McQuaid: “If it’s just a question of change for the sake of change then there’s too much to lose”

19 September 2013 | Posted in Notes & Insights | By James Emmett | Contact the author

McQuaid: “If it’s just a question of change for the sake of change then there’s too much to lose”

Just over a week from now, on Friday 27th September, UCI Congress will sit down in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, the beautiful Italian city that will host the annual road cycling world championships this year. By 1330 local time, the votes will have been cast to decide who will run world cycling’s governing body over the next four years – Pat McQuaid, the Irish incumbent who has run the federation for eight years, or Brian Cookson, British Cycling’s long-time president and a man positioning himself as an agent of change.

The decision will be made by 42 voting delegates – 14 from Europe, nine each from the Americas and Asia, seven from Africa, and three from Oceania. Almost from the word go, when Cookson declared his candidacy in early June, the campaign has veered from barbed vitriol to playground name-calling and back again.

“The campaign unfortunately has been a fairly bitter one not based on manifestos and sporting promise or desires, but on personalities,” was McQuaid’s assessment when he spoke to SportsPro earlier this week. “And there has been interference in the campaign from other sources that has reduced it to a very vitriolic type campaign.”

Chief among those ‘interferences’ is what McQuaid perceives to be an attempt to undermine his candidacy, fuelled in no small part by a ‘dossier’ of allegations against him compiled by Russian Cycling Federation president and Cookson supporter Igor Makorov.
Despite that, and a series of recent public declarations of support for Cookson from around the cycling world, McQuaid is going into next week confident of victory.

“In terms of all the endorsements, I think out of all of them there’s only three that vote at the election,” McQuaid said. “You can get endorsements from all the people you want, but it makes no difference because they don’t actually vote. I didn’t go looking for public endorsements. I concentrate on my national federations and their representatives who will be at the congress voting. If Brian wishes to do it that way then that’s up to him. Bear in mind that a lot of it is in the Anglo-Saxon media, and these delegates come from all over the world. My support is spread all over the five continents.”

SP: You’ve said previously that you are fully confident of your re-election. Is that still the case or is this becoming a closer race?

PM: No, I’m still confident I’ll be re-elected. You don’t know what sort of manoeuvres are going to happen in the next week but I’m still confident from the people I’ve been speaking with that I have the numbers to be re-elected. But then again, my opposition has played dirty tricks up to now and goodness knows what they’re capable of doing in the next week.

"I’m still confident from the people I’ve been speaking with that I have the numbers to be re-elected"

SP: You talk about dirty tricks; something that you’ve been accused of is changing the rules mid-game to ensure that your candidacy sticks with Article 51. With both the Irish federation and the Swiss federation withdrawing their support, you can see how this amendment could look like you pulling strings to shore up your candidacy…

PM: I can see how my opposition make that perception out there to their advantage, but the reality is that at the management committee meeting in June, the Asian Cycling Confederation told the management committee members that they were very unhappy with what they’d seen in relation to my nominations and that they were going to make proposals in order to rectify that situation. That came from Asia. The Asian Cycling Confederation cannot actually directly make proposals so it was an Asian federation that made the proposal. I had absolutely nothing to do with it, and what’s more I didn’t need those proposals, but that was their wish and their desire and their right, as it is any other federation, to put a proposal forward.

The opposition then jumped on it and said I was behind it, but I wasn’t behind it at all. It was their wish that I at least get to an election and the democratic process be respected. They were aware that both in the Irish case and in the Swiss case the democratic process was not respected through interference from outsiders. Regardless of who wins, they wanted to ensure that there was a democratic process and an election. They did that of their own accord. That’s something I’ve had to deal with in a negative way, but that wasn’t of my doing. Likewise, my opposition and those who support them who came out and complained about Article 51… the democratic system is that the proposal has to be in 90 days before congress, but you can put an amendment to the proposal up to 30 days before congress, and whilst they did a lot of shouting about it, they didn’t forward any amendments to it.

SP: Brian Cookson has contracted Mike Lee’s Vero agency to run his campaign – and you must know them well from your experience within the IOC; you have contracted Ian McClure. Are you satisfied with how your campaign has been managed?

