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Cookson blasts proposed change to UCI election procedures

The British Cycling boss, who is running for UCI President, blasts proposed change to election procedures

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British Cycling President Brian Cookson, who is running for president of the UCI, called out the current boss of cycling’s international governing body on Tuesday for what he calls an “unconstitutional” proposed change to election procedures.

The Malaysian Federation and Asian Continental Confederation — both of which have seen growth during the tenure of current UCI president Pat McQuaid — have proposed a change to the requirements for candidates for the organization’s top post. On Monday, the UCI said the Asian bodies have proposed removing the requirement that presidential candidates be nominated by their home federations, and instead require that they be backed by any two federations globally.

McQuaid, who is Irish, was initially backed by his home federation in May but after a special vote by member clubs, Cycling Ireland pulled its nomination because of a lack of support for the 63-year-old. McQuaid was then able to gain the required nomination by Switzerland, where he has lived since becoming UCI President in 2005.

“The efforts to change the nomination and electoral process announced last night on behalf of the UCI Director General are a clear sign of desperation from the incumbent President, Pat McQuaid,” Cookson said in a statement on his website. “This latest twist appears to be nothing more than a fraught attempt to undemocratically and unconstitutionally impact on the process while it is underway.”

If it’s approved, the proposed rule change would be backdated to allow nominations be made until 12:00 p.m. CEST on August 30, even though the original deadline to do so was June 30. In the same announcement, the UCI revealed that the Thai Cycling Association and the Fédération Royale Marocaine de Cyclisme (Morocco) had joined the Swiss federation in backing McQuaid.

McQuaid could still lose Switzerland’s nomination ahead of the September 27 elections, confirmed Skins chairman Jaimie Fuller in an e-mail to VeloNews. An outspoken critic of McQuaid, Fuller said legal proceedings will take place in Switzerland “to contest the Swiss Cycling Federation’s nomination of UCI president Pat McQuaid.”

Cookson said the proposed rule is nothing more than a ploy to help McQuaid gain re-election. He also pointed out inconsistencies on the official election papers.

“It is surely completely out of order to allow a proposal to change an electoral procedure, once that procedure is under way,” Cookson said. “These proposals should never have been permitted onto the agenda, let alone given the validity of acceptance for the current election, especially considering that the UCI Management Committee have not even had the opportunity to discuss the matter.

“In addition to this, which I can only describe as an attempt to change the rules during the game, I note with astonishment that Pat McQuaid is now shown on the election papers as being nominated by three federations. The Constitution is quite clear that candidates should be nominated by their own federation. Pat is shown with the designation (IRL) next to his name but, as is well known, Cycling Ireland withdrew his nomination.

“Now we are also informed by the Director General that Pat has membership of three national federations and four if you include Ireland. How can this be? There is certainly no provision in the Constitution, as it now stands, for nomination by more than one federation.”

McQuaid fired back with a response early Tuesday, saying the rules have not been changed.

“No one has changed the rules. No one has broken the rules,” McQuaid said. “I have received enormous support from federations around the world urging me to stand for re-election and expressing their hope that I will continue on as UCI President. These nominations are a testament to that.”

Mike Plant, the former president of USA Cycling and the current U.S. representative on the UCI Management Committee, sent a letter to UCI general director Christophe Hubschmid regarding the proposed rule. Plant shared a copy of the letter with VeloNews Monday night.

“In my opinion, the timing of this significant change to the presidential nomination process, less than 60 days from a very contested, globally visible and important election is unconscionable, unethical, dishonest, unprofessional, manipulative and destructive,” Plant wrote. “I can think of more, but I believe these adjectives get my point across.”

Cookson compared the UCI to a “dictatorship” over the proposal.

“What sort of organization attempts to rewrite the rules once an election has actually begun — it smacks of attempted dictatorship,” he said. “It seems to me that, at best, all of this is bringing the validity and impartiality of the terms and conditions of the electoral process into serious question. At worst, this is beginning to look like a concerted attempt to manipulate the election in an undemocratic and unconstitutional way.”

Said McQuaid: “There was nothing stopping Brian Cookson from showing an interest in cycling around the world over the years by joining other federations that would have allowed him to secure additional nominations when he decided to stand for President. I respect that his horizons however do not stretch much further than British Cycling and that his home is where his heart and ambitions as a Presidential candidate lie.”