European veto another blow for McQuaid bid

Continent’s cycling union vote 27-10 to back Cookson in UCI presidential election

European Cycling Union’s vote in favour of Brian Cookson represents another blow to Pat McQuaid’s  bid to be reelected UCI president. Photograph:  Tim Ireland/PA Wire

European Cycling Union’s vote in favour of Brian Cookson represents another blow to Pat McQuaid’s bid to be reelected UCI president. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA Wire


Pat McQuaid’s stuttering campaign to become UCI president for a third time received a further setback yesterday with his rival for the post, Brian Cookson, winning an important European Cycling Union (UEC) vote at its exceptional general assembly held in Zurich.

The 41 delegates present voted almost three to one for the Briton, with Cookson attracting 27 votes compared to McQuaid’s 10. There were three spoilt votes and one abstention.

Presidential election
The UEC will have 14 delegates in the presidential election to be held in Florence, Italy, on September 27th and yesterday’s result means all of those should vote for Cookson.

However as the ballot is a secret one, there is no guarantee the full 14 will follow the instructions of the UEC.

Still, the result is a troubling one for McQuaid, who has faced a problematic campaign due to lingering questions over the UCI’s relationship with Lance Armstrong, its confrontational approach to the US Anti Doping Agency during its investigation of Armstrong, plus the UCI’s decision to scrap an Independent Commission which it had itself established to audit the governing body’s actions.

Although Cookson has been part of the UCI’s management commission since 2009, he is viewed as something of a fresh start and has built his campaign on that basis.

“I am delighted to have received the overwhelming support of the UEC, who have shown such a positive approach to the development of our sport,” said the Briton.

As McQuaid is thought to have strong Asian support and possibly also the backing of the African delegates, Cookson needed UEC backing in order to have a chance of winning the election.

Had he been beaten yesterday, his campaign would have effectively been over. Instead, momentum is on his side.

Providing the 14 European delegates do indeed vote en bloc, as they are now mandated to do, he has secured one third of the votes up for grabs in the election.

He is also thought to have the backing of the Australian, New Zealand and US delegates, giving him 17 out of the 22 he will need to reach a majority.

Both candidates will continue campaigning until the election, with each trying to ensure they secure sufficient votes. In addition to the 14 delegates Europe will have at the presidential election, Asia and the Americas have nine, Africa has seven and Oceania has three.

Speaking prior to the vote yesterday, McQuaid argued he has helped improve the sport through initiatives such as the biological passport.

“Our riders have been quick to answer that it is now possible to race and win clean,” he insisted. “That the culture in our sport has changed and that cycling is moving in the right direction.”

However while he wants to consolidate the work that has been done while also making changes, Cookson is promising greater reforms, including a complete separation of the policing of the sport from the UCI.

‘Conflict of interest’
“We have to be honest – the UCI isn’t trusted any longer with anti-doping and we need to get rid of this conflict of interest,” he told the European federations. “Rumours and allegations continue to circulate and it is clear that people don’t believe that the UCI can on the one hand promote the sport and on the other hand deal properly with anti-doping.”

In addition to battling to secure a majority in the September 27th election, McQuaid also has an additional headache. Under Article 51.1 of the UCI Constitution, candidates must be nominated by “the federation of the candidate”.

This has traditionally been interpreted as meaning the home federation, but McQuaid has failed to secure the backing of Cycling Ireland and Swiss Cycling, the federation of the country where he now lives.