Pat McQuaid: “2011 has been a very successful year”
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Pat McQuaid: “2011 has been a very successful year”

by Ben Atkins at 1:04 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Olympics
 
UCI president looks back and sees a year of great racing, free from major scandal, and with positive developments in emerging markets and women’s cycling

pat mcquaidInternational Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid looks back on 2011 as a very satisfying year for the sport of cycling. In an interview with chief press officer Enrico Carpani, on the organisation’s own YouTube channel, the Irishman spoke about the things that he felt went particularly well this year, as well as looking forward to a 2012 dominated by the Olympic Games.

From a general perspective, McQuaid agreed that the year has been a very positive one.

“I think it has indeed,” he began. “I think that competition has been excellent all year long; starting with the Classics at the beginning of the year, on the road, and then into the Giro [d’Italia], the Tour [de France] and the Tour of Spain; finishing up with a magnificent World championships in Copenhagen.

“We’ve had no major problems, no major scandals, during the year,” he elaborated. “Very good competition; and I think the public have come out in their thousands and thousands to watch it, and watch on television at home; the figures were up in most of the events all year.”

While there was not a scandal to rival Festina in 1998, or Operación Puerto in 2006 however, there were a number of individual doping cases, often involving high-profile riders. In February, Riccardo Riccò was almost killed by allegedly botching a self-administered blood transfusion; In March, Franco Pellizotti was handed a two year ban, based on evidence from his biological passport; the one positive test in the Tour de France involved Alexandr Kolobnev, who was just handed a warning by the Russian Federation.

All of this was going on with the acquittal, and appeals against the acquittal, of 2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who tested positive for clenbuterol during the race. The sport was also recently rocked by the allegation that Alexandre Vinokourov paid Kolobnev not to chase him in the finale of last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

None of this has been enough to cloud McQuaid’s judgement that things have gone well in 2011 however.

“So I think we can say it’s been a very good year,” he said, “and that’s road cycling only. The other disciplines, likewise, have been very successful.”

Credibility or Globalisation; or both?

Two aspects of the UCI’s work that the organisation has been concentrating on the most, are the globalisation of the sport – pushing it into the new markets of Asia and Africa – and the continued fight against doping; with which it strives to restore cycling’s credibility in the eyes of the rest of World sport.

McQuaid feels that the UCI has made positive ground in both of these areas.

“When you say ‘the feeling that we’ve been able to restore the credibility of cycling,’ that, obviously, is a very important objective,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve completely restored credibility, we still need another couple of years like we had this year, and then we can safely say that we’ve restored credibility.

“But I think, for me, that is a very important objective,” he continued. “The ethics, that the rules are respected, that everybody respects the rules throughout; that’s what they’re there for; and that people understand that they need to respect the rules; that’s extremely important.”

With the pushing of the UCI’s flagship WorldTour outside Europe, McQuaid feels that the spreading of the gospel of cycle sport is also making ground.

“On the other side, the globalisation is working very well,” he said. “The sport is developing on the other continents; we have – new – the Tour of Beijing, was a very big success in its first year, and will grow into a much bigger race. And likewise, we see athletes now being signed by top ProTeams from Iran, and from Eritrea, from different parts of the World.

“So, it’s happening, but there’s still a lot to be done,” he added.

No needles in cycling; no needles in the Olympics

As one of the most consistently scandal-hit sports, cycling has put itself into the forefront of the fight against doping. Shortly before this year’s Giro d’Italia, the UCI introduced a ‘no needles’ policy, which outlawed the use of injections for all but medical necessities. The fact that this has also been adopted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for next summer’s Games in London has been seen as a significant endorsement for UCI policy, and recognition that cycling is leading the way.

“We always have been, and we continue to be so,” said McQuaid. “It’s true that the ‘no needles’ policy is another step on the way, another element in the armoury of the fight against doping; and I think that when we look back through the year and the fact that we’ve no major doping scandals; all the work we have been doing in recent years is starting to pay off now.”

The new policy is designed to work hand in hand with another of the UCI’s innovations, the biological passport, and McQuaid clearly believes that progress is being made.

“The deterrent, which is very much the biological passport,” he said, “working very much as a deterrent; the ‘no needles’ policy likewise. “It aids that, and helps to change… and to regain the credibility; helps to change and get rid of the culture of doping from the sport.

“So, step by step we go forward,” he added, “and any new methods, or anything which we can do to continue to improve the fight against doping, there’s no doubt we will continue to introduce.”

Women’s cycling is reaping the benefits of Olympic equality, claims McQuaid

One of the most talked about issues ahead of next summer’s Olympic Games – and the one that has attracted the most controversy – is the gender equalisation of the track events. While there has been much protest over the removal of the Individual Pursuit and the Madison, McQuaid feels that the change – although he acknowledges that it was one pushed upon cycling by the IOC – is a positive thing for women’s cycling.

“It is indeed,” he said, “and gender equality, we brought that… we had to change the Olympic programme from Beijing, where there was seven events for men and three for women, to five and five now for the Olympic Games. It’s a proper, correct objective, and it’s correct that we should do that.”

The fact that there are now the same number of medals on offer to men and women has meant, McQuaid claims, that women’s cycling is on the way up. In the wake of the collapse of the women’s Garmin-Cervélo team though, as well as the constant struggle for women's teams and events to secure funding and sponsors, not everybody would agree.

“We can see already,” he said, “since it was announced a couple of years ago, the standard of women’s cycling has gone up, because federations, and Olympic committees, and sports councils around the World are investing more in women’s cycling.

“So, that’s good and will pay off in the long term as well.”

So here’s to another great year in 2012

Aside from the gender debate though, with the Games taking place in Great Britain – by far the most successful cycling nation in the last Olympics in Beijing, China, in 2008 – McQuaid is very much looking forward to what he thinks will be some great racing.

“And the Olympic Games themselves, yes in London, are going to be an incredible Olympic Games,” he said. “We’re there with four disciplines [Road, Track, Mountainbike, and BMX – ed], four very important disciplines; we’re in a country where cycling is now – since Beijing, and since Athens – cycling is probably the most important Olympic sport.

“So the interest that there’s going to be – beginning with the road race on the first day – in the cycling events is going to be incredible in London.”

Aside from a fantastic Olympic Games though, after a successful 2011, McQuaid is looking for more of the same next year.

“My wish for 2012 would be that we would have again, another year of very exciting, very correct, and very, very good racing,” he said. “Where everybody enjoys it; everybody puts on… the cyclists put on a great show, for the public, who will come out in their thousands to watch it.

“And, at the end of the year,” he concluded, “that we can look back and say that we’ve had a successful year.”

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