PM: I’m happy how my campaign has been managed, but I have to say I’ve been massively disadvantaged. He’s got Mike Lee, he’s got UK Sport, he’s got the British government – there have been embassies contacting voting delegates; he’s got the financial clout of Sky and he’s got the financial support of British Cycling so it adds up to a huge amount of resources behind him, whereas I have been restricted and curtailed. My wings have been clipped completely here as president of the UCI because I cannot even use UCI staff to do anything in relation to my campaign. All the expenses of my campaign are personal expenses. Within that context, I’m happy enough with the campaign.

SP: Do you worry that whoever wins will have difficulty unifying cycling again after such a vitriolic election campaign?

PM: I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If I get re-elected I know I can reunify cycling fairly easily. At the same time, it’s all put down to an electoral campaign and those who did involve themselves in trying to undermine every step I made will accept that the congress has made a decision and that therefore the sport moves on.

SP: You’re an IOC member and have just returned from the IOC Session in Buenos Aires. Even though there were plenty of votes happening out there, everyone must have been aware of the battle you’re currently fighting. What kind of support and advice were you getting from your IOC colleagues out there?

PM: I found it quite heartening; I got a lot of support from my IOC colleagues. A large number of them came up to me and knew what was going on. Because they’re experienced in sports politics they could see what was happening in the background and they could read between the lines in what they read. They could see what was going on and they told me that and they wished me the best of luck and told me to keep fighting and to stay with it. Every one of them told me that they hoped I would endure and be re-elected.

The second aspect is critical for the delegates to consider in the vote next week. That is the fact that I am an IOC member and I do have influence within the IOC and when you see that the IOC have stated that after the Rio Olympic Games there is going to be a complete review of all events, all disciplines and quotas. It will be vitally important that the UCI is represented in there and has influence in those discussions. If you’re not an ICO member, your influence is a lot less. You know the way the IOC system works; you know the way the IOC electoral system works; you know the way the IOC system works in relation to quotas and there’s absolutely no chance if Brian Cookson gets elected that he’ll become an IOC member because there are already four British IOC members. There won’t be a fifth. When a place becomes available that place is going to go to Lord Sebastian Coe, either as an IOC member or as president of the IAAF because he’s already been announced by Lamine Diack to be his successor. So cycling would for the whole period of Brian Cookson’s presidency be without an IOC member and then when a new president comes in after that the relationships have to start building before that president would possibly become an IOC member. It is a really serious situation that is lost a little bit in all of the politics and the delegates really need to understand this is vital. To my mind they need a lot of good reasons to make the change from me to Cookson. If it’s just a question of change for the sake of change then there’s too much to lose.

"There’s absolutely no chance if Brian Cookson gets elected that he’ll become an IOC member"

SP: Staying in Buenos Aires, what’s your take on the decisions to host the 2020 Games in Tokyo and to bring Thomas Bach in as the new IOC president?

PM: Japan is a good cycling country on a good cycling continent where I have put a lot of time and effort into developing over the last eight years, and a continent which still has much promise to develop, and is developing rapidly.

I have an excellent relationship with Thomas Bach. Over the last eight years with all the difficulties I’ve had to face in relation to doping, Thomas has been a big supporter. Coming from Germany where doping has been a big factor, he understands the pressure I was under and he understands what the UCI has done to deal with doping, and the investment we’ve made. He respects what I have done within the UCI from that point of view and has always been a supported of mine. I also spoke to him in advance of the election about the upcoming review and his possible flexibility. The former president was very inflexible when it came to the Olympic charter, the 10,500 athletes, the 302 medals and the 28 sports. Thomas indicated to me that he would be maybe a little bit more flexible, maybe not on quota, or on sport, but on medals and disciplines so there are opportunities there. I think he’ll be an excellent president of the IOC; I think he’s a solid pair of hands who comes from sport so understands sport; he’s a good networker and he got a large number of votes straight away and won very quickly so he’s got a lot of support within the membership and I think that’s important as well.

