UCI boss slams colluding ASO and French sports ministry

Governing body takes aim at France

World cycling chief Pat McQuaid on Friday stoked the feud with race organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), accusing them of colluding to form a private league with the backing of the French sports ministry.

International Cycling Union (UCI) president McQuaid made his accusations in a column in French daily Le Monde just two days before the start of the Paris-Nice stage race.

The UCI have threatened to expel riders who take part in the first European stage race of the season from their organisation. The race is being organised by the ASO outside the UCI authority but under the aegis of the French federation.

Despite the UCI threat, a representative for the teams' association said Friday afternoon that following a meeting a clear majority of them had agreed to back participation. At the same time, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) declared it was not for it to judge on the legality of UCI sanctions.

The UCI and ASO are in dispute notably over team selections for the Tour de France, which is organised by the latter.

And McQuaid accused the ASO of "blackmail", using the Tour de France to force teams to participate in the Paris-Nice.

"We have to warn those who love cycling: accepting the demands of the ASO means transforming professional cycling into a league controlled by the dominant organiser and not an organisation representing the collective interest," wrote McQuaid in Le Monde. "The ASO is currently refusing the registration of the Paris-Nice in a calendar determined following a democratic process. They want to place their events outside the regulations to decide themselves, through contracts with the teams, the rules to which they will be subject."

The Irishman also warned that the French federation risked being suspended from the UCI for their support of the ASO. "Its president (French federation) will certainly be called before a disciplinary commission for the same reasons; the riders could be suspended for having participated in a race outside the bounds of UCI regulations."

McQuaid claimed that the organisation of a race outside their jurisdiction would threaten "the efficiency of the anti-doping battle".

And he slammed the French sports ministry for being "more occupied by supporting the projects of the ASO than motivated by the necessity to call to order a private agent which does not respect international rules."

He added: "By favouring the exit of an organiser from a federative framework the Ministry is in effect giving its blessing to the creation of a private league. Surprising, after affirming in November 2007 wanting to avoid it!

"Can a country circumvent international rules to favour what it believes to be national interests, which moreover are not so much threatened but manipulated by a commercial agent? Can a political leader be party to a private organiser who wants to step outside a federative framework which is patiently elaborate?

"It's worth asking these questions."

© AFP 2008

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