Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 5: Rethinking Redistribution in Football - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi recently completed a Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.

 

As one may have gathered from the series thus far, the question that comes out of this endeavour for me, is whether redistribution in football would be better divorced from the transfer system?

In my introductory blog I point towards historical, cultural, and of course the legal explanations as to why redistribution was established, and why it might be held onto despite obvious flaws. In my second blog, I point out how the training compensation and solidarity mechanisms work in practice through an African case study, as well as the hindrance caused and the Eurocentricity of the regulations. The key take-away from my third blog on the non-application of training compensation in women’s football might be that training compensation should apply to both men’s and women’s football, or neither. The sweeping generalisation that men’s and women’s football are different as justification for the non-application to the women’s game is not palatable, given inter alia the difference between the richest and poorest clubs in men’s football. Nor is it palatable that the training compensation mechanism is justified in men’s football to incentivise training, yet not in women’s football.

In the fourth blog of this series, I raise concerns that the establishment of the Clearing House prolongs the arrival of a preferable alternative system. The feature of this final blog is to consider alternatives to the current systems. This endeavour is manifestly two-fold; firstly, are there alternatives? Secondly, are they better?  More...


Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 4: The New FIFA Clearing House – An improvement to FIFA’s training compensation and solidarity mechanisms? - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi recently completed a Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and a Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.

In September 2018, the Football Stakeholders Committee endorsed the idea of a Clearing House that was subsequently approved in October of the same year by the FIFA Council. A tender process commenced in July 2019 for bidders to propose jurisdiction, operation and establishment. Whilst many questions go unanswered, it is clear that the Clearing House will be aimed at closing the significant gap between what is owed and what is actually paid, in respect to training compensation and solidarity payments. The Clearing House will have other functions, perhaps in regard to agents’ fees and other transfer related business, though those other operations are for another blog. It will hence act as an intermediary of sorts, receiving funds from a signing and therefore owing club (“new” club) and then moving that money on to training clubs. Whilst separate to FIFA, to what extent is unclear.

I have landed at the position of it being important to include a section in this blog series on the soon to commence Clearing House, given it appears to be FIFA’s (perhaps main) attempt to improve the training compensation and solidarity mechanisms. As will be expanded upon below, I fear it will create more issues than it will solve. Perhaps one should remain patient and optimistic until it is in operation, and one should be charitable in that there will undoubtedly be teething problems. However, it is of course not just the function of the Clearing House that is of interest, but also what moving forward with the project of the Clearing House represents and leaves unaddressed, namely, the issues I have identified in this blog series. More...

New Event! Zoom In on International Skating Union v. European Commission - 20 January - 16.00-17.30 (CET)

On Wednesday 20 January 2021 from 16.00-17.30 CET, the Asser International Sports Law Centre, in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret, is organising a Zoom In webinar on the recent judgment of the General Court in the case International Skating Union (ISU) v European Commission, delivered on 16 December 2016. The Court ruled on an appeal against the first-ever antitrust prohibition decision on sporting rules adopted by the European Commission. More specifically, the case concerned the ISU’s eligibility rules, which were prohibiting speed skaters from competing in non-recognised events and threatened them with lifelong bans if they did (for more details on the origin of the case see this blog). The ruling of the General Court, which endorsed the majority of the European Commission’s findings, could have transformative implications for the structure of sports governance in the EU (and beyond).

We have the pleasure to welcome three renowned experts in EU competition law and sport to analyse with us the wider consequences of this judgment.


Guest speakers:

Moderators:


Registration HERE


Zoom In webinar series

In December 2020, The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret launched a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. You can watch the video recording of our first discussion on the arbitral award delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the Blake Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) case on the Asser Institute’s Youtube Channel. Click here to learn more about the Zoom In webinar series.

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 3: The Curious Non-Application of Training Compensation to Women’s Football – By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.

 

As recently as September 2020, questions were raised in the European Parliament on the non-application of training compensation to women’s football. Whilst this blog will predominantly consider potential inconsistencies in reasoning for and against training compensation in men’s and women’s football, the questions before the Commission were largely on the theme of disrespect and discrimination. Somewhat unfortunately, the questions raised were side-stepped, with Ms Gabriel (Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) simply stating that: “The TFEU does not give the Commission the competence to interfere in the internal organisation of an independent international organisation such as FIFA.” This might be true in theory, though one might feel some degree of uneasiness if privy to the Commission’s role in the 2001 FIFA regulatory overhaul.