SP: Sir Craig Reedie is expected to replace John Fahey as the president of WADA later in the year. What are your thoughts on that?

PM: Craig is a good friend of mine and has been for many years. I know I can sit down with Craig and work out how we can get on together. On an operational level the UCI and WADA have always worked closely together and will continue to do so. It’s on the political level where there’s been some turbulence, largely because of the attacks that came immediately after the USADA report came out, and some of it goes back to Dick Pound. Craig is not that type of character; he’s more a peacemaker and he would be a good leader of WADA. I’m looking forward to sitting down with him and working together closely.

SP: For all the vitriol, your manifesto and Brian’s are quite similar. Brian seems to be putting himself forward as an agent of change, but most of what he’s suggesting, you say is already happening, and you want to sustain the change that’s already taken place. Is that a fair assessment?

PM: That would be a fair assessment. I’ve done a couple of things in the past year or two, like the UCI Sharing Platform, and the stakeholder consultation, and so that has given both Brian and myself the basis on which the future should be. Because we’ve listened to the stakeholders and are planning for the future. And we’ve used that in creating the manifesto. He does suggest it becomes more like a board of directors and that the staff do all the work, which is the way it works in British Cycling. I don’t think it’s possible to that in a big international federation like the UCI. You have to be full-time, hands-on and you need to be based here because your relationships are important not just with the IOC and the other federations that are based here but with the canton itself. I don’t see how it could work the way Brian is suggesting; it would be a backwards step for the UCI to go that direction.

SP: Brian wants to make the UCI’s anti-doping activities completely independent, but you maintain that is already the case?

PM: It’s already happening and we’ve taken decisions within the management committee over the past 18 months step by step to make the CADF (Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation) more independent and Brian has been involved in those decisions and supported those decisions so I don’t see how he can now then come along and say he’s going to make it completely independent. You can certainly outsource logistics, you can outsource operations and make them as independent as they possibly can be, but ultimately the WADA code states that the international federation is responsible for the anti-doping within its federation, so we cannot make it completely independent and separate from the UCI.

We have made the CADF more and more independent. When we set it up at first, naturally we had to put names down on forms and I was put down as president and some UCI board members were put down on the board, some outsiders as well. Now we’ve taken both me and the other UCI people off the board and within the next week or two hopefully we’ll be announcing the new board which will comprise people completely outside of cycling and then they will go away and direct the CADF in an independent way. And that’s as far as you can go in terms of independising the anti-doping. Brian says change means change from the past, in other words from McQuaid and Verbruggen and change from all the baggage that McQuaid and Verbruggen have. I have learned from that and from any mistakes I’ve made in relation to that. But I do feel that I need another four years to complete the cultural change of doping; we’re doing it already with the testing and the US$7.5 million we spend, but I also initiated last year a project with ISSUL, the University of Lausanne, which is a philosophical and sociological study into doping and into doping in professional cycling. They did a pilot project over the last 18 months with two pro teams and one pro-continental team, and that was presented to all of the teams at the beginning of the year and the teams were very encouraged that everything was going in the right direction and we’ve now given them a mandate to do a full project with all of the pro teams and all of the pro continental teams over the next two years.

That project will be completed in two years time; it will produce a set of criteria and proposals within which teams should be organised and so forth, in order to eliminate the possibility of doping, and to safeguard riders when they might be thinking of going into doping. I want to see that project through; see the teams get structured properly in the years after that within the proposals of that project, and then in four years time I’ll be happy to move aside and let somebody else take over. I’d be hoping to introduce the next president to the IOC as I move out and he moves in, a little bit similar to what Denis Oswald is doing at the moment.

SP: Brian said recently that he thought Hein Verbruggen was travelling around campaigning on your behalf. What do you say to that?

