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McCartney Cyclers Accused of Fraud

March 6, 2001

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ The disbanded Linda McCartney cycling team has been accused of giving false financial documents to the sport’s governing body.

The ruling body said Tuesday it tried to pay riders and staff of the all-vegetarian British team by cashing a bank guarantee the team supplied before the 2000 season.

``The union was informed by the bank concerned that it never gave a guarantee for the Linda McCartney team and that the document presented ... is false,″ UCI said in a statement. ``Therefore, UCI and the riders and other staff members were deceived by a fraudulent act.″

UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said he did not know whether the complaint would be lodged in Switzerland or in Britain. Under Swiss law, anybody can make a complaint to judicial authorities and they are then obliged to investigate. In Britain, the complaint would be made to the police.

Cycling teams must provide a bank guarantee equal to one-quarter of the sum they would have to pay out in wages during a season. Cycling’s governing body did not disclose the amount of the Linda McCartney guarantee or how much money was owed to the team employees.

The team reportedly faces debts of almost $1.5 million.

The cycling union said it would pay McCartney team employees the amount they would normally be able to claim _ most likely the equivalent of three months’ salary.

The collapse of the team left 35 riders and backup staff without jobs, including Max Sciandri, the 1996 Olympic road race bronze medalist. Sciandri said he was owed 11 months’ salary.

The team, founded two years ago in the name of the late wife of former Beatle Paul McCartney, was the first British outfit to compete in the Tour of Italy. It had hoped to become the first team to take part in the Tour de France in 14 years.

Tim Treharne, a director of Linda McCartney Foods, said Tuesday his company had no role in the running of the team.

``Linda McCartney Foods is only one of the sponsors of the team. We had and have no management responsibility whatsoever,″ Treharne told The Associated Press. ``It’s very sad because the actual riders were very, very good. They all came to see me and asked if we could keep the team running, but there was no money there.″

Treharne said the team was managed by O.C. Racings and Promotions, which is run by Julian Clark. He said he did not know where Clark was.

In a statement at the time the team was disbanded earlier this year, Clark said there had been no wrongdoing.

``This action has been caused by the decision not to support the team from one of this season’s sponsors and by the low level of support by the team’s main named sponsor, not in fact by any disappearance of funds as wrongly assumed,″ he said.

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