From special correspondent Tyler Boucher
Update: UCI Mullet restrictions.
In an unusual turn of events, the UCI has issued a statement in response to a call for more oversight on mullets within the pro peloton.
UCI President Pat McQuaid spoke to reporters at a press conference earlier this week: “Rest assured, we are taking hair restrictions very seriously. We have a process and that process is proceeding.”
Along with the continuing debates on race radio and revenue sharing, a review of hair styles — in particular Movistar Vladimir Karpets’ potentially illegal mullet — is high on the UCI agenda.
In a wide-ranging interview, McQuaid singled out mullet abuse as an area of focus. “We also have some suspicions that the hairstyle in question may provide some aerodynamic benefit to the rider,” said McQuaid. “We feel confident that doping is on the decline and now it’s time to set stringent guidelines for hair styling.”
While the rules spelled out about bicycle aerodynamics, specifically the currently defined 3:1 ratio rule, are carefully monitored and closely adhered to, the UCI’s past rulings on rider-specific aerodynamics are somewhat less clear.
It’s possible that, should this investigation conclude that the mullet constitutes an aerodynamic advantage, the UCI could ban the hairstyle from all sanctioned competition. According to an unnamed UCI official, there is a “suspicious hairstyle” list and Karpets is at the top. “We’re considering a style check at all ProTour level races,” said the official. “The image of the sport is of paramount importance. We can’t have sponsors leaving the sport because of things like mullets.”
At this point the Russian Cycling Federation has refused to address the issue of Karpet’s dated and possibly illegal mullet. “This is not a matter for our attention,” said Oleg Markovchek, president of the federation. “Karpets is not Di Luca or Linus Gerdemann. He is not obsessed with his hair styling.”
Karpets responded to these comments with a statement of his own, released through his lawyer: “We have been contacted by the UCI and plan to cooperate fully with the investigation. Vladimir has been advised to cut all ties with his hair stylist.”
The UCI is also investigating whether the stylist, who used to work for the Russian Olympic Team, is responsible for several unfashionable haircuts. A Kazakh pole vaulter, Russian distance runner and an Estonian bob-sledder have all admitted to seeing this same barber for mullet styling.
McQuaid refused to be drawn into a discussion of a possible ban or suspension for Karpets. “That kind of talk is premature. We’re looking into things. I’m not at liberty to discuss details. The image of the sport is important to me,” said McQuaid. “This may seem superficial but I assure you it is not.”