It is currently explicit in the regulations and the commentary, that in women’s football, signing clubs are not required to compensate training clubs for developing players, through the training compensation mechanism that exists in men’s football. Though it is a contentious comment and as will be expanded below, this may not have always been the case.

At Article 20 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), one will find that the principles of training compensation shall not apply to women’s football. Further, in FIFA’s recently released Women’s Football Administrator Handbook (the handbook), it states that disputes relating to training compensation are limited for the moment to male players only.[1]

Regulations on solidarity contributions on the other hand do apply to women’s football, but given transfer fees are not so common, the use of the mechanism is not either. As an indication of how uncommon the activation of the solidarity contribution mechanism in women’s football might be, FIFA reported in the handbook just four claims with the Players’ Status Department in 2016 (three claims involving the same player), and zero since.[2] That is in comparison to hundreds of claims made per season in men’s football, where signing and owing clubs had not fulfilled their obligation to pay the solidarity contribution.

Given the aforementioned, this blog will largely focus on training compensation and how it came to be the case that this mechanism, often presented as critical in the context of men’s football, does not apply in women’s football. To do so, I will first discuss the reasoning advanced in an unpublished CAS award, which one may reasonably suspect played a fundamental role in shaping the current exemption. I will then turn to FIFA’s timely response to the award and the adoption of its Circular No. 1603. Finally, I will point out the disconnect in FIFA’s decision to adopt two radically different approaches to the issue of training compensation in male and female professional football. More...


New Event! Zoom In on Transnational Sports Law - Blake Leeper v. IAAF - 4 December at 4pm (CET)

The Asser International Sports Law Centre in collaboration with Dr Marjolaine Viret is launching a new series of zoom webinars on transnational sports law: Zoom In. The first discussion (4 December at 16.00) will zoom in on the recent arbitral award delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the Blake Leeper v. International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) case.

In this decision, reminiscent of the famous Pistorius award rendered a decade ago, the CAS panel ruled on the validity of an IAAF rule that places the burden on a disabled athlete to prove that a mechanical aid used to compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions does not give them an overall competitive advantage. While siding with the athlete, Blake Leeper, on the burden of proof, the CAS panel did conclude that Leeper’s prosthesis provided him an undue advantage over other athletes and hence that the IAAF could bar him from competing in its events.

To reflect on the key aspects of the decision and its implications, we have invited scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds to join the zoom discussion. 

Confirmed guests

 Moderators


The webinar is freely available, but registration here is necessary.

Last call to register to the 2021 edition of the Sports Law Arbitration Moot - Deadline 1 December

Dear all,

Our Slovenian friends (and former colleague) Tine Misic and Blaž Bolcar are organising the second edition of the Sports Law Arbitration Moot (SLAM).

The best four teams of the SLAM competition will compete in the finals, which will be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on 30th and 31st March, 2021.

This is a great opportunity for students to familiarise themselves with the world of sports arbitration, to meet top lawyers and arbitrators in the field, and to visit beautiful Ljubljana.

Go for it!

You'll find more information and can register at https://sportlex.si/slam/en

Pistorius revisited: A comment on the CAS award in Blake Leeper v. IAAF - By Marjolaine Viret

On 23 October 2020, a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (‘CAS’) rendered an award in the matter opposing Mr Blake Leeper (‘Mr Leeper’ or ‘the Athlete’) to the International Association of Athletics Federation (‘IAAF’).[1] The CAS panel was asked to make a ruling on the validity of the IAAF rule that places on a disabled athlete the burden to prove that a mechanical aid used to compete in IAAF-sanctioned competitions does not give such athlete an overall competitive advantage.

The award is remarkable in that it declared the shift of the burden of proof on the athlete invalid, and reworded the rule so that the burden is shifted back on the IAAF to show the existence of a competitive advantage. Thus, while the IAAF won its case against Blake Leeper as the panel found that the sport governing body had discharged its burden in casu, the outcome can be viewed as a victory for disabled athletes looking to participate in IAAF-sanctioned events. It remains to be seen how this victory will play out in practice. Beyond the immediate issue at stake, the case further presents an illustration of how – all things equal – assigning the burden of proof can be decisive for the real-life impact of a policy involving complex scientific matters, as much as the actual legal prerequisites of the underlying rules.

