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The world from Pat’s chair part II

Mark Johnson /
Current UCI president Pat McQuaid in 1975, leading the Tour of Ireland. Photo: PhotoSport International

Going back again to the globalization of the sport, he believes as the sport’s image detaches itself from doping and becomes more worldwide, more sponsor dollars will flow and that in turn will increase rider compensation. “But, it’s all down to all of the actors, and that is the cyclists themselves, and the staff of the teams and the management of teams, realizing that until such time as the credibility of our sport is at a height of similar nature to other sports, we are not going to get the major investors in.”

McQuaid sees 2011 as a promising start, but firmly puts responsibility for staying clean in 2012 and onward — and thereby reforming the sport’s image and further empowering and enriching riders — into the hands of the athletes and their teams. “As they say,” he quips, “one swallow doesn’t make a summer.”

For pros in their early twenties who are riding clean and who take offense at the UCI’s assumption that the riders have not conclusively stepped away from drugs, McQuaid is sympathetic. “I do understand” their frustration at being painted with the same brush as their older colleagues who grew up in the drug-fueled last decade, McQuaid says. “Each year we have a bigger number of clean athletes in the sport. We know that,” he says, referring to UCI reviews of biological passport results. “But we’ve got to reach the stage where they are in the large majority.”

As riders in their mid-30s retire, McQuaid feels “there’s less and less pressure on the younger ones to dope.” That said, he is realistic that as age starts to affect today’s younger riders‘ ability to perform, they will again face temptation. “The ones who are 22, 23 and 24, when they get to 30 and 31, as they are maybe over the top of their career, they may once again be faced with choices in order to try to extend their career a year or two.”

So while he is optimistic that the generation born in the late 1980 and early 1990s—the Taylor Phinneys, Andrew Talanskys and Tejay van Garderens—are growing up in a culture where doping is not a de facto part of their job description, he is realistic that later in their career they may have to make decisions about shortcuts. “It’s not just a question of when they come into the sport first; its also when they first get to be a Grand Tour contender, and then when they are in their later years. You have to make that choice several times, at several stages of your career.”

On the subject of young riders, I ask McQuaid what I should tell my 14-year-old son if he were to ask, “Dad, I want to be president of the UCI. How do I do that?” Laughing, he responds, “It’s a good question!” As for how one becomes the UCI president, he explains that “It’s a political position. It’s elected by the national federations. Our direct stakeholders are the national federations and we have 175 of them in the UCI.”

These national cycling federations are the delegations that both present candidates for the UCI president and vote for his or her election. “There is an election that takes place every four years and any federation can put forward a candidate to be president of the UCI. Each continent is represented by voting delegates. There are 42. This is the way our constitution was structured in 1993.” The delegates are distributed geographically. “14 voting delegates from Europe, three voting delegates from Oceania, nine voting delegates each from America North and South and Asia, and seven voting delegates from Africa.” Those allocations, he says, were decided upon in 1993 “on the basis of the importance of the sport of cycling within each of those continents.” Each continent’s federation has an annual congress where they elect their delegates. Check back for Part III

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