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Brian Cookson hits out at Pat McQuaid’s “attempted dictatorship” of UCI

Proposed change "an attempt to change the rules during the game"...

British Cycling president Brian Cookson has attacked incumbent UCI president Pat McQuaid over an attempt to change the rules governing the nomination of candidates for the top job at the UCI, world cycling’s governing body.

Cookson, who is standing against McQuaid in the UCI presidential election scheduled for September 27, said: “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.

“This latest twist appears to be nothing more than a fraught attempt to undemocratically and unconstitutionally impact on the process while it is underway.

McQuaid seeks nomination

McQuaid secured a nomination from the Swiss cycling federation after his own home federation, Ireland, voted not to nominate him. That nomination is being challenged in the Swiss courts. The UCI insists this is permitted, but three Swiss Cycling members, Swiss national coach Kurt Buergi, former Swiss Cycling board member Mattia Galli and ex-pro Patrick Calcagni have filed a complaint which will be heard on August 22.

If their complaint is upheld, then McQuaid’s only hope of nomination is the proposed rule change, which will allow any two federations to nominate a presidential candidate and which will be applied retrospectively if it is accepted at the UCI Congress on September 27.

The rule change

The change was explained to UCI Congress members in a letter yesterday from Christophe Hubschmid, director general of the UCI management committee. In that letter, Hubschmid said: “The Malaysian Federation and Asian Continental Confederation state that their aim is 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.”

A press release from the UCI explained:

“As national federations are being informed about this proposal after the original deadline to nominate presidential candidates has passed, as a transitional provision, for the 2013 Presidential elections only, the new amendment also proposes to allow any two national federations to put forward candidates from now until a deadline of Friday 30 August 2013 at 12:00 CEST. These nominations will then become valid if the motion is subsequently approved at Congress.”

Cookson astonished

Brian Cookson expressed astonishment at this development, saying: “It is surely completely out of order to allow a proposal to change an electoral procedure once that procedure is underway. These proposals should never have been permitted onto the agenda.

“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.”

“I have asked the Director General how and why has Pat been given this opportunity?

“It now also appears that any two national federations are to be allowed to make further nominations for the presidency before a new deadline of 30th August, even though under the provisions of the UCI constitution nominations actually closed on 30th June. What sort of organisation attempts to rewrite the rules once an election has actually begun - it smacks of attempted dictatorship.”

Abuse of power

The Swiss case against McQuaid’s nomination is being sponsored by the compression clothing company Skins, whose chairman Jaimie Fuller founded reform group Change Cycling Now and has been one of the most vocal critics of McQuaid and the previous actions of the UCI.

Fuller is not impressed by the attempt to change the UCI rules.

“The latest actions from UCI president Pat McQuaid are those of a desperate man trying to hold onto his dwindling power base,” he said. “This abuse of process and power are unheard of in sports administration circles and his tactics most resemble those of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe.”

UCI management committee member Mike Plant said he believes that with the intense scrutiny the UCI is currently under, this rule change would further undermine the organisation’s standing.

UCI credibility further destroyed

In a letter to Christophe Hubschmid, Plant wrote: “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 pointed out the level of interest in this election and went on: “Now we are going to change the rules at the 11th hour before this historic election? Does anyone really think the vast majority of our stakeholders, constituencies, fans, media, etc. are going to accept this as a small administrative governance change?

“One month ago, we received the results of the stakeholder study.  Over 7,000 respondents overwhelmingly told us that we must restore the credibility in the UCI and its leadership. For the life of me, I cannot see how making this significant change to the nomination process, on the morning of the election will do anything less than further destroy the current reputation and credibility of how this organisation is currently being governed and managed.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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