British Cycling calls for tougher measures in cycling’s Ukraine response

British Cycling is pushing for the suspension of the Russian and Belarusian Federations, management committee members, and riders.

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British Cycling has called for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be suspended from racing, and announced that it is boycotting this weekend’s European Cycling Union (UEC) congress. 

The British calls come after frustration, in some circles, with governing body responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday, the IOC outlined its stance on Russia and Belarus. A day later, cycling’s governing body, the UCI – which the UEC sits under – largely followed suit. The UCI outlined “strong measures” against Russian and Belarusian actors in cycling, halting any future events, banning sponsorship, and suspending teams registered there.

The UCI did, however, leave the door open for Russian and Belarusian cyclists to continue to ride for their trade teams, and also stopped short of sanctioning National Federations. 

Controversially, the UCI has allowed Russian and Belarusian members of UCI bodies and commissions to continue to serve – again, following the IOC’s lead in this regard. That means the Russian oligarch Igor Makarov – perhaps the most powerful person in world cycling beside UCI president David Lappartient – is able to retain his place on the UCI Management Committee. [You can read much more about Makarov’s influence here.]

The UEC appeared to take a slightly more progressive approach, with its vice president – Alexander Gusyatnikov, of Russia – and ex-track star Natallia Tsylinskaya, of Belarus, “self-excluding” themselves from taking part in its upcoming annual congress and a future management committee meeting. 

That doesn’t go far enough, British Cycling argues

“Our cycling colleagues in Russia and Belarus are not responsible for the further invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, they may be as appalled as we are. However, in our view, it is simply wrong that Russian and Belarusian officials will be permitted places of honour and influence at the highest level of our sport while our colleagues in Ukraine live in fear for their homes and their families,” British Cycling chair Frank Slevin said. 

“I have written to the UCI and UEC to repeat our request that the Russian and Belarusian federations are suspended and that Russian and Belarusian officials will not be permitted to hold positions on the UCI or UEC Management Committees, or their commissions.”

The UEC are organisers of the European Track and Road Championships, among other events.

Enrico Della Casa, president of the UEC, wrote a letter to the presidents of all member federations calling for unity. In the letter – which has been forwarded to CyclingTips – Della Casa argued that “the call to boycott our Congress by one of our National Federations completely opposes one of our sports core values. That of unity.”

Della Casa pledged support to the Ukrainian federation and athletes: “It must be clearly stated that UEC stands firmly behind the Ukrainian Cycling Union, President Andry Grivko, its members and indeed the entire population of Ukraine during these very difficult times.”

“The entire UEC Management Board is very aware of the current situation and will provide you with more detailed explanations at our annual Congress, at the same time calling for spirit of unity, solidarity and support from all parties concerned,” Della Casa wrote. 

The ‘current situation’ – the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which continues to lurch from one horror to the next – is now in its ninth day. Russia has bombarded civilian targets, and overnight shelled a nuclear power plant. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Ukrainians have become refugees, and hundreds have died.

As a result of widespread international outcry, the Russian economy has been sent into freefall from unprecedented sanctions against Russian institutions in the hope of forcing Vladimir Putin’s increasingly erratic hand. 

The UEC congress will take place in Odense, Denmark. UCI president, David Lappartient, will also be in attendance.

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