This article focuses on some key aspects of the award that relate to proof issues in the context of assessing competitive advantage. Specifically, the article seeks to provide some food for thought regarding burden and degree of proof of an overall advantage, the contours of the test of ‘overall advantage’ designed by the CAS panel and its possible bearing in practice, and potential impact of the ruling on other areas of sports regulations such as anti-doping.

The award also analyses broader questions regarding the prohibition of discrimination in the regulation of sports, as well as the interplay with international human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), which are not explored in depth here. More...

Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part. 2: The African Reality – By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


Having considered the history and justifications for the FIFA training compensation and solidarity mechanisms in my previous blog, I will now consider these systems in the African context. This appears to be a worthwhile undertaking given these global mechanisms were largely a result of European influence, so understanding their (extraterritorial) impact beyond the EU seems particularly important. Moreover, much has been written about the “muscle drain” affecting African football and the need for such drain to either be brought to a halt, or, more likely and perhaps more practical, to put in place an adequate system of redistribution to ensure the flourishing of African football that has essentially acted as a nursery for European football for at least a century. In the present blog, I intend to draw on my experiences as a football agent to expand on how FIFA’s redistributive mechanisms function in practice when an African player signs in Europe via one of the many kinds of entities that develop or purport to develop talent in Africa. I will throughout address the question of whether these mechanisms are effective in a general sense and more specifically in relation to their operation in Africa.More...



International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – October 2020 - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


The Headlines

Aguero and Massey-Ellis incident: An Opportunity for Change and Education?

In mid-October a clip went viral of Argentinian star Sergio Aguero putting his hands on sideline referee, Sian Massey-Ellis. A heated debate ensued in many circles, some claiming that Aguero’s conduct was commonplace, others taking aim at the appropriateness of the action, around players touching official and a male touching a female with an unsolicited arm around the back, the squeeze and pull in. Putting the normative arguments aside for a moment, the irony of the debate was that all sides had a point. Football, almost exclusively, has grown a culture of acceptance for touching officials despite the regulations. Male officials who have let such conduct slide, have arguably let their female colleague down in this instance.

Whilst a partial defence of Aguero might be that this kind of conduct takes place regularly, the incident could serve as a learning experience. If Massey-Ellis’ reaction was not enough, the backlash from some of the public might provide Aguero and other players the lesson, that touching a woman in this way is not acceptable.

Returning to football, the respect and protection of officials in sport, the key here appears to be cracking down on touching officials entirely. This is not a foreign concept and football need only look at the rugby codes. Under no circumstances does the regulations or the culture permit that a player from the rugby codes touch a referee. It is likely the case that the obvious extra level of respect for officials in these sports derives from a firm culture of no touching, no crowding officials, communicating with officials through the team captain only, with harsh sanctions if one does not comply.

The Football Association of England has decided no action was necessary, raising questions of how seriously they take the safety of officials, and gender issues. This is ultimately a global football issue though, so the confederations or international bodies may need step in to ensure the protections that appear at best fragile.  


Rugby Trans issue

The World Rugby Transgender guideline has been released and contains a comprehensive unpacking of the science behind much of the regulatory framework. Despite many experts applauding World Rugby on the guidelines and the extensive project to reach them, the England Rugby Football Union is the first to defy the World Rugby ruling and transgender women will still be allowed to play women’s rugby at all non-international levels of the game in England for the foreseeable future. This clash between national bodies and the international body on an important issue is concerning and will undoubtedly be one to keep an eye on.

 

CAS rejects the appeal of Munir El Haddadi and the Fédération Royale Marocaine de Football (FRMF)

The refusal to authorise a footballer to change national federation is in the headlines with the CAS dismissing the appeal of the player and Moroccan federation, confirming the original determination of the FIFA Players’ Status Committee.

This has been given considerable recent attention and seemingly worth following, perhaps best summed up by FIFA Director of Football Regulatory, James Kitching, where in a tweet he notes: “The new eligibility rules adopted by the FIFA Congress on 18 September 2020 have passed their first test. We will be publishing our commentary on the rules in the next fortnight. Watch this space.” More...



