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Changing Pro Cycling: The Perspective of Hein Verbruggen

Editors’ Note:  Hein Verbruggen ran professional cycling for most of the past thirty years – first, as President of the predecessor FICP starting in the mid-1980s, then as President of the UCI from 1991 through 2005, and he has been Honorary President right up to the present.  Verbruggen ruled the sport with what many viewed as an iron fist, and he was often a lightning rod for controversy.  However, the fact is that he oversaw pro cycling during a long period of increasing visibility and international growth.  And despite the accusations of his detractors, no one has had more international executive experience in cycling. Verbruggen recently initiated a dialogue with  the Outer Line  to express his opinions regarding our 2013 “Roadmap to Repair Pro Cycling” report, and then agreed to a detailed discussion and interview.  Our interest in talking with Verbruggen was not to revisit the...

Doped Athletes as Enhancement Models for the 21st Century

  by John Hoberman   (Note:  John Hoberman is the author of   MORTAL ENGINES: The Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport (1992),  TESTOSTERONE DREAMS: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping (2005),  and many articles on the history and sociology of doping.  He is a professor of Germanic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.) By now even those of us who take little or no interest in sports are aware that many elite athletes have become dependent on doping drugs to perform at the world-class level. In the media, the doping scandals that have erupted in Major League Baseball, the Tour de France, and in various Olympic sports are routinely presented as resulting from transgressions committed by corrupt athletes who have betrayed their athletic communities. The incentives to dope that are built into the system by politicians, sports federations, and corporate sponsors...

Nineteen Eighty-Three

Brian Cookson, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), has stated that its newly-minted Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) will look approximately fifteen years back in time, as it attempts to understand and address cycling’s modern doping dilemma.  This time frame neatly coincides with the low points of the Lance Armstrong era, but the root causes go much deeper than one man.  Fifteen years may help the UCI to pinpoint and investigate the sinister activities and possible collusion that occurred in cycling’s darkest days, but the CIRC must review about thirty years of history to truly understand and fix the corruption that has poisoned the sport, and to bring about lasting reform. The strange, totalitarian world envisioned by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four  might seem like pure fiction, but cycling embarked upon its own “Cold War” and dystopian journey in...

Pay Now, or Pay Later?

The Union Cycliste International (UCI) has recently announced that it will convene an “Independent Commission” to probe into the calamitous doping era in pro cycling over the past fifteen years – rather than implement a more complex and comprehensive Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which is favored by many observers as the most thorough process of truly cleaning up the sport and establishing a new future direction. One of the probable reasons for leaning in the direction of this still in-development Independent Commission (IC) approach is the UCI’s desire to focus in on understanding and clearing up any role that the agency itself may have had in contributing to corruption during the doping era.  This is a laudable goal, and clearly an important component of understanding and correcting past indiscretions.  But another reason that the UCI may be leaning towards an IC is...

The Forgive Me Roadshow

Lance Armstrong has staged a series of publicity events over the last few weeks in which he has reconciled with key victims of his past behavior.  Whether in the company of Emma O’Reilly, his former team masseur whom he at one time branded an “alcoholic whore,” or Christophe Bassons, a former French bike racer whom he helped push out of cycling for speaking out against the doping culture, the formula is contrived and predictable.  Armstrong claims that he is primarily a victim of the times – and maybe to some extent his own personal shortcomings – while simultaneously appealing for sympathy and forgiveness. This “Forgive Me Roadshow” is an image-improving longshot to sway opinions ahead of key rulings in Armstrong’s ongoing legal troubles.  He also appears to be laying a trap for his biggest critics: if they respond with anger or reject his apologies, it reinforces his argument that...

Cycling in the Balance: A Talk with Michele Acquarone

(Note:  Michele Acquarone directed the Giro d’Italia for Italian sports company RCS Sport until he was unceremoniously dismissed December 3, as a result of the on-going financial investigations at RCS.  Acquarone has vigorously and consistently maintained that he had no knowledge of the financial irregularities; he hopes to stay in pro cycling, in some capacity, and have an important impact on its future.  Steve Maxwell caught up with Acquarone in mid-December and talked about new business models for cycling, and the detailed economic and structural recommendations in the Roadmap to Repair Pro Cycling report. Regardless of Acquarone’s future role in pro cycling, there is no doubt that he brings a business-like, energetic and innovative voice to the sport.) Former Giro d’Italia boss Michele Acquarone looks at cycling from a businessman’s perspective.   Unburdened by a long history in...