The line has been drawn, the artillery arrayed, troops are mustered with guns primed. Opposition, in the form of Change Cycling Now, have quickly been marshaling their strength in an attempt to combat a status quo which they argue has failed to properly govern, and has thus brought the sport of cycling to the brink of disaster. The silence, thus far, coming from the office of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has been, as the saying goes, silently deafening. Sometimes silence is a sign of careful contemplation, studious consideration. Other times it bodes ill, a sign of withdrawal, and a mustering of forces before a strike against a perceived threat, or enemy. Sauron quietly built his army behind the wall of Mordor before unleashing it against those who would oppose his rule. Popular culture often mirrors real life, and history presents us with far too many parallel moments.
A healthy organization should welcome the value of well thought-out and considered ideas from concerned and informed sources. But as recent (and some not so recent) events have revealed, the UCI is not well. Talk of cover-ups, lack of control and half-hearted attempts at problem management, unequal prosecution and treatment of riders, suggests a leadership that is unsure of itself and of its role. In its state of illness it has become reactive, rather than proactive. Lack of direction has compounded problems, where a clear and forceful, yet fair response might have put paid to the controversies long before reaching the point they have.
What I have been reading in the larger media suggests the sport of cycling's governing body is coming dangerously close to becoming a king without a country. The nobility is fleeing for greener, less tainted pastures and taking their money with them, the people, without whom there would be no sport, are more disillusioned than ever. Enter the heavy cavalry in the form of Change Cycling Now, who entered the fray just this week. Many of the groups initial members - Paul Kimmage, David Walsh, Michael Ashenden, along with Jaimie Fuller and Antoine Vayer, were previously outspoken in their individual campaigns against the ill-effects that the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs as well as mismanagement, were having on the sport. Add to these original five the likes of Robin Parisotto, Greg Lemond, Gianni Bugno, Jonathan Vaughters, Eric Boyer, Dr. John Hoberman, Jorg Jaksche, Hajo Seppelt, Emma O'Reilly, Andy Layhe, Scott O'Raw, and Festinagirl (who I admit I was not previously familiar with, not being a part of the Twitteratti), and suddenly the possibility for a unified voice and message in the name of clean sport has become real.
Some people may balk, and deride, the idea of individuals who were once part and participant in the corruption, to now have a voice in the process to clean the mess up. Their experience though, as insiders, is what makes their participation invaluable. Their understanding of what took place, how, when, and where will contribute to a more complete picture of the problem. Their experiences, from the inside, that neither you, nor I, nor anyone else looking in from the outside, or at best from a distant amateur fringe, could only hope to speculate about. This group will have no decision-making authority, but make no mistake, whatever message they deliver after this weekend's meeting, will carry great weight. Will the UCI acknowledge the group, consider its message, or will they retreat into a defensive corner? From what I see, there must be change, too much momentum has been built to go back. Nor can the sport move forward without realistically addressing the problems of the past, and putting in place measures to ensure they don't repeat in the future.
For more information, Change Cycling Now does have its own Facebook page. Stories have also been published this week at Velonation, Velonews, the Sticky Bottle, Twisted Spoke, and no doubt many other places as well.