McQuaid loses UCI presidency to Cookson
Briton Brian Cookson emerges victorious after hours of heated debate and rancour
Defeated Pat McQuaid has said that he would return to the sport in some capacity but would first take a month-long holiday. Photograph: Tim Ireland
In Florence’s historical Palazzo Vecchio, the ancient Romanesque fortress which once housed the office of Niccolò Machiavelli, cycling’s governing body had its own twists and turns and political intrigue yesterday when Pat McQuaid and Brian Cookson fought for the presidency of the UCI.
McQuaid’s bid for a third term came to an end after hours of heated debate, accusations and promises, with each candidate fending off suggestions of improper behaviour.
The presidential debate at the UCI Congress turned controversial early on when Peter Zevenbergen, head of the UCI’s ethics commission, discussed complaints that had been put before it. He said the commission had found there were indeed problems with a letter sent by McQuaid early in the campaign which was critical of Cookson and others. He described that letter as undemocratic, but those words were the only response to those actions.
Soon afterwards he said that an unnamed person had promised €25,000 to the Greek federation in return for support for Cookson; this was strongly denied by the Briton, who again rejected that claim.
“That’s not the way I operate,” he said. “Never have, never will.”
Dropping that information into the proceedings was a curious decision by Zevenbergen, and one which some claimed afterwards may have been done to help McQuaid. It was doubly curious because he provided no proof, yet said during the same speech that the ethics commission would not be able to act upon claims made against McQuaid in an investigative dossier due to a lack of evidence.
Zevenbergen said that the commission had made numerous approaches to the Russian Igor Makarov, the UCI management committee member who had appointed investigators to the task, and to fellow committee member Mike Plant, who had announced the existence of the dossier earlier this summer.
He said that they refused to turn over the document; Plant later told The Irish Times that he didn’t trust the commission, suggesting that it was not independent, and that he would have resigned had McQuaid won.
Things took another twist when the UCI Congress addressed the question about whether or not McQuaid’s nomination for the election was valid. That question had existed ever since Cycling Ireland’s members voted not to back him in June, and Swiss Cycling rescinded its previous nomination in August.
Article 51.1 of the UCI constitution states that those running for the position must be nominated
“by the federation of the candidate”. The wording has often been interpreted as meaning the home federation. McQuaid relied on nominations from Morocco and Thailand and this was enough of a concern for five federations to request earlier this month the UCI to let the Court of Arbitration for Sport rule on the matter.
That was refused at the time and yesterday the UCI wheeled out two lawyers who backed the Irishman’s interpretation. It was an unexpected move and caught Cookson off guard.
The debate on that topic raged on for almost an hour but Cookson suddenly put an end to the doubt: “We’ve had enough of this. I’m going to propose that we go to straight to the vote between the two candidates.”
It may have secured him the election. An earlier vote on a different rule relating to nominations was split 21-21, suggesting both candidates had equal numbers of supporters. But the final presidential vote was more decisive – Cookson won by 24 votes to 18.
Many commentators felt that the UCI’s battle to keep their top man in his position would pay off. Cookson appeared surprised at his win, and McQuaid was clearly shaken.
“It is a huge honour to be elected president of the UCI. I would like to thank you for all the trust you have placed in me,” said the Briton. “The campaign to get to this point has been intense but . . . the real work starts now.”
He said that he would call Wada on Monday to begin a process to investigate the UCI’s past actions and the sport itself.
As for McQuaid, he said that he would return to the sport in some capacity but would first take a month-long holiday in France.