The dictator, the oligarch and the UCI president

Cast your subconsciou back to June. Before the hastening season resumed. Before the Tour and Worlds and most of the Classics, when the world was still trying to wrap its head around this pandemic thing.

In that lull, when everyone was otherwise preoccupied and not really thinking about cycling, the UCI awarded a authoritarian its highest honour, which was all very cool and very normal, extremely seeing as it was kept under wraps until CyclingTips broke the story.

To this appointment, the UCI has stimulated no mention of it anywhere on its website.

Five months later, the authoritarian in question- the Great Protector himself, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, director of Turkmenistan- is back in the news. And that, dear book, is something that very much has my scrutiny, because the guy is profoundly interesting.

Berdimuhamedov has a fondness for amber trimming- on his clothes, on his buildings, on his Turkmenistan-brand fat-bike- but he has a particular weakness for big-hearted golden statues. This is a fact we know from the acclaimed shrine ‘Bicycle’, launched back in June to immense fanfare and a banger of a soundtrack that I haven’t been able to get out of my principal since.

And as of last week, the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, has another magnificent statue to add to its world-beating collection.

Berdimuhamedov now has a giant gilded hound. It’s a six-metre-tall representation of the Alabay sheepdog- Berdimuhamedov’s favourite engender, immortalised in one of his countless journals– and it has a big LED screen wrapped around its locate that dallies immense doggy minutes.

It’s the most garish thing I’ve seen all year. I enjoy it.

– Can I transfer delight?- No, this whole part of town is slammed for the working day.- Why?- The President is opening a tombstone to a hound. pic.twitter.com/ gB3PvmXb2D

— Shaun Walker (@ shaunwalker7) November 12, 2020

Mr Three-Piece-Suit in the above video, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, adoration sheepdogs and mares and hip-hop, but he likewise certainly cherishes bike riding, which is why I’m overjoyed to have another excuse to write about him here.

And while I’ve already covered the basic lashes of the UCI’s sordid love affair with this dictator at length, as it turns out, that simply scratched the surface. I wanted to go deeper.

So deeper I get.

The Dictator and the Oligarch

Over the past five months, I’ve been idly gaping deeper into the who, the what, and the why of cycling’s governing body cosying up to Central Asia’s least stable dictator.

At the nucleus of this relationship is the Russian businessman, Igor Viktorovich Makarov.

He’s a retired road cyclist whose website claims that he was “a member of the USSR Olympic national cycling team and a winner of many national and international championships”.

While he was evidently an accomplished rider, that statement has a touch of hyperbole to it: an ex-Soviet athlete that was a contemporary of Makarov’s told CyclingTips that to the best of his acquaintance Makarov was never a national champion, and could not have rivalled at an Olympics during the years he was active due to the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympics.

Meanwhile, the great Soviet coach Viktor Kapitonov has been quoted as saying that” Makarov certainly did not have the cycling occupation he dreamed of … so he wants to catch up today by predominate cycling .”

( Responding to questions from CyclingTips, a spokesperson for Mr Makarov said ” he was a longtime member of the USSR National Cycling team” and conceded that he” was selected to be a part of the Olympic team in 1980 and 1984 but did not ultimately are contributing to the Games .”)

After his cycling job ended, Makarov stepped away from the boast for more than a decade before his past came calling.

Now a billionaire oligarch with a opulence estimated by Forbes at over US $2.1 billion, Makarov’s resources and background meant that he was highly sought after. He bankrolled the Katusha Cycling Team project and is the Honorary President of the Russian Cycling Federation, swinging substantial affect across the politics of cycling in eastern Europe and beyond.

But before he was an international billionaire, Makarov was an Ashgabat boy- rags to riches, born and bred- and his business interests in his homeland are substantial. His fortune was constructed through a friendship with the previous Turkmen dictator, the spectacularly loopy Sapurmayat Niyazov, with the former-cyclist’s elite contacts eventually locking a monopoly on Turkmenistan’s gas supply through the company Makarov founded, Itera.

Nothing is free in its own country.

