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After a challenger emerged for the presidency of the UCI on Tuesday, the current president drafted a letter to the heads of national cycling federations, tearing down the man who hopes to replace him.
Pat McQuaid has steered the UCI since 2006, but has come under fire for, among other things, the governing body’s reaction to the Lance Armstrong scandal, and its attempt to take control of the investigation from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The challenger, British Cycling leader Brian Cookson, said it was time to restore “credibility” to cycling, and that he was the man to do it after piloting Great Britain’s program from the financial basement to riches of Olympic medals, thanks to Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy.
McQuaid, however, would disagree. In a letter dated June 3, 2013, and sent via e-mail to national cycling federations, McQuaid attacked those looking for change at the sport’s very top, labeling them as “a small group of activists” who would stop at nothing to derail his reelection as UCI president.
“Their agenda is narrow and negative. They have nothing positive or constructive to offer in discussions about cycling’s future. I am grateful to Swiss Cycling for their nomination, as well as to the Board of Cycling Ireland for their endorsement of my nomination, which was only withdrawn for a procedural technicality,” McQuaid wrote. “Second, over the past few weeks, I have received a number of veiled threats whose clear intention has been to try to force me to withdraw my candidacy. You can be sure, however, that I will not be intimidated by people who have no interest in transparent democracy, either now or in the future.”
The letter carried an attacking tenor throughout, and offers a glimpse of the backdoor struggle to maintain power in a sport that is constantly trying to molt its scandalous skin. Australian apparel company Skins, owned by McQuaid critic Jaimie Fuller, published the letter. In it, McQuaid sought to create doubt around the Cookson candidacy through various means.
McQuaid wrote that Cookson’s entrance into the fray would no doubt please those “activists” opposed to his tenure, and also that he found Cookson’s desire to be UCI president “an odd one for a number of different reasons,” notably because Cookson had previously said he would not run for the top UCI post, both in an interview and in a letter to McQuaid himself.
McQuaid’s letter accuses a former UCI Management Committee member of organizing opposition against him and of manipulating cycling-related elections, and even alleges a ProTeam team owner, Katusha’s Igor Makarov, of engaging in “underhanded” activities to prompt a candidate to run for UCI leadership who may not have done so otherwise. McQuaid also expressed concern over a donation made by Makarov’s company to the European Cycling Union prior to elections.
“I believe that democracy is best served if the UCI Congress has a choice between different candidates. However, I am very concerned that democracy is not served if underhand activities prompt individuals to run for presidency who otherwise might not have done so,” McQuaid wrote. “I fear Mr. Cookson may be a pawn in a larger game. Mr. Makarov, owner of Katusha, has expressed his anger on a number of occasions that the UCI Licence Commission denied his team a place in the 2013 WorldTour for ‘ethical reasons.’ The independence and impartiality of the License Commission is exactly the sort of positive step forward that the UCI has taken in the past decade.”
Neither Cookson nor Makarov were immediately available for comment on Tuesday afternoon, but a statement from Cookson called the UCI “distracted.”
“…The passion I and many others have for cycling cannot hide the fact that our international body, the UCI, remains hugely distracted, continuing to flounder in waves of damaging historical controversies,” he said. “For far too many people our sport is associated with doping, with decisions that are made behind closed doors and with ceaseless conflicts with important members of the cycling family and other key stakeholders.”
McQuaid’s letter also implored Cookson to answer myriad questions, mostly triangulating around the activities of Makarov and an associate.
“In the coming weeks, I will outline my clear priorities if I have the honor of being elected UCI president once again. My agenda will be global — and not just British, or Irish, or even Russian,” he wrote toward the end of the letter. “I look forward to being judged by you, the global Cycling Family, for what I have objectively achieved for our sport over the past eight years, in particular on my record of successfully developing the sport throughout the world, the phenomenal success of cycling at the Olympic Games, as well as ensuring that the UCI has remained at the forefront of the fight against the scourge of doping in sport.”