Revisiting FIFA’s Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanism - Part.1: The historical, legal and political foundations - By Rhys Lenarduzzi

Editor’s note: Rhys Lenarduzzi is a final semester Bachelor of Law (LL.B) and Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) student, at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia. As a former professional athlete, then international sports agent and consultant, Rhys is interested in international sports law, policy and ethics. He is currently undertaking an internship at the T.M.C. Asser Institute with a focus on Transnational Sports Law.


In 2019, training compensation and solidarity contributions based on FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) amounted to US$ 75,5 million. This transfer of wealth from the clubs in the core of the football hierarchy to the clubs where the professional players originated is a peculiar arrangement unknown in other global industries. Beyond briefly pointing out or reminding the reader of how these systems work and the history behind them, this blog series aims to revisit the justifications for FIFA-imposed training compensation and the solidarity mechanism, assess their efficacy and effects through a case study of their operation in the African context, and finally analyse the potential impact of upcoming reforms of the FIFA RSTP in this context.

First, it is important to go back to the roots of this, arguably, strange practice. The current transfer system and the legal mechanisms constituting it were largely the result of a complex negotiation between European football’s main stakeholders and the European Commission dating back to 2001. The conclusion of these negotiations led to a new regulatory system enshrined in Article 20 and Annex 4 of the RSTP in the case of training compensation, and at Article 21 and Annex 5 in the case of the solidarity mechanism. Before paying some attention to the historical influences and how we arrived at these changes, as well as the justifications from the relevant bodies for their existence, let us briefly recall what training compensation and the solidarity mechanisms actually are. More...



Asser International Sports Law Blog | The UCI Report: The new dawn of professional cycling?

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

The UCI Report: The new dawn of professional cycling?

The world of professional cycling and doping have been closely intertwined for many years. Cycling’s International governing Body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), is currently trying to clean up the image of the sport and strengthen its credibility. In order to achieve this goal, in January 2014 the UCI established the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) “to conduct a wide ranging independent investigation into the causes of the pattern of doping that developed within cycling and allegations which implicate the UCI and other governing bodies and officials over ineffective investigation of such doping practices.”[1] The final report was submitted to the UCI President on 26 February 2015 and published on the UCI website on 9 March 2015. The report outlines the history of the relationship between cycling and doping throughout the years. Furthermore, it scrutinizes the role of the UCI during the years in which doping usage was at its maximum and addresses the allegations made against the UCI, including allegations of corruption, bad governance, as well as failure to apply or enforce its own anti-doping rules. Finally, the report turns to the state of doping in cycling today, before listing some of the key practical recommendations.[2]

Since the day of publication, articles and commentaries (here and here) on the report have been burgeoning and many of the stakeholders have expressed their views (here and here). However, given the fact that the report is over 200 pages long, commentators could only focus on a limited number of aspects of the report, or only take into account the position of a few stakeholders. In the following two blogs we will try to give a comprehensive overview of the report in a synthetic fashion.

This first blogpost will focus on the relevant findings and recommendations of the report. In continuation, a second blogpost will address the reforms engaged by the UCI and other long and short term consequences the report could have on professional cycling. Will the recommendations lead to a different governing structure within the UCI, or will the report fundamentally change the way the UCI and other sport governing bodies deal with the doping problem? 


Relevant findings

Different forms of doping have been around since the earliest days of cycling (1890’s), but it was the introduction of Erythropoietin, or EPO, in the professional peloton that brought the problem of doping to new levels. Taking it enabled an athlete to gain a significant competitive advantage that could range between 10 and 15%.By using EPO, a rider is able to increase the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity, to stimulate muscle growth and aid muscle recovery.[3] However, the use of EPO thickens the blood, and race dehydration concentrates the blood further, which can cause clotting, stroke or heart failure.[4] In fact, there is widespread suspicion that EPO caused the deaths of up to 20 cyclists between 1987 and 1990. Even though cyclists started using forms of EPO as far back as the 1980’s, it was not until 2001 that a reliable detection test for EPO was developed. This meant that professional cyclists were able to use EPO for over a decade with very little chance of getting caught. The exact percentage of professional cyclist using EPO remains unknown, but it is very likely that this figure was well above 50%. “Doping became the norm in the peloton, not only to increase performance but also just to keep up with the rest of the peloton”.[5]