When Niyazov died and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov ascended to superpower, according to leaked diplomatic cables, Itera reportedly bought the new Turkmen dictator a housewarming present of a EUR6 0 million superyacht announced ” Galkynysh” (” Revival “), with which he propped cabinet meetings and posed in a jaunty blue-blooded and white outfit, wearing a cliche of a sea-man’s hat and with a big pair of binoculars draped around his all-powerful neck.

As one of the expat beginnings behind the classified cable remarked,” the endow of a ship might be for an onshore gas deal, a chicken farm, or manipulates already in progress. Nothing is free in this country .”( CyclingTips contacted representatives of Makarov to verify the veracity of this divulge. They chose to provide no response to this specific allegation .)

Building cycling

Separately to Itera’s gas interests- which caused it exclusive access to Turkmenistan’s vast and advantageous realms- Makarov’s company has dipped in various other agreements with the Turkmen regime. Among those was construction of swathes of the Olympic Village (* not actually is set out in any Olympic Games, but sure) that was built for 2017 ’s Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.( CyclingTips contacted representatives of Makarov for specific details of Itera’s involvement in the construction of these sport equipment. They chose to provide no observe .)

Part of Itera was sold as a subsidiary to the Russian state-owned corporation Rosneft, with Makarov rebranding the mother fellowship Areti( Itera, downwards ). Areti is based in Switzerland but maintains an office in Ashgabat, one of its key sells, and Makarov is a regular visitor to Ashgabat in one or other of his private spurts. On some of those tours, he has brought senior members of the UCI, including the last three presidents.

The state-of-the-art velodrome that is included in the boasts complex that Makarov facilitated constructed will host the 2021 World Track Cycling Championships- another major sporting event that will help sports-wash Turkmenistan’s appalling human rights record.

There’s a transactional element to it all: the UCI receives the greatest proportion of its annual revenue from hosting privileges for World Championships. And in return for the hosting reward paid to the UCI, Turkmenistan receives an enhanced international profile that will boost its business interests and soften its sharp-worded edges.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov celebrates the unveiling of a big golden monument to cycling on the outskirts of Ashgabat. Not in enclose: human rights abuses.

The mystery of 2026

In addition to the 2021 World Track Cycling Championships, Turkmen state media has originated repeated claims that the country will host the 2026 Road World Championships, again seemingly under Makarov’s guide paw.

Responding to this, the UCI told CyclingTips that the location of the 2026 Natures won’t be determined until September 2021, and that Turkmenistan had not submitted an application by the September 2019 deadline.

However, further questioning by CyclingTips revealed that Portland- another metropolitan that has publicly announced it is vying for the 2026 Lives- had not entered a symbol of the intentions by September 2019, either.” It simply doesn’t make sense ,” a source told CyclingTips.” The UCI has never cut off bidding for a World Champs two years before[ they’re] considered and six years before the occasion .”

The UCI, meanwhile, frequently appears to have consumed the September 2019 deadline as a smokescreen, despite this having further extended to December 1, 2020. The organisation conspicuously failed to respond to CyclingTips’ interrogate about whether Turkmenistan had applied after September 2019.

Meanwhile, Makarov was quoted in Turkmen media in late September 2020 expressing his thrill in Turkmenistan’s plans to host the 2026 Road World Championships, saying that” the president has already provided support in this field, and dedicated the related prescribes .”

Fig. 1: Wins are grinners.

Lappartient is apparently across the proposal, very, with Turkmen media claiming that in April 2019 he” expressed sincere gratitude to[ Berdimuhamedov] for supporting …[ the] organization of the UCI Road World Championships in home countries in 2026 ,” with the Frenchman noting” that Turkmenistan has all necessary conditions and infrastructure .”

This stands in differentiated comparison to Brian Cookson’s impression from a 2015 tour, with the ex-UCI president order CyclingTips in a declaration stating that while the velodrome was impressive,” it was clear to me that there was no capacity in the country to organise an phenomenon at this stage, and substantial external technical assistance would have been needed to actually introduced an occurrence on .”

