More shenanigans at the Medical Commission

It’s surely been a long long time since taking pen (read “keyboard”) in hand (read “hands”) but the time has come to once again howl at the moon. Ironic that it is on the first day of my new home Grand Prix!

I’ve just been made aware, by trusted and reliable internal sources, that the president of the FIA Medical Commission, my old friend Gérard Saillant, is in the process of removing Professor Hugh Scully from his seat on the Commission. This is most troubling on several fronts.

Let me first explain, to those of you who don’t know Prof Scully, just exactly who he is, and why this is important.

Hugh is a cardiac surgeon, one of the best, and is a past president of the Canadian Medical Association. He is also one of Sid’s greatest friends and allies, since the beginning. Their shared academic background and passion for motorsport would have predicted this, but at a time when it was easier and safer to oppose and obstruct, Hugh instead joined the train and helped make the changes we all know so well. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that without Hugh’s support and wisdom, Sid’s road would have been even more difficult than it was. Hugh also introduced Sid to his beloved wife Susan.

Professor Scully remained loyal to Sid, and continued active participation in the FIA even after Sid’s retirement. This was driven by both his fervent desire to continue Sid’s legacy, as well as his absolute commitment to the greater goal – improved medical structures and care for participants in racing. I should also add that his continued participation came at great personal cost.

Hugh is a founding member of the International Council of Motorsport Sciences. This is a fantastically dynamic organisation, largely based in North America, and which hosts what is universally felt to be the most important annual motorsport medicine meeting in the world. In fact it has been a continuing source of embarrassment to many in the FIA that the FIA’s OWN meeting is laughably trivial compared to the ICMS. Several attempts at organising joint meetings were dashed by the FIA’s lack of competence and honesty.

The ostensible reason for the removal of Hugh from the Medical Commission is his age. Scully is 75. What is interesting is that the internal rules and regulations of the Medical Commission make no mention of an age limit to membership. In fact, unlike any structured body with important regulatory functions, the FIA Medical Commission HAS NO INTERNAL RULES AND REGULATIONS AT ALL! More on this in a bit.

I should point out that the Saillant himself is within striking distance of 75 (if not beyond). I’m certain that if Todt indeed runs and wins the FIA presidency again, Saillant will not use the age criteria to remove himself in favour of a younger person. In fact, Jean-Jacques Issermann, who is well into his nineties, still sits on the Commission.

It is troubling, and not coincidental, that Hugh is the last Sid holdout on the Commission. It’s funny (but not at all surprising, given the lack of competence at this level), but the FIA completely forgot to neutralise my password access to the private area of their website. This gave me a window, for some time after my removal, into the minutes of the Medical Commission. It was apparent that Prof Scully was a constant thorn in the side of the French hierarchy, always insisting on intellectual, scientific, and medical rigour in all aspects considered by the Commission. It is obvious, and very sad, that this is just the latest expression of Todt and Saillant’s desire to expunge all traces of Sid and his approach from the ranks of official motorsport medicine.

I’d also add that the FIA stopped uploading minutes to the website some years ago – perfectly consistent with their desire for opacity.

Another most troubling aspect of this sordid and clearly political move is that Hugh is one of the few high-level motorsport doctors who, despite his “age”, continues to push ahead the agenda of progress. It is obvious to any who are interested that for at least 5 years all notion of forward movement on the medical side of our sport has come to a grinding halt. This complacency, where the “perqs” of membership outweigh the raison d’être of the Commission, will continue unabated. Expect more removals of progressive elements, and their replacement by people who are valued more for their loyalty than for their competency.

Which brings to mind the lack of internal regulations of the Medical Commission itself.

Some years ago Saillant was an “advisor” to Max Mosley. Max was interested in streamlining and improving the functioning of all the FIA commissions, and asked Saillant to advise on the medical side of things. This was an appointment which Max later bitterly regretted, and was based on a misplaced sense of personal indebtedness . . . but I digress.

I suggested to Gérard that the Medical Commission needed a structure and some regulations regarding its function. Originally created to give an official imprimatur to Sid’s agenda, it had failed to evolve into a structure that would drive ahead progress on our side of things.

I pointed out that the members of the commission were chosen based on no criteria other than personal affinity with Sid (with perhaps an occasional political constraint added in). And I suggested that we use the model of the UN Security Council,in the interest of combining some notion of stability with a structural mechanism for changes. I suggested that the Commission have several permanent members, made up of motorsport powerhouse nations. This could be defined in several ways – e.g. countries that had hosted F1, world rally, and/or endurance events in 80% of the years the respective championships existed. In addition, a rotating roster of “lesser” countries would be brought in, in order to provide new ideas, dynamism, and truly global representation. Obviously it was not in the interest of entrenched powers to institute such a reform…

I only say this to highlight that there are not just personal, but structural reasons for the complete lack of progress on the medical front. And to give me a chance to once again return to some projects that I think would be extremely important for the future of medical and rescue coverage of racing events:

  • Continued updating of the motorsport medicine manual, and creation of a real, modular motorsport medicine course
  • Creation of a system for accreditation of motorsport medical and rescue personnel, with a pathway for acquiring and documenting competencies and experience
  • Convening of a “Cockpit Out” conference, to define current best practice in creating the safest most ergonomically efficient driver environment for each type of racing, as well as regulatory reform making the cockpit the START of all technical regs for all series, around which cars would be built.
  • Convening a conference to reconsider the structure of medical and extrication teams in the various levels and types of competition. The role of the circuit medical centre should also be re-analysed in light of progress in management of severe trauma.
  • Sharing of the FIA resources and database for helmets with other organisations both sport and leisure (skiing, bicycling, etc) as well as professional (construction, etc).

I’m going to finish with a heartfelt thank you to Hugh Scully – for being a friend, and for fighting the good fight. It’s been an honour.