What next for cycling? Gender diversity will help return integrity to sport
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When it comes to doping in cycling, it is clear from the USADA report focussing on Lance Armstrong's systemic doping practices that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg so far. Men's international road cycling has perpetrated an extraordinary and wide-ranging fraud on the spectators, the sponsors and those athletes who wanted to compete in the sport of cycling clean.
Overnight the UCI announced that they have decided to recognise USADA's decision to ban Lance Armstrong for life. The UCI, and the Tour de France organisers, have previously stated that Lance will now be stripped of his seven Tour victories. Further, they have agreed that they won't be awarding Lance's yellow jerseys to the riders who had come second, as would ordinarily be the case. They can't: many of the second place riders during Lance's reign have already gone positive or otherwise admitted to doping. It is clear that many of the riders were forced, or expected, to dope to remain in the professional teams; whether they were the stars or the supporting hacks in the peloton.
So where to from here?
Minister for Sport Kate Lundy was reported in The Age over the weekend as having asked: "the Australian Sports Commission to do everything necessary to re-establish confidence in the sport of cycling, including undertaking whatever investigations are necessary to achieve this."
Cycling Australia's Klaus Mueller has attempted to facilitate a discussion on how best to save his sport and suggested an amnesty for doping athletes, and the criminalisation of doping. Given the Australian Sports Commission allocated $8.84 million to cycling in the 2011-12 financial year, the Cycling Australia board has indicated that it will be conducting an internal investigation to reassure Minister Lundy that cycling in Australia is (or will be) clean.
Cycling Australia has already accepted resignations from Vice-President, Stephen Hodge, and Elite Men's Road National Coordinator, Matt White. Other employees, riders and contractors are under increasing pressure to confess to their involvement in doping. In an article last week, I raised my concern with the suggestion from CA that doping athletes should be given an amnesty. This is not to suggest that doping athletes should be banished from the sport, and locked away in eternal purgatory. I totally agree with the comments of Jonathan Vaughters yesterday that anti-doping agencies have a lot to learn from 'fessed up' doping athletes. Vaughter is one of the eleven former US Postal Service riders who admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, and who testified against Armstrong. I assisted UK Anti-Doping to set up their intelligence unit, and UKAD has been extremely proactive in involving banned cyclist David Millar, for example, in their anti-doping education programmes and in learning from Millar about how to improve their drug testing programs. Millar is also a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Athlete Committee for the same reason. To ignore the positive contribution to sport by people, such as Hodge and White, particularly since their athletic retirement, is to throw the baby out with the bath water.
That doesn't mean, however, that we absolve everyone involved in doping from their responsibilities with the mere sweep of an arm. My concern is to ensure that we investigate the role the administrators, doctors and other support personnel played in assisting or turning a blind eye to the doping practices. An amnesty, or proposed UCI "Truth and Reconciliation" process, must not allow those responsible at CA, and the UCI, to avoid answering their critics. Those supporters and leaders in the sport must be called to account; to explain what they knew, and how they assisted in the cover-up and resulting corruption.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) was granted the power to prosecute athletes on behalf of the sports when it was established in 2006. Since the introduction of ASADA's enhanced powers, there has been plenty of time for Cycling Australia, and other National Sports Organisations in Australia, to take a stronger stance against doping in their sports.
What has led to this lack of strong leadership, and abject failure to act in the face of debilitating threats to the integrity of sport? The fear of speaking out may come from people being involved in the sport so long that they have become part of the system. They can't speak out against a system that supports them. Once you start to enjoy some of the spoils, you are stuck not being able to rail against the lies. You then become part of a corrupt system, and so it perpetuates.
Working as a teacher of bright, young sports administrators at university, it concerns me that people in the sports industry often stay too long in their plum leadership roles. Corporate knowledge and history is crucial to retain, but how can you argue that you're relevant and open to the new sporting paradigms if you have held onto the same position for 15 to 20 years or more? This lack of turn-over in board and CEO positions prevents people with good ideas and modern attitudes from helping to change the way we do business in sport.
Best practice guidelines, even from traditionally conservative bodies such as the Australian Stock Exchange and the Australian Institute of Company Directors, point out that healthy corporate governance can only be achieved through diversity and merit based appointments for leadership and decision-making positions. Organisations like Women on Boards, with around 15,000 experienced, educated Australian women indicating their willingness to serve in leadership positions, demonstrates that there is no shortage of meritorious women to choose from.
Diversity in all its forms should be reflected in our sporting organisations. We would not be in the position we now find ourselves in, if we had better diversity and more structured turn-over and succession planning on our sports boards. It is no surprise that those featured in the USADA report for doping are all men. Nor is it a surprise that the most outspoken proponents for truth in the Lance Armstrong case are women: particularly Betsy Andreu (Armstrong's team-mate Frankie Andreu's wife), and Emma O'Reilly (team soigneur and message therapist). The four from Cycling Australia accused by Dr Mike Ashenden (also on the ABC Four Corners program last week) as being a block to addressing the drugs challenge here: President Karl Mueller, CEO Graham Fredericks, race promoter and UCI arbitration member Phil Bates, and Tour Down Under racing director and UCI representative, Mike Turtur, are all male.
Research findings suggest that women are prepared to ask the hard questions and are generally strong on "good governance". Female board members are also found to encourage their male counterparts to 'step up', behave more responsibly and be less complacent about their role. If we want to create a legacy for clean sport and savvy business smarts, the starting point for boards must be a 50-50% gender split. Then we can see whether there is a valid reason to reduce this percentage on a case-by-case basis.
I welcome the current reviews into Swimming Australia (SA has no female board members) and Cycling Australia (one woman board member), and encourage the thorough examination of who we have running our national sports to see whether they are the best people to lead these organisations into the next era of sport in Australia.