( Speaking to CyclingTips, one speaking on behalf of Mr Makarov was indicated that” Choosing which country to hold a UCI event in is a communal decision that goes through every level of “the organizations activities”. The Committee chose Turkmenistan as the legion district[ sic] for the World Track Racing Championship for numerous rationales, including the country’s existing infrastructure. While preparing to host the Asian Martial Arts Games in 2017, Turkmenistan improved a variety of superlative boast venues, such as a world-class indoor cycling track, the quality of which was appreciated by UCI representatives .”)

Endorsing a authoritarian

Makarov, who acts as an advisor to the Turkmen government in gas and lubricant, as well as cycling, was- along with UCI President David Lappartient and The Great Protector- one of simply three parties on the broadcasted phone call that lay Berdimuhamedov as recipient of the prestigious UCI Order, which you’ll retain was our introduction pitch into this labyrinth in the first place.

That’s a strange awarding that doesn’t appear in the UCI’s organisation and hasn’t been given to anyone, authoritarian or otherwise, for at least 13 times- and reiterated requests for a list of past recipients exited unanswered by the UCI.

Nevertheless, Lappartient said its issuance to Berdimuhamedov was “unanimously” agreed upon by the UCI Management Committee- a mas which includes Igor Makarov.

According to the UCI Constitution, the UCI Management Committee is also responsible for deciding the venues of World Championships: like the 2021 line one that will be held in Ashgabat and the 2026 street one that Turkmenistan seems convinced that it’s already stuck the human rights of.

Turkmen media has attained reproduced claims that the country will host the 2026 Road World Championships.

Let’s connect some flecks: Igor Makarov- a major are part of the sport’s bureaucracy- has advised and approved at least one Turkmen bid for cycling World Championships that stands to reinforce his substantial business relationships in the country, conducted in equipment that his firm helped constructed, and then, as a bonus, been an important factor in the orchestration of a prestigious accolade for his associate, the President.

This isn’t the first instance where Makarov has been linked to a World Championships order, either. The 2013 Track World Championships was granted to Minsk, Belarus- the capital of a country governed under the iron fist of Alexander Lukashenko. At the time, Areti was engaged in a multi-million dollar construction project, which at the time aroused specific concerns of a conflict of interest influencing Minsk’s successful offer.

Should a boasting mas be expected to take a higher moral soil than the broader international community? Is it dumb idealism to hope that it should at least try?

For what it’s worth, Makarov’s register in the best interests on the UCI website says that he “[ does] not ensure any actualities and circumstances that might be subject to possible conflict of interest”, and representatives of Makarov say that he is blameless of bribery, bribery or any improper conduct.

In response to CyclingTips’ previous section on the subject, which mentioned a reported FBI probe of Makarov and Itera for the purposes of an alleged attempt to bribe a congressman, representatives was indicated that” neither Mr. Makarov, Itera or anyone associated with the company[ ought to have] blamed, prosecuted or publicly accused by officials of bribery or any similar crime”.

Responding to more recent questions on Makarov’s advisory role working for the Turkmen government, a spokesperson said that this was ” short-term” and Makarov” received no stipend, fee or preferential arrangements .”

Recent Turkmen media reports, however, show that Makarov occupied this role for more than a year, and at least as recently as September 2020, where he predicted Berdimuhamedov that Areti” would continue to fulfil all partner obligations, taking an active part in the large-scale transformation programmes, was initiated in the country .”

Ethics and the rules of procedure

The UCI has been outspoken on its quest for diversity and inclusion.

Meanwhile, the UCI has been outspoken about celebrating diversity and inclusivity, with a code of morals that states that “the persons bound by the Code shall not undertake any action, use any belittling utterances, or any other means, that upset the human dignity of a person or group of persons, on any grounds including but not limited to skin colour, race, doctrine, indigenous or social origin, political mind, sexual direction, disorder or any other ground contrary to human dignity.”

