Racing Your Bicycle

AuthorChristopher Waters
racing your bicycle » 169
chapter 7
Racing Your Bicycle
In the 1890s, a cycling craze swept the world with the advent of
the “safety bicycle.” This was a new device characterized by a steer-
able front wheel, a chain, a sprocket drive, and two equally sized
wheels innovative features that remain the foundation of bicycle
design to this day. Because the safety bicycle was faster, and more
stable and comfortable than existing cycles, cycling took o in popu-
larity all around the world. In Canada, bicycles began to be widely
used for leisure, work, exercise, and athletic competition.
In 1894, at the height of the cycling boom, a bicycle race took
place in Toronto. Five clubs entered the event to compete for the
honour of winning the “Challenge Cup.” The course consisted of
several loops around the Woodbine racetrack and down several
roads, a distance of just over 32kilometres. The result of the race
was to be decided according to the points scored by each competing
club. After the race, two clubs disputed the outcome, arguing over
whether a cyclist from the Athenaeum Bicycle Club had properly
rounded the barrel at a turn. Before the race organizers made any
decision, the Royal Canadian Bicycle Club made an application to
the Ontario High Court of Justice for an injunction to restrain the
trustees of the Challenge Cup from handing over the award to the
Athenaeum Bicycle Club. The court rejected the application, decid-
ing that the Challenge Cup trustees were rst required to determine
170 »  ’    
for themselves who had ocially won the bicycle race before the
courts could adjudicate a request for an injunction.1
The case may be the earliest reported Canadian court decision
involving competitive cycling. The facts are remarkably revealing of
some of the basic features that continue to characterize the legal and
regulatory environment of competitive sports in Canada.
First, the rules governing participation in sports are generally
established by private sport-governing bodies, like the trustees of
the Challenge Cup in the example above, rather than by statute or
the common law.
Second, it is also true that the activities of private sports asso-
ciations are ultimately subject to judicial oversight; the Royal Can-
adian Bicycle Club sought such a judicial remedy, in the form of an
injunction, in 1894. Indeed, courts can review the decisions of pri-
vate sporting bodies — notably, this can occur when an association
has interfered with the legal rights of members.
Finally, while it was not yet the case in the late nineteenth cen-
tury, governments eventually took an interest in regulating some
aspects of amateur and professional sports. Federal, provincial, and
territorial statutes, as well as municipal bylaws, now prescribe addi-
tional rules for the conduct of competitive sporting activities, includ-
ing for the sport of cycling.
It is thus the case that competitive cycling in Canada is gov-
erned by a body of regulations that straddle private and public law.
A network of private, self-regulating international and national asso-
ciations set most of the rules. They oversee participation in cycling
as a sport, and set administrative and disciplinary rules, as well as
rules of play. While the regulations adopted by private cycling asso-
ciations make up the bulk of the rules governing the sport, Canadian
statutory law and judicial authorities are also involved in regulating
some aspects of the sport of cycling.
This chapter will provide an overview of the private as well as
the state-created regulations that govern the sport of cycling in Can-
ada. I will start by describing the domain of autonomous self-regula-
tion of cycling by national and international sport associations. I will
then outline some of the ways Canada’s laws and judicial system
have an impact on competitive cyclists and their sport.
racing your bicycle » 171
this chapter’s takeaways
» Bicycle racing is a privatized activity, but one that is strongly
aected by federal, provincial, and municipal laws.
» International, federal, and provincial cycling associations have
rules that determine who can race and how races are run, and
these tend to operate through a complex set of legal contracts
entered into by associations and international organizations,
between federal and provincial associations, between associ-
ations and bicycle clubs and race organizers, and between asso-
ciations and athletes.
» Athletes’ behaviour is subject not only to these rules, but also spe-
cial standards on performance-enhancing drugs and the more gen-
eral laws of the land such as tort and criminal law.
» Disputes stemming from bicycle races are generally resolved
through alternative dispute resolution especially arbitration
and not often the courts.
sport and cycling governing bodies
To understand the complex labyrinth of regulations that governs
organized cycling, it is essential to rst describe the organizations
involved in setting the rules, and the source and boundaries of their
authority over the sport.
Organized cycling in Canada, along with many other sports, is
governed by not-for-prot agencies at the international, national,
provincial/territorial, and local levels. For the most part, cycling
governing bodies are private and self-regulating. They are generally
not created by statute, but are incorporated as not-for-prot organ-
izations under national, provincial, or territorial laws. I discussed
incorporation in Chapter 6.
At the top of the eld are international organizations and feder-
ations, which have developed a regulatory monopoly over cycling. At
the national level, the Canadian-organized cycling system is made
up of a number of associations that develop and administer servi-
ces and competitions, and provide regulatory oversight of the sport
across the country and in each province and territory.

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