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McQuaid: Cookson’s ideas are ‘half-baked, fundamentally flawed’

UCI chief blasts presidential opponent in fiery press release

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A day after his rival for the UCI presidency issued his manifesto to move cycling forward, the current president, Pat McQuaid, took aim at Brian Cookson’s policies, labeling them “half baked, fundamentally flawed, and financially impractical.”

Cookson, the president of British Cycling, announced his candidacy for the top post at cycling’s world governing body earlier this month, and the challenge comes as the current leadership faces a lashing in the court of public opinion for its handling of the Lance Armstrong scandal, and McQuaid has faced repeated skepticism of his leadership and his very candidacy.

“Just telling people what they want to hear is easy. He needs to explain how he is going to make it happen,” McQuaid said in a statement distributed for him by a former UCI public relations official. “He must also make a clear statement on whether he believes that cycling has changed, as many of today’s riders have said loudly and clearly. He must also clarify whether he believes cycling is leading the fight against doping, in order to reassure the cycling family that he is prepared to stand up for the sport against those who attack it.”

Cookson’s central platform, released Monday, focuses on six key areas:

1. Revolutionize our approach to anti-doping

2. Embrace openness and transparency

3. Grow cycling worldwide

4. Developing women’s cycling

5. Overhaul the structure of elite road cycling

6. Embrace the future together

“It is essential that we stop the UCI’s public feuding with WADA, the AFLD, USADA, and others,” Cookson wrote. “I will seek immediate peace with these key organizations, and engage with them to resolve areas of dispute. Crucially we must ensure that anti-doping is wholly and genuinely independent of the UCI. At present it is independent in name only, located at UCI headquarters, down the corridor from the president’s office, with all cases managed by the UCI legal department. This is not independence.”

To that point, McQuaid said his challenger is dreaming.

“Brian Cookson’s manifesto is proposing nothing new on independent anti-doping, because the WADA Code simply does not permit the UCI, or indeed any other international federation, to create an independent anti-doping body,” he wrote. “What Brian is proposing, when you examine the detail, is simply to relocate the existing Cycling Anti Doping Foundation (CADF) unit, which is as fully independent as the WADA Code permits, outside of the UCI building in Aigle.”

McQuaid’s missive implores Cookson to explain a number of things, a political tactic the UCI leader is presumably employing to convey himself as experienced and Cookson as a naive, optimistic challenger. McQuaid used the phrase “must explain” four times in the 1,000-word letter. McQuaid also took issue with Cookson’s stance on a truth-telling commission.

“Brian must explain why he has two versions of where he stands on the subject of establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” said McQuaid. “His manifesto states that he supports Truth and Reconcilation if ‘a number of practical legal issues that require consideration’ can be overcome. Yet Brian was absolutely clear in telling RTE Sport, as recently as 12 days ago, that cycling does not require a Truth and Reconciliation Commission if the people who have been involved in doping simply came forward and told the truth.”

Also at issue for the Irishman is how the Brit will pay for his plans.

“[Cookson] has prepared his manifesto as if money were no object. This money has to be found and he has given no indication from where it will come or how he proposes to generate new revenue streams to finance the multi-million cost of his aspirations,” McQuaid said.

The vote for UCI president will be held in September, during the UCI Elite Road World Championships in Florence, Italy.