That same code of ethics includes an article 7.2, which is to say that” beings bind by the Code[ including members of the management committee] shall not be required to be, directly or indirectly, offer, promise, lobby, give or countenance different forms of unnecessary reimbursement or commissioning , nor any obscured benefit or service of any quality .”

Simultaneously, the UCI has quietly demonstrated favour to a despot who has criminalised homosexuality, has a long history of human rights abuses, and presides over the second-worst press freedom in the world. In the process, a prominent member of the management committee has plausibly benefited from the UCI’s care of Turkmenistan and president of the conference.

The UCI has been demonstrated favour to a despot who has criminalised homosexuality, has a long history of human rights abuses, and presides over the second-worst press freedom in the world.

When CyclingTips challenged the UCI on the juxtaposition between its words and actions, the governing body offered any answers. However, a UCI spokesperson told CyclingTips that” Mr Makarov … has not been involved in any of the deliberations seeing matters related to Turkmenistan in accordance with article 56 equality. 4 of the UCI Constitution and has not been subject to any related issues and proceedings before the UCI Ethics Commission.”

A spokesperson of Mr Makarov was indicated that” As a native of Turkmenistan, Mr. Makarov also understands the country’s culture and customs better than any other UCI member. His activities within UCI are entirely separate from his business, assets and assignments in Turkmenistan .”

Nonetheless, a request for information about the originate administration committee member[ s] behind the proposal to award Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov with the UCI Order was rejected. So too was a request for the hours of the relevant management committee meeting. Several requests for comment from individual committee members in the hope of shedding some sun have, likewise, get unanswered.

The ability behind the throne?

Makarov continues a low-toned public profile, but he has had a long and lasting influence on its management of the sport of cycling. He was elected to the European Cycling Union( UEC ), soon after a million dollar “donation” was announced from his firm, Areti.

In the lead-up to the 2013 election for the UCI presidency, Makarov and then-president Pat McQuaid collaborated on a World Championships bid for Turkmenistan, with McQuaid, remarkably, having signed a contract with Makarov to act as a consultant for the Turkmen bid while simultaneously serving as UCI President.

Four months later McQuaid withdrew his support, recognising it as the substantial conflict of interest it was.

McQuaid and Makarov’s relationship deteriorated when the Russian’s team, Katusha, was denied a WorldTour license due to multiple doping irreverences and an alleged speciman of race-fixing, with the dispute eventually reaching as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Katusha’s Alexandr Kolobnev and Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov were probed by counsels for the purposes of an alleged EUR1 50,000 bribe at the 2010 publication of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

The frosty regard between Makarov and McQuaid also included a falling-out over a never-run Tour of Russia. CyclingTips has in its owned a leaked report demonstrating that the influence of Vladimir Putin over the Russian Cycling Federation was a source of tension within the UCI; the Tour of Russia’s genesis was from a personal discussion between onetime UCI president Hein Verbruggen and Putin himself.

The divulged communication proves an seeming struggle by McQuaid to apply pressure to Makarov to push through the scoot in his character as President of the Russian Federation- which CyclingTips understands would have earned the UCI a EUR5. 5 million fee per annum. This was unsuccessful, and budget proposals fell over on the eve of contracts being signed, to the UCI’s chagrin.

The Tour of Beijing- an unpopular but rewarding phenomenon that positioned a template for the organisation’s willingness to exportation cycling to fringe groceries for a fee- was ultimately conducted as an alternative.

Makarov last-minute allegedly seeped a devastate dossier that was just trying to destabilise McQuaid, made explosive interrogations saying that it would be “devastating” for cycling if McQuaid was returned as chairperson, and publicly shed his value behind Brian Cookson’s eventually successful bid for UCI presidency in 2013.

The oligarch and the UCI president

The same time, Makarov also facilitated orchestrate David Lappartient’s candidacy for presidency of the European Cycling Union( EUC ), via what l’Equipe bawls” a well-oiled strategy” that involved” soliciting electing members by promising every kind of wonders to each federation .”