PM: Yours is a very reputable magazine with correct English used at all times. If you wanted me to respond to that in the way that I should, I don’t think you could print it. It’s absolutely untrue. He is retired. He’s dealing with his family and his grandchildren on holidays. I did see him and have a chat with him in Buenos Aires, which is the first time I’ve seen him in weeks. But he has absolutely no involvement in my election campaign. And in actual fact he’s told me he’s written a letter to all the national federations some weeks ago outlining how he has distanced himself from cycling and outlining to the national federations some of the things which he did during his presidency which he’s proud of, and that some of these attacks are completely wrong, and that he is completely independent and finished now with cycling completely and enjoying retirement. No way is he lobbying for me anywhere.

"If he wins, I’ll walk away and say he won an election and that’s it"

SP: Growing women’s cycling is key to both your manifesto and Brian’s. There were problems at the Giro Toscana recently. What’s your assessment of that and how do you intend to push women’s cycling in the future?

PM: I have pushed women’s cycling a lot and I haven’t got any of the credit for it. Brian was complaining even last weekend about the fact that we lost the kilo and we lost the individual pursuit from the track competitions at the Olympic Games. We changed the Olympic programme to have more gender equality and also to bring in BMX, which is very important to the development of cycling and to the national federations. In relation to the women’s cycling, bear in mind also that Brian has been president of the road commission for the last three years and women’s cycling comes under that responsibility. He’s had three years to do something about it and he hasn’t, and now he’s promising that he’ll do everything for women’s cycling. It’s true, one of the findings of the stakeholder consultation was that we need to do more to develop women’s cycling, so I’m going to set up a women’s commission, not just with all women on it, but one that will be directed to look into women’s cycling, look into women’s affairs and try to develop them through different disciplines.

What happened in Toscana is not necessarily anything to do with women’s cycling. That’s to do with lack of proper organisation. There was also a very, very serious crash in a men’s race in Austria where a car came out on the course, the break had gone through, was going up a hill, the bunch was coming down the hill and they just wiped straight into the car and there were some very serious injuries as a result. That’s an accident and it’s very hard to deal with something like that. That’s the sport and in terms of trying to deal with those issues what the UCI and the UCI road department has to do is to concentrate more and more on race security, and that organisers all over the world have to concentrate more on race security as we have to share the road with cars.

SP: Brian wants to redirect the work of GCP. Do you think he’s being unrealistic in relation to how he thinks all his proposals will be funded?

PM: I think he is absolutely, and he’s using that just for electoral purposes because it’s an easy one to criticise and get support for. The fact is the UCI needs resources and revenues and we have to find ways to develop revenues. Many international federations have a commercial arm and that commercial arm is to raise revenues for the federation. And that’s what we have. The other issue that would concern me for the future would be Brian’s closeness to Sky. And also his big, stated supporter who’s working very hard for him at the moment in many different ways, Igor Makarov. I would be concerned about the future direction the UCI would take with people so closely connected to major companies or major corporations that would be influential in the management of the UCI.

SP: Do you think there is more chance of the ‘breakaway league’ proposals – the set of four-stage races – taking place with Brian Cookson in charge?

PM: I think there would be more chance of that, yes. And I would also think there would be more chance of the disharmony, the upset and the instability that we’ve had in the UCI during my reign – with the teams, and with the rows I had at the beginning with ASO, RCS and Unipublic – becoming much greater in the coming years because of the obvious desire of the teams to go after Tour de France revenues.

SP: If you win, does Brian’s position on commissions within the UCI become untenable, and if he wins, what’s left for you in cycling?

If he wins, I’ll walk away and say he won an election and that’s it, and I’ll be happy to walk away and do some consultancy. I’ve got plenty of contacts; I could earn a lot more money outside of the UCI than I do inside the UCI so I’d be quite happy to go on and work with different people that I know that want to develop cycling within their nations.

If I win, it depends on whether he then gets elected on the management committee because he’s also going for a position there. If he’s on the management committee then it would be important that he would have a role on a commission. If he’s not on the management committee, that wouldn’t be so important.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Share |

Sports Business Directory

SPONSORs Verlags GmbH Streamline Marketing Group Verity Russel & Father ESADE Business School Dallmeier
Centre Technique National Fernand Sastre Ivy Sports Symposium Visit Malta Amaze Events DLA Piper