Sagan and UCI settle legal dispute, UCI to make changes to commissaire system

In a move which may have considerable consequences in future events, the UCI has announced that it is to ramp up the use of video evidence when assessing incidents in races. The news comes as the governing body and Bora-hansgrohe settled their legal dispute arising from world champion Peter Sagan’s disqualification from the Tour de France in July.

Sagan was thrown out of the race after he and Mark Cavendish tangled at the end of stage four of the race. The Briton sustained a fractured right scapula in the fall, ending his Tour.

Following the sprint into Vittel, the race jury quickly decided that Sagan was to blame and disqualified him. It appeared on initial viewing that Sagan had elbowed Cavendish into the barriers.

However after the commissaire decision was announced, slow-motion video emerged which appeared to show that Sagan’s elbow had not actually made contact with his rival. Sagan appealed the decision to CAS [the Court of Arbitration for Sport], seeking a quick ruling to be allowed back into the race, but CAS declined this request.

Instead, CAS set a hearing date of Tuesday December 5. On the same day that was due to take place, the UCI and Bora-hansgrohe announced that an agreement had been made.

“Immediately following the disqualification Peter Sagan and Bora – hansgrohe had appealed the decision of the race jury with the CAS and, in order to enable Peter Sagan to finish the Tour, requested a temporary suspension of the disqualification,” said the UCI and Bora-hansgrohe in a joint statement.

“As is well known, this request was denied by CAS; subsequently, however, all parties involved had the opportunity to provide evidence and call witnesses.

“Having considered the materials submitted in the CAS proceedings, including video footage that was not available at the time when the race jury had disqualified Peter Sagan, the parties agreed that the crash was an unfortunate and unintentional race incident and that the UCI commissaires made their decision based on their best judgment in the circumstances.

“On this basis, the parties agreed not to continue with the legal proceedings and to focus on the positive steps that can be taken in the future instead.”

Sagan won one stage of the Tour prior to his disqualification, but missed out on what was the chance for a record-equalling sixth green jersey. He had been the strong favourite in that competition.

CyclingTips contacted Bora-hansgrohe to ask if a financial settlement was made. However the team said that it was unable to comment on this aspect.

“The past is already forgotten,” said Sagan. “It’s all about improving our sport in the future. I welcome the fact that what happened to me in Vittel has showed that the UCI Commissaires’ work is a difficult one and that the UCI has recognised the need to facilitate their work in a more effective way.

“I am happy that my case will lead to positive developments, because it is important for our sport to make fair and comprehensible decisions, even if emotions are sometimes heated up.”

UCI President David Lappartient explained the new change that will be made to the commissaire system. “These proceedings have shown how important and arduous the work of the UCI Commissaires is. As of next season the UCI intends to engage a ‘Support Commissaire’ to assist the Commissaires Panel with special video expertise on the main events of the UCI World Tour.”

The modification means that future decisions should be more precise. This in turn should decrease the chances of inaccurate decisions, avoiding penalisation of riders who are not at fault but also ensuring that those who did break the rules have a greater chance of being sanctioned.

Bora-hansgrohe team manager Ralph Denk said that the team had set out to clear Sagan’s name. “It has always been our goal to make clear that Peter had not caused Mark Cavendish’s fall,” he stated.

“This was Peter’s position from day one. No one wants riders to fall or get hurt but the incident in Vittel was a race accident as can happen in the course of a sprint. My job as a team manager is to protect my riders and sponsors. I think that this is what we, as a team, have done. I am reinforced in my view that neither Peter nor Bora–hansgrohe have made any mistakes.”