UCI under fire over allegations of blocking freedom of the press by refusing accreditation to a journalist at the World Championships

UCI President David Lappartient has faced tough questions over why a journalist who wrote critical investigative reporting was denied accreditation for the World Road Championships in Wollongong , in Australia.

Ian Treloar examined the link between the governing body and an autocrat with an abysmal human rights record and a Russian billionaire under sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, stories that have drawn critical de Lappartient and formed the basis, Treloar suggests, of his inability to cover the unfolding event as a credentialed reporter.

Writing for Australia-based cycling website CyclingTips, Treloar was one of four colleagues to apply for accreditation and although his three colleagues were successful, his request was denied.

The UCI insists this is due to high demand from other media outlets, meaning it was necessary to enforce a rule limiting publications to three journalists.

However, the official line did not go well, with footage from the event’s press center showing empty offices and prompting Treloar to tell the Guardian it may be “an accumulation of a number of stories creating a perception in their minds that I am a troublemaker”.

In recent times Treloar investigative exhibits have examined Russia’s connection to the UCI after the invasion of Ukraine, including that Russian billionaire Igor Makarov remains on the UCI’s board despite sanctions. from Australia and Canada.

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Treloar also examined the governing body’s relationship with Turkmen autocrat Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, as well as the operation of a UCI program to help evacuate cyclists from Afghanistan.

“I think I’m asking reasonable questions about the governance of sport,” he continued. “I’m sure the UCI thinks they’re a transparent organization and they govern responsibly, but if they’re blocking access, I wonder if that’s really the case.”

Speaking at a press conference, President Lappartient said the denial of accreditation was simply a matter of policy.

“Two points. The first is that this is exactly UCI policy for accreditations,” he said.

“It has been published, it’s three per newspaper and from what I understand CyclingTips already has three journalists. Each newspaper is here with three journalists, afterwards I have no specific comment to make. By the way, every newspaper is welcome, but this newspaper used its three credentials that we do for this event, so here we are.”

SBS Sports suggested that the policy outlined above may not be as strict as Lappartient claims, reporting that the Illawarra Mercury has nine members accredited to the event, and noted that the press room was “maybe be ten percent full at its busiest”.

Cycling journalists’ union Association Internationale des Journalistes du Cyclisme (AIJC) has raised concerns with the UCI, and its UK representative, Sahbh O’Shea, said she had never seen the rule of the three journalists applied.

“I spoke to them in person and expressed my displeasure that they were effectively restricting access to a journalist who published negative stories about them,” she said.

Speaking to SBS, Treloar editor Caley Fretz said the reasons given “do not hold water”.

“The whole situation is deeply disappointing, mean-spirited and unbecoming of the sport’s governing body. We are here as Australia’s largest cycling-focused publication to cover and promote the sport we love, but the behavior of the ‘UCI prevents us from doing exactly that,’ he said.

The UCI has since issued a statement echoing the words of its president on a quota of three journalists.

The UCI reserves the right to approve or deny accreditation through the online application process. Accreditation is limited to a maximum of three permanent media representatives for each media outlet (representatives holding a valid press card).

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