Day of destiny for McQuaid in battle for UCI presidency
Fallout from the Lance Armstrong saga a major issue for Irishman as he takes on Britain’s Brian Cookson
Brian Cookson and Pat McQuaid who are vying for the presidency of the UCI. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Michael Steele/Getty Images
After over a year of questions about his and the UCI’s role in the Lance Armstrong saga and three months of tussling with his sole opponent Brian Cookson, Pat McQuaid this morning faces 42 delegates at the UCI Congress in Florence and, with that, his destiny.
The outcome of the meeting will determine if he will secure a third four-year term at the top of cycling’s governing body, or if he will lose a contest he had fully expected to win and will be ousted as president.
Those delegates, drawn from federations around the world, have the power to grant him his wish for more time to pursue his objective. Alternatively, they can instigate the fresh start that Cookson and his supporters say that the sport desperately needs.
To say cycling is divided about the two candidates is putting it mildly. British Cycling president Cookson has been a member of the UCI management committee since 2009 and previously expressed support for McQuaid publicly.
However in June of this year he stepped up and said that he no longer believed the Irishman was the right person to lead the sport forward. In the absence of other challengers, he stated, he was willing to himself stand and to try to do things in a better way.
One of the big issues Cookson speaks about is restoring credibility to the sport. It’s a sentiment that is agreed with by many, including those people who feel that McQuaid and the UCI still have question marks over them from the past.
In October of last year the UCI said it would not fight the US Anti Doping Agency’s reasoned decision into the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service investigation.
Although McQuaid strongly disagreed with USADA’s suggestion that he and previous president Hein Verbruggen had either ignored or even facilitated the multiple Tour winner’s doping system, he said the UCI was willing to allow a fully independent review to take place, called the Independent Commission.
Once put in place, that commission went about trying to investigate the governing body, but after several weeks said that some sort of amnesty needed to be put in place to encourage witnesses to come forward. The UCI rejected any change to the terms of reference and shelved the commission in late January, seeking to blame Wada and USADA for a lack of cooperation.
McQuaid said then that a different – but equally independent – investigation would take place, but since then nothing has happened to reach a firm conclusion about what he and Verbruggen did or didn’t do. He claims the review will happen at some point after today’s election.
Cookson says it is too little, too late, and wants to work with Wada on that audit and also create a new and entirely independent anti-doping system to police the sport.
Prior to today’s vote, other votes will take place that will also determine the outcome. Article 51.1 of the UCI’s regulations has become a centre point of the election, with the wording of that saying that candidates must be nominated ‘by the federation of the candidate.’
This is interpreted by many as meaning the home federation, and Cookson was indeed proposed by British Cycling.
McQuaid had requested nomination from Cycling Ireland [the federation of the country he is from] and Swiss Cycling [the country where he lives] but after initial support, he ultimately got the backing of neither. He is now drawing on backing of the Moroccan and Thai federations, and claims that simply being a member of a federation is enough to satisfy Article 51.1.
The UCI refused five federations’ request to allow the Court of Arbitration for Sport to rule on the accuracy of that claim, and instead said that Congress will vote on the matter. If it decides that McQuaid’s interpretation is wrong, and also rejects other proposals by federations designed to favour him, McQuaid will be out.