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McQuaid, Cookson exchange jabs over rules controversy

Pat McQuaid strikes out against challenger Brian Cookson over his legal challenge in Switzerland

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Pat McQuaid has asked rival Brian Cookson to drop a legal challenge of his candidacy for a third term as president of cycling’s world governing body, the UCI. Cookson responded Friday by accusing McQuaid of denigrating the election process.

“UCI president Pat McQuaid has called on Brian Cookson to call off a legal challenge by British Cycling and to allow the UCI Congress and voting delegates to decide the outcome of the UCI Presidential election,” McQuaid’s camp said Friday in a press release. “McQuaid questioned whether Cookson was trying to avoid an election and to eliminate him from the race by associating himself with his federation’s legal challenge to matters concerning the governance of the election.

“McQuaid said that he was appalled that British Cycling, in a letter from its lawyers, suggested the UCI had accepted his nominations from the Thai and Moroccan cycling federations after the closing date for nominations.”

The Irishman has fallen under scrutiny in relation to a move in late July by the Malaysian Federation to amend UCI rules retroactively for the current presidential election.

The Malaysian Federation and Asian Continental Confederation — both of which have seen growth during the tenure of current UCI president McQuaid — have proposed a change to the requirements for candidates for the organization’s top post. The UCI announced on July 29 that 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.

“In their letter proposing the amendment, the Malaysian Federation and ACC state that their aims are to reinforce the independence of future UCI presidents by ensuring they are able to carry out the role based on serving the global interests of cycling, independently from those of any single nominating national federation,” the UCI said in a press release at the time.

The rule change, if approved, would be backdated to allow nominations be made until 12:00 p.m. CEST on August 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. reported earlier this month that McQuaid had only become a member of each federation in the spring of 2013.

McQuaid’s own Irish federation voted in May to nominate the two-term president, but member clubs demanded a special vote, during which Cycling Ireland voted against supporting its candidate. McQuaid appealed to the Swiss federation for support, as he has lived in Aigle, Switzerland since becoming UCI president in 2005, and received its nomination. At least one board member challenged the decision, but the Swiss logged official support for McQuaid before the June 30 deadline to do so. The Thai and Moroccan federations were not listed as nominating countries at that time.

McQuaid now claims that in a letter addressed to a Swiss court set to hear arguments in an appeal by three men with ties to Swiss cycling, Cookson’s legal team has raised questions over whether the Thai and Moroccan federations registered their support for McQuaid before the deadline.

“That is an outrageous suggestion. Brian must immediately make a statement on whether he believes that to be true and if he believes otherwise he has duty to ensure that this allegation is publicly withdrawn,” McQuaid, affirming that his nominations from the two nontraditional cycling nations had come in accordance with UCI rules. “As the president of British Cycling, Brian Cookson must explain his decision to allow his federation — that is funding his campaign — to behave in this way and to use its considerable financial clout to employ lawyers to challenge issues in the election.”

McQuaid also lashed out at special interests backing Cookson, but did not mention Skins’ Jaimie Fuller by name. Fuller is backing a legal challenge of Swiss Cycling’s McQuaid nomination by former Swiss national coach Kurt Buergi, Swiss Cycling board member Mathias Galli, and retired professional Patrick Calcagni.

“I do not fear an open election and I am not at all concerned by my ability to secure the support and votes that I require to be re-elected as UCI president,” said McQuaid. “While it would appear that Brian has lost confidence in his own ability I continue to challenge him to allow the UCI Congress and its voting delegates to decide.”

Cookson shot back in a press release on Friday, citing “legitimate and growing concerns” over the rule-change controversy.

“Sadly today we have seen yet another attempt by the existing UCI president, Pat McQuaid, to denigrate the current presidential election process,” said Cookson. “I want nothing more than an open and properly conducted democratic election and vote for the UCI presidency. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.

“It is also true that I, and many in our sport, have legitimate and growing concerns about the retrospective rule bending and attempted manipulation that is taking place at present. In my view it is therefore absolutely correct that British Cycling and others have raised concerns regarding proposed rule changes which have a direct impact on the election process now under way. These concerns need to be addressed.

“Far from ducking these issues, for the good of cycling and the reputation of the UCI, it is critical that openness and transparency guide our procedures and not desperate manoeuvres and outbursts by Mr. McQuaid.”

The presidential election will take place at the UCI Congress on September 27 in Florence, Italy.