AN INFLUENTIAL group campaigning for an overhaul at the top of international cycling will be addressed by Travis Tygart, the US Anti-Doping Agency boss behind the downfall of Lance Armstrong, at its first meeting this weekend.
Foundation members of Change Cycling Now are Australian anti-doping expert Doctor Michael Ashenden, who has lost faith in the leaders of the Union Cycliste Internationale, disillusioned major sponsor Jaimie Fuller, the chairman of clothing company Skins, which is suing the UCI, renowned cycling trainer Professor Antoine Vayer and prominent journalists Paul Kimmage and David Walsh.
Recruiting riders who also want change at the top is a priority for Change Cycling Now. The group will champion a restructure of anti-doping controls in cycling so that they are ''independent''.
''The sentiment is that the officials who promote the sport are conflicted when they are also required to police it,'' Ashenden told Fairfax Media before departing for Change Cycling Now's meeting in London.
''It seems to me sports are more interested in avoiding scandal than avoiding doping, although they are reluctant to admit this to be the case. I see no reason to dissolve the UCI. But poor leadership, even in a well-designed system, will still deliver poor outcomes. The current leadership at the UCI must be held accountable and, sadly, it seems to me beyond their capacity to lead effectively.
''I believe that changing leadership, which will eventually drip down and change the environment, is the right direction to follow. I've said for a long time that cycling desperately needs fundamental change and this is an opportunity to contribute constructively to a credible initiative.''
An expert in blood-doping technology and the revolutionary biological passport testing system, Ashenden was a founding member of the UCI's expert panel that reviewed riders' blood profiles for evidence of doping but is now a vocal critic.
In the wake of the Armstrong case - which triggered the doping confession of Australia's most senior road-cycling coach Matt White - Ashenden has also criticised Cycling Australia's management of doping-related matters, arguing the government-funded body is ''part of the problem''.
Fuller, the Europe-based Australian boss of Skins - the compression-wear company that sponsors six national cycling federations and teams - instigated the formation of Change Cycling Now. Skins is claiming damages of $2 million from the UCI over the world governing body's alleged mis-management of Armstrong's doping. ''The creation of Change Cycling Now reflects the frustration and anger that I, and many people directly involved in the sport, feel towards the UCI and their management practices,'' Fuller said. ''I am in no doubt that this group also represents the millions of cycling fans who share the views of those who will be around the table. We will also be exploring ways to ensure that these fans can join with us to send an unequivocal message to the UCI and its officers that the current approach is simply not good enough.''