One of the main findings of the report is the revelation that the UCI’s past policy regarding anti-doping was primarily aimed at protecting the health and safety of the riders and not trying to curtail the use of doping all together from (professional) cycling. This is especially evident from the way it chose to combat EPO. In 1997, UCI introduced the “No Start Rule”. Under the rule, the UCI carried out blood tests before and during competition and any rider with a haematocrit reading higher than 50% (when natural levels are normally between 40 and 45%) was deemed unfit for competition and prevented from competing for 15 days from the date of the test.[6] The UCI stated that the purpose of this rule was to protect riders’ health and safety and to prevent further deaths from EPO. It was not an anti-doping rule, but a health and safety measure. However, the problem with this measure is that it allowed the use of EPO, and therefore doping, to a certain extent. Furthermore, given that the advantage gained from EPO was so significant, the riders were in fact obliged to use EPO simply to keep up, let alone to win.

In order to understand the UCI’s position in this matter, the report explains in full detail the facts that led up to this situation. In doing so, it also addressed the questions whether UCI officials directly contributed to the development of a culture of doping in cycling.[7] It has to be borne in mind that as an umbrella sporting organisation, the UCI was for many years an institution with a minimal structure and no real power. When Hein Verbruggen became president of the UCI in 1991, the UCI had less than 15 employees and very little revenue. The UCI itself does not organise the major cycling event such as the Tour de France. In fact, the organisation that organises the Tour (Amaury Sport Organization) enjoys a dominant position and is economically much more powerful than UCI.[8]

With the inclusion of professional cycling in the Olympic games of 1996, revenue redistributed by the IOC became substantial, while the proceeds derived from TV rights increased dramatically for the UCI. To further boost its revenues, the UCI needed a “big star” to attract broadcasters and sponsors.[9] Lance Armstrong, being outspoken, charismatic and, above all, a cancer survivor, was exactly the type of “big star” it was looking for. The timing of Armstrong’s comeback in professional cycling (1998/99) could not have been better, since the image of cycling and its main event, the Tour de France, were at an all-time low after the “Festina affair” of 1998.[10]

The report shows well the UCI’s conflict of interest during the Tour de France of 1999: On the one hand, it wanted to eliminate doping from the sport, especially after the “Festina affair” a year earlier; on the other hand, it wanted to make the sport more appealing to the public and for that it required the presence and victory of a hero: Lance Armstrong. The practical meaning of this conflict of interest became apparent during that same Tour. Armstrong was tested positive four times for corticosteroids that was forbidden under the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.[11] Armstrong justified the positive tests by submitting a medical certificate that was provided after the tests. According to the UCI’s own rules, the medical certificates should have been handed in prior to the tests. Had the UCI applied its rules, Armstrong would have received a sanction for violating anti-doping rules, which would have resulted in him not being allowed to win the Tour of 1999, the first of his seven Tour victories. [12]  

Apart from UCI decisions concerning Armstrong, it becomes evident from the report that the UCI took a number of controversial decisions regarding doping violations which, in hindsight, should have been dealt with differently. However, to answer the question why the UCI made these decisions, it is necessary to understand how the UCI made these decisions. As mentioned above, it is clear that the conflict of interest regarding the UCI’s objectives was a prime factor in the choices made. However, it was also the UCI’s governing structure that allowed for such decisions, especially the way the UCI dealt with its anti-doping policy.

In 1992, the UCI set up an Anti-Doping Commission (ADC). The ADC was headed originally by a lawyer, Werner Goehner. He was succeeded by the ADC’s first Vice-president, Lon Schattenberg, an occupational therapist, in 2003. It has been reported that Schattenberg de facto ran the ADC from the start. Furthermore, even though the ADC was composed of three members in total, it was Schattenberg who effectively ran the whole Commission. The conflict of interest is further substantiated in the report when it stresses that the focus of Schattenberg’s work was on health concerns rather than on disciplinary aspects of doping. His view was that trying to catch the doped cyclists amounted to a witch hunt.[13] In other words, between 1992 and 2006, most, if not all, of the Anti-Doping Commission’s decisions were taken by one man whose primary aim was to protect the riders’ health rather than catching and sanctioning the doped cyclists.

