Apparently, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has solved all of its outstanding problems except for one: How to keep Floyd Landis from saying bad things about Pat McQuaid, Hein Verbruggen and the way the UCI functions. What other conclusion can we possibly draw from the news (hat tip to Jeff) that McQuaid, Verbruggen and company have filed a defamation lawsuit in Switzerland against the defrocked 2006 Tour champion?
In 2010 Landis opened up about his experiences in the pro peloton, spilling the beans on things he did, saw and heard about. Among the claims he made were a few choice tidbits that cast current UCI chief Pat McQuaid, his predecessor Hein Verbruggen, and the governing body of cycling as a whole in a less than favorable light. (Just to be on the safe side, I won’t repeat them in this post, but I’m sure you can dig them up somewhere.)
When he spoke out, Landis was not in Switzerland, however. Perhaps they watched some German television, or French television, as news organizations from both countries have interviewed the cyclist in the past year. Maybe some Swiss news organization ran a wire service article about Landis’ claims, or quoted other organizations’ articles.
Seems to me that if McQuaid, Verbruggen and company really had a case, they would file the lawsuit in the US, where Landis lives and spoke, or they would file suit in the countries where his claims were first published. The only reason to file a lawsuit in Switzerland, in my mind, is convenience — theirs. Perhaps Swiss law is such that they might be able to win. But to enforce the judgement, they would then have to rely on the US courts. And I can’t see that happening.
Truth be told, I haven’t been doing much “social media” lately, even in the Twittersphere. But I do check in from time to time, and I haven’t seen or read any comments from Floyd that approach the revelations he made a year ago. So why file the lawsuit now?
Beats the hell out of me. To gin up some free publicity, perhaps? To get out in front of some scandalous tale that’s about to break into the open? To blame all the trouble over doping and so forth on the designated scapegoat? To divert attention away from the fact that McQuaid is pretty much a total fuck-up in his job, and has managed to alienate the teams and the sponsors and the event promoters all in one swell foop?
The timing just doesn’t make much sense, at least at first glance.
What Could They Possibly Accomplish?
Landis is unlikely to be working in the cycling world in the future. Woe unto any team that might hire him. McQuaid and others will see to that. Yes, one can argue that Floyd has brought this on himself, through his decision to fight his anti-doping case so publicly and so doggedly. But the guy has served his time. And other big-name riders who’ve been caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar have suffered less once their suspensions came to an end. Some of them are even riding on UCI ProTour teams again, drawing big paychecks and racing to their hearts’ content.
Need I point out that Landis has lost his money, his marriage, his career? How many more pounds of flesh does McQuaid want to extract from Floyd for not following the advice to “shut up, take the suspension, and while you’re at it, rat out a certain rider from Austin.” Landis didn’t shut up. But he did eventually serve his suspension. And he has given information that implicates a certain someone in doping-related activities.
This all seems vindictive to me. Plenty of others have suggested that Pat McQuaid is less than competent, Hein Verbruggen is corrupt, and the UCI doesn’t do the greatest job overseeing the sport of cycling. How come those people haven’t been sued? For me, the answer seems to be, “Because they’re not Floyd Landis.”
Don’t They Have Anything Better To Do?
Seriously. Doesn’t the UCI have better things to be doing than pursuing their own little vendetta? Doping is still a problem, isn’t it? Or has the biological passport eliminated the dopers from the ranks of the peloton? Is the UCI’s anti-doping program so effective now that the problem no longer exists? I don’t think so.
What about taking steps to ensure the economic viability of the sport? With the shitty economy, and with the less-than-stellar reputation of professional cycling these days, I would think that McQuaid and his cronies would be more worried about how to keep the sport alive, and how to keep cash flowing into their organization (though who knows what they do with the money).
Oh. Right. They came up with that silly “UCI Certified” program to charge bicycle manufacturers a fee to slap a sticker on their bikes. Presumably the sticker would ensure that the race commissaires wouldn’t prevent a rider from using a bike that they claim doesn’t meet UCI regulations. (Didn’t that happen to Cancellara last year?) Almost sounds like extortion, when you get down to it.
Here’s a thought: How about a program to draw more juniors into the sport? Without younger riders coming up, the sport will not survive. And yet, in some countries (like the US), the average racing cyclist is in his mid- to late-30s. (Yes, “his.” The sport here also needs to attract more women, as well as sponsors who will support women’s cycling at the professional and amateur levels.)
Or: How about settling their feuds with various event promoters? Or how about working to ensure rider safety? That’s always a concern. Sure cycling has inherent dangers, but the UCI should be working with the race organizers to make sure that the courses are as safe as possible.
“All I can hope is that cycling fans are starting to understand why I was afraid to tell the truth five years ago after winning the Tour de France,” Landis said in a statement emailed to ESPN.com Wednesday. He said he has not been formally served or otherwise notified of any lawsuit.
Perhaps he will be served or notified in the near future. Or perhaps not. Maybe all of this is just a way for McQuaid and his gang to twist the knife a little deeper. To remind Floyd that his kind isn’t wanted in the cycling world. Whatever their motivation, it’s high time for Pat and Hein to quit this dubious adventure. The money and time could be better spent on activities that would actually improve cycling and its image throughout the sporting world.