Weeks after Lappartient became president of the EUC, Areti’s sponsorship of the organisation allegedly increased five-fold, and Lappartient’s stepping stone toward the UCI Presidency was assured.

Makarov saves a low-spirited public profile, but he has had a long and lasting influence on the play.

In 2017, at the UCI Congress at the Bergen World Championships, Lappartient stunned the incumbent UCI leadership to easily win the presidential election, 37 votes to 8- thanks in gigantic place to the European Confederation’s 15 votes flowing toward its president.

Brian Cookson( left) at the moment he learned that he had been steamrolled in the UCI presidential election by a terribly chuffed David Lappartient( freedom ). Photo: Simon Wilkinson.

Years later, those attached to the Cookson campaign are philosophical, with one root telling CyclingTips that” something had changed between when we did our lobbying and the vote … clearly there was some discussion going on behind the scenes somewhere to back a certain ticket of delegates and not another group of delegates- including the president .”

Lappartient’s campaign predicts included an unexpected assurance of EUR2- 4 million to each of the Continental Federations- double what Cookson had committed to in his speech- with the additional funds to be made up from donations from undisclosed “private partners”.

An anonymous generator quoted by CyclingNews on the subject was indicated that” Lappartient is elected first of all chairman of the Europe Federation with immense assistance from Makarov, then elected president of the UCI with again vast assistance from Makarov … Lappartient is in the palm of Makarov .” And definitely, after Lappartient’s landside in Bergen, according to l’Equipe, Makarov was witnessed at the UCI Congress” furtively will be followed by his field of suitors”,” boasting as if he himself came to be elected president.’ It’s also my win ,’ he tittered mischievously, is recognized that his place on the management committee made him an ideal position .”

( The private sponsors are referred to by Lappartient in his campaign speech have patently not been called upon, with the UCI telling CyclingTips that the “solidarity programme” has ” for the time being … not included contributions” from the private sector organizations .)

Lappartient’s regime

Lappartient’s four-year term as UCI president began that September in Bergen, and over the past three years he has seldom been far from the sport’s limelight.

In his time at the helm, nonetheless, Lappartient has also presided over substantial staff turnover. CyclingTips understands that in the first 18 months of Lappartient’s presidency alone at least 10 major members of staff left the organisation- including the Head of Legal, Head of Communications, Head of Marketing, Sports Director, the Head of Anti-Doping, and the Director of Cabinet- a new outlook introduced by Lappartient, apportioned to the campaign manager behind his presidential run, with whom Lappartient was close.

Lappartient’s UCI has focussed heavily on technological hoax, one of the Frenchman’s key safarus pillars. Jean-Christophe Peraud- a former second-place finisher at the Tour de France known to Lappartient through his role at the French Federation- was installed to headline this battle, and later removed as one of the purposes of a restructure shortly after a multi-year French criminal investigation found “nothing” to substantiate any prevalence of mechanical doping in cycling.

Gabriele Fioni( deputy director of CEA Tech ), David Lappartient( UCI president ), Jean-Christophe Peraud( Manager of Equipment and the Fight against Technological Fraud) and Bob Stapleton( President of the Commission for the Fight against Technological Fraud) at the UCI’s propel of the new methods to combat technological hoax in March 2018. Photo: Shane Stokes

CyclingTips understands that there has also been considerable internal angst within the UCI due to a number of close relationships between elderly staff member.

For example, the Director-General, Amina Lanaya, contains one of the most powerful positions in the organisation, and whilst in this role her husband Peter van den Abeele was promoted to Sports Director- a position where he directly reports to his wife.” It’s a highly cosy design ,” one informant told CyclingTips; another described it as having encouraged to a” strange environ “. Meanwhile, two other senior members of staff were widely understood to have been engaged in an extramarital affair.

In addition to the employee churn at the UCI over Lappartient’s call have been damaging discoveries of a “reign of terror” at the World Cycling Centre- the UCI’s crown jewel and figurative look of the sport’s want for globalisation.