Similarly, the report emphasised the prime role of the UCI President Hein Verbruggen (1991-2005) as regards the UCI’s governance structure. Due to the passive nature of the large majority of the UCI’s governing bodies, the president had a wide range of executive powers. In the CIRC’s view this led to serious problems of governance and deficiencies in internal control processes. By way of example, Verbruggen, with the agreement of the majority of his colleagues on the Management Committee, chose his successor (Pat McQuaid) and managed to secure his election.[14] Moreover, even though Schattenberg’s ADC was formally considered independent, Hein Verbruggen was not only informed of all relevant anti-doping matters, he also interfered in the decision-making of the anti-doping Commission. As is stated in the KPMG report on UCI Governance and Independence Assessment (2013), “(t)he President has taken many decisions alone or based on external advice during critical times…Critically important matters…are taken solely by the President.”[15] 

The report further notes that Mr. Verbruggen was constantly in conflict with WADA and its leadership. The importance of these conflicts when answering the question how the UCI made its decisions should not be underestimated. The first WADA Code, implemented in 2004, included the standard sanction of two years of ineligibility in case of a first Anti-Doping violation. Nonetheless, the UCI (read: Verbruggen) opposed the standard sanction and lobbied for much lower sanctions. It should be noted that, as the “new kid on the block”, the role and power of WADA in relation to sports federations in general and the UCI in particular was unclear. According to the UCI, WADA’s function was to assist sports federations, but not to interfere with internal matters or criticise their governance or anti-doping policy. Any interference or criticism by WADA in relation to UCI’s anti-doping policy was perceived by the UCI leadership as completely unacceptable and seemed to have been interpreted as a personal attack.[16]  


Conclusion

The goal of this report was to investigate the causes of the pattern of doping that developed within professional cycling over the last decades, especially taking into account the role of the UCI, and to recommend better ways of tackling doping problems in the future.

According to the report, the UCI’s role in the widespread use of doping in cycling was fundamental in several ways. Firstly, during the heydays of EPO the UCI was primarily focused on protecting the health and safety of the riders, rather than trying to eliminate the use EPO in the peloton. Secondly, the UCI’s objective of forming professional cycling into a global money-making sport had an impact on enforcing anti-doping rules. This became especially evident after Lance Armstrong’s comeback. Even though Armstrong took forbidden substances during the Tour de France of 1999, the UCI decided not to sanction him. Armstrong was the “big star” the UCI needed to further increase revenues, and a sanction would have been counterproductive in this regard. A third major element that allowed for doping to flourish was the UCI’s governing structure. The executive dominance of the UCI President Hein Verbruggen caused great deficiencies in the UCI’s internal control process. Moreover, the lack of collaboration with WADA was instrumental in delaying the full implementation of the WADA Code. 

The Report is in interesting plunge in the world of cycling at the turn of the century. It highlights the systematic failure of sports organisation to truly engage in the fight against doping. Indeed, both the fundamental objectives and the basic governance structure of the UCI seem to have run counter any attempt to deal efficiently with the recourse to doping of the cycling stars. This is a potent lesson, for doping seems to be as much a product of the institutional and economical system in place in a particular sport as of the malign intentions of the athletes. 

Having deciphered the main reasons that caused the pattern of doping, the report consequently outlined a set of recommendations. An analysis of these recommendation as well as the reforms the UCI has already undertaken shall be discussed in a second blog.



[1] CIRC Report to the President of the UCI, page 6

[2] Ibid

[3] CIRC Report to the President of the UCI, page 57

[4] Ibid, page 33

[5] Ibid, page 41

[6] Ibid, page 35-36, a haematocrit reading measures the percentage of red blood cells in blood. As EPO stimulates the production of red blood cells, an elevated haematocrit reading above 50% is “a strong indication of EPO use”.

[7] Ibid, page 90

[8] Ibid, page 91

[9] Ibid, page 91-92

[10] The affair concerned a large haul of doping products found in a car of the Festina cycling team just before the start of the Tour de France of 1998. The investigation revealed systematic doping, and suspicion was raised that there may have been a widespread network of doping involving many teams of the Tour de France.

[11] These rules state that “the use of corticosteroids is prohibited, except when used for topical application (auricular, opthmalogical or dermatological) inhalations (asthma and allergic rhinitis) and local or intra-articular injections. Such forms of utilisations can be proved with a medical prescription”.

[12] CIRC Report to the President of the UCI, page 171-173

[13] Ibid, pages 98-100

[14] Ibid, page 97

[15] Ibid, pages 104-105

[16] Ibid, page 108

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