that I’m doing this for publicity for Skins, therefore there will be nothing showing any Skins branding anywhere for this conference.’ And that’s how it was. And there was no discussion of Skins. I was very cognisant of that fact.
“I’ve had people say to me, ‘Surely Jaimie, you should have decided not to do this because of the potential accusations.’ To which I said, ‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding.’
“I sat back and said, ‘Somebody’s got to show some leadership. And, just in case somebody wants to point a finger at me, I’ve got to say: no, I’m not going to do it.’ But I know that the sport will continue to suffer. This is my last throw of the dice to prevent Skins from pulling out of cycling.
“I can’t unweave either myself or the brand from this story. I am who I am. The brand is what it is. And what we’re doing is very complimentary to our brand ideals. That’s a fact.
“The bottom line is that Skins is funding it all but at the end of the day cycling is less than 10 per cent of our business. If this was a cynical PR exercise, I’d be picking on something else, thanks very much. Cycling is a very small part of our business.
“This is an absolutely genuine situation where we’ve sat down and said, ‘You know what? Fuck this! There’s been too much shit going on for too long and somebody has got to put their hand up and do something about it.
“I’ve copped an enormous amount of criticism. And I can understand the degree of cynicism particularly when you look at what’s happened in the past. I’ve been accused of being non-transparent even though I’m jumping up and down about the transparency needed from the UCI. And apparently I’m going off and having this ‘Secret’ meeting – a ‘Secret Summit’ – but it’s not as though I was going to go out and telegraph my strategy to the UCI. I did exactly what I wanted to do: get these people together, and keep it as quiet as possible until as late as possible, and then our press release strategy was: one on the Tuesday beforehand when we showed half of the greater picture, the balance was presented on the Thursday, then the meeting was on the Sunday. And the press conference on the Monday.
“We have not authority. We have no teeth. All we can do is try and identify what the problems are, come up with some really good solutions, and then publicise the shit out of it. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
Part 02: the issue of integrity…
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