For 10 times, this reputable equipment was under the directorship of the decorated French road sprinter Fred Magne. Magne reportedly bullied trainees at the Centre, omitted African riders, failed to account for Muslim dietary requirements, constructed trainees lead personal errands for him, and extorted hires.

In addition to these allegations, CyclingTips understands that Magne promoted his girlfriend to High Performance Manager, and ill-use busines funds by contributing habit bicycles to friends and associates. Magne and his advocates have reportedly feuded all allegations, but he has waned media requests for comment, citing a confidentiality rider.

Although Magne was in March 2019 removed from his position due to his alleged misconduct, a source speaking on the condition of anonymity told CyclingTips that the UCI paid him a year’s income regardless, as a severance reward.

The World Cycling Centre, Aigle, Switzerland. Image: UCI.

Infighting and resentment

The UCI’s latest Annual Report divulges an organisation that is fixated on international increment, while navigating a challenging financial positions triggered by wane stores in the years of Lappartient’s presidency, and exacerbated by the COVID-1 9 pandemic.

But any estimate of expansion and outward strong buries a poor foot.

The organisation has also been involved in a series of high-profile stoushes with members of the international cycling frat. The UCI has earmarked EUR1 million to fight the breakaway organisation Velon in tribunal, working coin from the WorldTour emergency fund- a puddle that teams and hasten organisers contributes to. Velon, an organisation owned by the teams that are its members, is therefore locked in a law battle with the UCI, with pundits feeling that the governing body is using the teams’ coin to fight against the teams’ interests.

Michal Kwiatkowski was visibly delighted to meet the new UCI president in Bergen.

Meanwhile, the AIGCP( Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels ), which is the representative form of teams, has a frosty relationship with the UCI due to saw intervention in business interests and a taste of general inability. Lappartient has been publicly insulting of the AIGCP’s concerns, labelling their complaints on more than one occasion as” fake news “.

Simultaneously, the CPA( Cyclistes Professionelles Associes)- a representative body of the riders, as different from the AIGCP- has been appreciated by numerous riders as an increasingly lame duck operating under the UCI’s auspices, while any analysi of the CPA has likewise been labelled by Lappartient as” fake news “.

The situation has since become further scrapped by the formation of the Rider’s Union, a splinter person that is campaigning for better representation of rider interests.

In short, the International Cycling Union scarcity harmony.

Lappartient has been scornful of criticism from the AIGCP, and criticism of the CPA- labelling both as “fake news”.

The mayor

That lack of peace too seems to exist in the figure of Lappartient himself. For the duration of his term, Lappartient has sufficed not just as UCI President- a character that provides an annual income of CHF2 57,000( US $282,000) and a CHF5 4,000( US $59,000) payment, as well as a auto and” social attacks and pension overheads” of CHF1 17,000( US $128,000)- but too as the Mayor of Sarzeau, a small town in Brittany, France, that is Lappartient’s home.

This is not a ceremonial sentiment- a hunting of municipal records shows that there is a EUR2 5,752( US $30,500) compensation.

CyclingTips understands that, following internal concerns about Lappartient’s attention being split between his two jobs, upon elected members UCI president he made a oral has pledged to stand down as mayor at the upcoming elections. However, in March 2020, Lappartient stood for re-election and won. Unlike previous UCI presidents, “Lappartient is a politician,” CyclingTips was told- a fact that encompasses his drive, his ambition and his skill as a delegate.

Lappartient’s prominent persona on the feature stagecoach has had some positive forks for Sarzeau and the smother region. The town assured hosting claims to stage 4 of the 2018 Tour de France, and a June 2018 session of the UCI Management Committee was softly handed to the tiny neighbouring village of Arzon.

But while Lappartient’s powerful predicament in Brittany generates succes and standing to the region, there’s another side to the coin: the UCI has a workaholic at the helm, pulled in pit tacks, with a punishing planned across his two jobs that routinely pulls to” over 85 hours per week ,” acted in accordance with Lappartient.” To be honest, it’s not easy … Physically, it’s a bit hard-bitten, but I’m not complaining because I missed it .”

