The sport of bicycle racing is highly regulated, as are most sports which involve international competition or large scale participation. There are reasons for this: standards and consistency within your chosen sport give you comfort to know you are participating in the same sport on one side of the globe as another; that any records established or standings can be verified as accurate, among other things. Underlying the rules are values or principles like fair play, safety, or compliance with state law.
So, in cycling there are equipment or doping restrictions (fair play), and road centre-line restrictions (safety), for example. Rules regarding rider identification are partly related to the principle of fair play, but they are also partly related to legal/contractual issues, such as a competitor’s declared agreement to be bound by the rules of his or her sport.
By and large, most rules and the penalties imposed for violations are justifiable either intuitively or with a little explanation or further thought. But then there are rules that are questionable on principle, and also arguably wrong on their analytical application.
The following is a short analysis of a rule that says a rider is subject to a $10 fine if a racing licence isn’t signed when presented to a commissaire (official). This may be tear-inducingly boring for some (with a short race report at the end), but nonetheless it is an important issue, since it affected me and several individuals at B.C. Cup race #2, Race the Ridge, this weekend in Maple Ridge.
I was later imposed an additional $20 fine for crossing the finish line while warming up and, while there is a good argument that that was also wrongly imposed, I agree with the principle of that rule, namely that because there is a camera recording finishes, the results can be made very messy by riders crossing back and forth across the line. So, I leave that issue for another day, as the chief commissaire also indicated it was likely that fine would be suspended if I don’t violate the rule again for the rest of the year. However, here I look a little more closely at the rule regarding licence signatures and its $10 fine.
In my case I had not signed the back of my licence before handing it to a commissaire, who in turn imposed the $10 fine. He returned my unsigned licence to me, at which point I signed it as he watched. I asked if that was sufficient to ameliorate the $10 penalty, but he insisted on imposing the fine, as in his view, apparently, the violation had already occurred and the penalty legitimate.
Bicycle racing is governed internationally by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), based in Switzerland. When cyclists apply for a racing licence, they sign a declaration that says they agree to “respect the Constitution and Regulations” of the UCI. There is a UCI rule which says that riders may not participate if they do not hold the “requisite licence” (section 1.1.002), and a rule which says that a licence holder must sign the declaration on the back of it, with no mention of a fine (1.1.026). On principle these requirements relate to identity and to evidence of contractual agreement. If the principle is examined in isolation, then it is fulfilled when riders sign a waiver and a nearly identical, but more comprehensive, declaration. Riders sign this before their licences are even issued.
So arguably, on principle, the imposition of a fine for failing to sign the licence is inappropriate when the waiver and declaration are signed before the licence is issued. In turn, however, a commissaire may argue that he is not concerned about principles, rather he is concerned about the precise letter of the regulations: provision 1.1.026 is clear that a rider must sign the declaration on the licence. However, if he wishes to argue, not on principle, but on strict adherence to what is stated in the Regulations, then he should consider that a fine of 10 Canadian dollars for failing to sign does not appear in the UCI Regulations, but rather that it comes in the form of a rule created by the Provincial organizing body, Cycling B.C.
There is language in the UCI rules that give Provincial (“national”) federations jurisdiction to establish their own criteria in the issuance of licences (1.1.006), as long as they “comply with UCI Regulations” (12.1.017) However, arguably that does not include the imposition of fines. In adhering to the precise letter of the regulations, Cycling B.C. has no jurisdiction to impose a penalty not stated in the UCI regulations (although existing fines may be reduced at the discretion of a national federation (12.1.040). Rule 12.1.015 says:
“12.1.015 National federations may not introduce other penalties for infringements of the UCI Constitution and Regulations.”
Here “other” arguably means penalties not already prescribed in the rules, although there is jurisdiction to lower existing ones, as noted above. A $10 fine for failure to sign a licence does not exist. Additionally, all fines must be be issued in Swiss francs (12.1.027;12.1.007;12.1.40), which may be paid in other currencies (12.1.027), but there appears to be no allowance for fines to be issued in any currency other than Swiss francs.
In conclusion, this analysis argues that a) it is wrong on broad principle to issue a fine for failing to sign a licence, if the waiver and declaration have already been signed; and b) it is wrong on a plain reading of the provisions of the UCI Constitution and Regulations for Cycling B.C .to create a penalty where it is not already stated in the Constitution and Regulations.
This argument of course does not necessarily mean that, if the matter were put to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, it would win the day. It does suggest, however, that Cycling B.C. ought very carefully to re-examine its rule and policy in this respect. At the very least, Cycling B.C. ought to establish a policy that encourages riders, who are mostly amateurs, to participate in what is already an expensive, highly regulated, physically demanding and largely elitist sport.
We are not all professional cyclists, and most compete simply because they love the sport. A policy that allows officials to slavishly adhere to rules around minor infractions can only discourage participation in a crowded sporting market place, where athletic talent is already highly diffused and the element of fun is found abundantly elsewhere.
On that note (!), I was reasonably happy with my race effort. The road race was 96km over a tortuous hilly 12km circuit done 8 times. The pack 55-60 riders split immediately over the first hard climb on lap one, and I made the front group.
However, I was not so lucky the second time – I made it over the hard climb, but lost contact on a false flat and gradual descent that followed. From there I was mostly on my own in no-man’s land between the two packs, although on the odd time I connected with others. I ended up 26th on the stage. The stage 2 time trial was 23km in Golden Ears park over a rolling, difficult course. My time was 32.16 compared to 28.46 for the winner. I was 28th on that stage, which shows the depth of the talent in the Cat 1/2 field. For the third stage criterium in downtown Maple Ridge, the rain and crashes on the first three laps of our race caused me to ease up and essentially wait to be lapped. I was happy not to have been involved in the crashes, and thought it not worth risking one at all. For criteriums, lapped riders are given a pro-rated time and technically finish the race and the stage race. This left me 30th overall in the three stage general classification. I was happy with this effort for my first Cat 1/2 race of the season.