Cycling journalist believes governing body blocked him from world championships for critical reporting

A respected cycling journalist who was twice blocked from attending the Wollongong world cycling championships believes he has been blacklisted for reporting on the governing body’s links to a notoriously repressive regime and a Russian billionaire under sanctions.

Investigative journalist Iain Treloar’s recent reporting has posed uncomfortable questions for the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) – the powerful governing body for world cycling.

Treloar has probed the influence of Russian billionaire Igor Makarov, who has retained his position on UCI’s management committee despite being subject to sanctions from Australia and Canada over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He examined the UCI’s friendly relationship with Turkmen autocrat and former president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who led a regime that Human Rights Watch condemned as “extremely repressive”. Treloar also investigated the exploitation of a scheme set up by the UCI to help cyclists in Afghanistan flee the Taliban.

Treloar and three colleagues at specialist publication CyclingTips applied for accreditation earlier this month for the 2022 road world championships in Wollongong which concludes this weekend.

His three colleagues had their accreditation approved but Treloar’s application was denied.

The UCI said it blocked Treloar from attending due to the high demand from international and local media. It said it had applied its rule limiting accreditation to three reporters from each outlet.

The event’s press centre – set up in Wollongong’s indoor arena – has capacity for hundreds of journalists and photos have shown it near-empty at times this week.

Treloar said he approached a “last minute accreditation desk” in Wollongong and those at the desk told him they had never heard of a limit for individual outlets. He lodged a second application which was also rejected.

Treloar suspects he was denied accreditation because of his critical reporting.

“It’s possibly just an accumulation of a number of stories building a perception in their minds that I’m a troublemaker, or whatever,” he said. “But I think I’m asking reasonable questions about sports governance.”

The cycling journalists’ union, l’Association Internationale des Journalistes du Cyclisme (AIJC), said it had raised concerns with the UCI about Treloar’s treatment.

AIJC’s UK representative, Sadhbh O’Shea, said she had never seen the “three reporters” rule applied and there were no space constraints in Wollongong.

“I’ve spoken to them in person and expressed my dissatisfaction with the fact that they’re effectively restricting access to a journalist who has published negative articles about them,” O’Shea said in Wollongong.

Treloar said the UCI’s decision has not been a big hindrance to the reporting he was doing in Wollongong. But it had preventing him from putting questions to UCI officials including the body’s president, David Lappartient.

In a statement, the UCI said it had applied its accreditation policy which states all applications are “subject to assessment and approval by the UCI”.

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

The UCI did not respond to questions on whether Treloar’s past reporting influenced its decision.

“I’m sure that the UCI believe they are a transparent organisation and that they are governing in an accountable way,” Treloar said. “But if they’re blocking access, then I question whether that actually is the case.”