Bridging the distance

Unlike his precede, Brian Cookson, Lappartient has not offset the move to Switzerland, with his two jobs asking Lappartient to split his time between the UCI headquarters in Aigle, and Sarzeau, almost a thousand kilometres away.

According to one informant, Lappartient has ” virtually been in the department one day a week at the best use of hours, because he’s either passing or in Sarzeau .” This physical subdivide is exacerbated by a strong managerial hand.” He’s an unhelpful mingle of a operate chairperson who are interested everything to go through him and almost always absent, stimulating paralysis ,” CyclingTips was told.” He wants to control everything .”

Lappartient splits his time between Switzerland- where he is UCI President- and Brittany, where he is a town mayor.

Until COVID-1 9 hitting, Lappartient maintained a frantic hurtle planned since his installation as President, with advance the cost of over CHF1 25,000( US $137,000) incurred in 2019 and CHF1 34,000( US $147,000) in 2018. In January 2020, Lappartient told CyclingTips that his time was split half between pas and time in the part, with 61 excursions abroad to 30 countries in the previous year.

That tally notably included a tour to Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan, where Lappartient says that he was “lucky to participate in the[ World Bicycle Day] galas, including the mass cycle marathon, along with the President.”

Alongside Berdimuhamedov, Lappartient toured the Ashgabat Velodrome, which offered to host 2021′ s Track Cycling World Championships, and obligingly posed for regime media wearing a Turkmenistan tracksuit.

The velodrome- immaculate, pristine, unmarked by rival- is the ability for 6,000 witness, although having regard to the restrictive mood of the regime that establish it, the presence of either international media or witness next year is far from assured.

Where next?

As most of the world could surmise, October’s World Track Championships face an uncertain future due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. That fact might come as more of a surprise to citizens of Turkmenistan, seeing as the C-word has been boycotted and the country still does not officially recognise all such cases.

Ashgabat renders a curated version of reality. Photo: John Parelka, Flickr Commons.

But behind the facade, all is not well in Turkmenistan. The few reports to slip the Turkmen cage say that local hospitals have been swamped with victims of “pneumonia”. The regime has recently backflipped after initially arresting people detected wearing facemasks, and is now forcing students to sign a donate to wear masks to protect themselves from “harmful dust” blowing in from the Aral Sea( which, incidentally, might also be the case ).

The UCI told CyclingTips that” as any organiser of a UCI event, a health etiquette shall be required to reduce as much as possible the risks of communication of COVID-1 9 in and around the Championships”- although it can likely be assumed that there will be a lot of euphemisms employed in the process.

The UCI has pursued- or been exercised into- a relationship with an international pariah.

If the championships proceed, the UCI and rivalling people will get a challenging lesson in how to steer a major boast occasion harboured against the background of a pandemic, in a country where it doesn’t exist, and where discussing it is illegal.

The UCI would say that its contract is to raise the sport to the world, and the world has arranges like Turkmenistan- and the UCI is right. Meanwhile, many governments around the world have cordial trade relations with Turkmenistan, even if they would not superficially forgive most of the actions that the regime makes.

In that context, should a feature organization be expected to take a higher moral dirt than the broader international community? Is it dumb idealism to hope that it should at least try?

By dancing with a oppressor, nonetheless, the UCI is learning about the uncomfortable realities of totalitarianism. That’s a lesson that could have been anticipated, and could have been avoided. The UCI chose to pursue- or was exercised into- a relationship with an international pariah, the full extent of which it has tried to conceal and minimise. In the process, it has sowed a bitter crop in the betrayal of its loftier ideals.

The whole situation- the coronavirus cover-up, the UCI’s endorsement of a dictator, the machinations behind the scenes and the obvious self-interest at the core of the decisions leading up to it- would be absurd, if there wasn’t such a treacherous undercurrent of misfortune.

But then, this is a theatre that began with Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov- Great Protector, prolific generator, lover of fatbikes, architect of beings gilded puppy statues.

The post The dictator, the oligarch and the UCI president appeared first on CyclingTips.

Read more: feedproxy.google.com