Since we announced our legal action against cycling’s governing body on Sunday evening, the world has been a bit of a blur! Our decision to serve a demand on the UCI for damages of $2 million for alleged mismanagement of the sport in the lead up to the Lance Armstrong doping scandal has certainly grabbed attention. I’m very grateful for the huge support we’ve had for our stand from customers, cycling fans and also officials from all areas of the sport, as well as fans of other sports who feel as passionately as we do about the true spirit of competition, and the duties and obligations that governing bodies have.
There has been some negativity and I’m not too proud to admit that some have seen our action as cynical and opportunistic. I’ve had messages criticising us – and me personally – for what they see as a brazen attempt to gain publicity and to make money out of cycling’s current crisis. So I want to make our position absolutely clear.
Any financial gain that SKINS may be awarded from a successful lawsuit against the UCI will be put straight back into clean cycling.
Now, that’s not a promise I’m making retrospectively because I’m shocked and hurt by the reaction of a few accusers. I’ve made our intentions in that regard perfectly clear in media interviews since the announcement, so it’s already ‘on the record’ so to speak. Dissenting voices were to be expected. We all know that any definitive statement of intent will always attract criticism and I’d be mad to think a commercial organisation such as ours would get a 100% approval rating. But, fortunately, I’m not as daft as I look. Ironically, one satisfying aspect to the negative messages has been the dialogue I’ve subsequently had with the senders. I have replied personally to every email that we received on the topic and when I explained the reasons I’ve outlined here, I can honestly say that the majority of correspondents have said they understood where I was coming from and better understand our actions. I have absolutely no interest in SKINS landing a commercial windfall from this action. As Chairman of a company that has invested in cycling, I simply want the sport to be governed the way it should be and led by credible, honourable people who can be trusted to clean it up. It really is as simple as that.
Overwhelmingly, the reaction has been supportive. Not necessarily for us as a company, but for the general demand for overhaul within the UCI. It just so happens that with no-one else apparently willing to step forward, we’re the ones who’ve led it. From the responses I’ve had, it’s clear that people who’ve followed the Lance Armstrong affair, want to see change at the top of the UCI. Since USADA presented their report, we at SKINS have actively challenged the UCI’s handling of the process, questioned their faltering responses to the evidence and criticised their feeble leadership during what is now obvious was years of systemic cheating across the sport. Some sponsors have announced their withdrawal, others have demanded the return of bonus payments or prize money, but no-one amongst the corporate partners took up the baton to challenge the ability of the UCI to govern. At SKINS, we believe in the True Spirit of Competition and the UCI have presided over a regime that allowed, in fact one could argue, promoted cheats to prosper.
So far, they’ve prevaricated at every step of this saga and frankly, their announcement on their intentions for this much-vaunted independent commission fills me with dread. As I’ve said before, an independent commission must be just that – independent, and I don’t believe it can be under the current regime. But if the President and the Honorary President for Life were to give cycling a chance by accepting responsibility for the things that have happened on their watch and resign, then we’d all settle down and let new leaders with enthusiasm, credibility and vision, get on with it. As a sports company, we firmly believe in a principle of fair play and in this case, the UCI, which governs a sport we’re a part of, should be called to account for its actions – or lack of them – and for failing to uphold the concept.
So to the thousands who’ve applauded our stand, I say a massive ‘thank you’ for your support. We will continue to push for change – either alone or with any other like-minded organisation that wishes to join us. It won’t always make headline news but that’s not the point. Some people have written to tell me that despite being ‘loyal customers’ they’ll never buy another garment. You know what? That’s fine. I see it as a cost worth paying if it fuels the debate and is an agent for change. Even if I can’t persuade the doubters that our intentions are genuine, I can handle it. When athletes buy our product, we like to think they’re buying into our ethos of clean, true spirited competition.
It’s their choice. We’ve made ours.