Raising doubts, McQuaid reacts to news of Cookson’s candidature for UCI President
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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Raising doubts, McQuaid reacts to news of Cookson’s candidature for UCI President

by Shane Stokes at 7:32 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Existing UCI head seeks to dent rival’s chances with questioning email

Pat McQuaidHours after it emerged on Monday that Brian Cookson was intending to stand for the position of UCI president, the man who will be his rival in the UCI elections in Italy in September had already began the process of raising doubts about the British Cycling federation chief.

Pat McQuaid, who is running for his third term as UCI president, wrote to the various presidents of the national federations via email Monday and laid out what he said were reasons for concern about Cookson. He also raised questions about others who he said were acting against his own campaign, beginning his letter by criticising what he said were ‘a small group of activists’ with a ‘narrow and negative’ agenda and who were trying, ‘by whatever means, to hijack and derail my candidature in the coming election.’

Dismissing those unnamed activists as having nothing positive or constructive to offer, he thanked Swiss Cycling for nominating him to run again and, incorrectly, stated that Cycling Ireland’s nomination was ‘only withdrawn for [sic] a procedural technicality.’ [Editor’s note: While Cycling Ireland did step back from its initial nomination after questions were raised about procedure, the federation could simply have voted for McQuaid again. Instead, it accepted the high public feeling about the matter and, rather than nominating him, decided to instead let its members vote in an extraordinary general meeting to be held on June 15th].

Since then McQuaid has sought to sidestep that EGM by requesting backing from Swiss Cycling.

McQuaid’s letter went on to claim that he had received ‘a number of veiled threats,’ with the intention being to withdraw his candidacy. He insisted that he would not be intimidated by those he said had no interest in a transparent democracy.

The subject of his letter then moved on to Cookson’s intention to run for president, a decision that McQuaid said would be welcomed by ‘the activists and by those making covert threats’ against him.

While he initially stated that he would welcome any candidate to stand, saying that the UCI was a democracy and would remain so while he was in office, he then contradicted himself somewhat when he raised questions about Cookson’s decision.

“In January, just a few months ago, Mr Cookson wrote me a letter, and gave public interviews, in which he expressly committed that he would not stand against me for President of the UCI,” McQuaid stated.

“In an interview with Cycling News in January, Mr Cookson said: “I'm 100% supportive of Pat McQuaid ... When you think what the UCI has done in the last few years, pursuing offenders when other sports have let people off on the flimsiest of excuses. I think the UCI has got a good record in anti-doping that Pat can be proud of. I know that's not a popular line, but it’s true."

“And in his letter to me, Mr Cookson said,” McQuaid continued, “‘... a number of people (outside of UCI circles) have asked me if I would be interested in becoming UCI President ... My response has always been that I am supportive of you, that I do not think you should nor will be resigning, and that it is not on my personal agenda, nor am I seeking that office.’

“‘The last thing I want is for a bandwagon to start rolling with my name on it, and I have certainly not been going about promoting myself as your successor, nor would I do so. I think it is vital that we remain united and that I retain your trust. If you have any doubt, I will undertake to make clear what I have said to anyone who has asked - I will not challenge you for the position of UCI President.’”

McQuaid continued by saying that Cookson had given him assurances that he would only run for president if he himself decided not to, and only in order to ensure that the UCI didn’t lose its way.

Accusations of improper behaviour:

McQuaid’s letter makes claims against UEC honorary president and former UCI management committee member Wojciech Walkiewicz, saying that he has been central to organising meetings across Europe to ensure there is a rival to the Irishman.

What’s more, the letter included strong allegations against the Pole’s character. “Mr Walkiewicz is notorious for manipulating elections. In 2006, the UCI Ethics Commission found Mr Walkiewicz guilty of breaching the UCI Code of Ethics for arranging for national federations to club together secretly to pre-determine the result of the 2005 UEC elections by fixing the list of election candidates,” McQuaid wrote. “The results of UEC elections in 2009 and 2013 showed similar voting patterns, suggesting he was involved in very similar activities – and now Mr Walkiewicz appears to be trying to do the same for the UCI.

“Mr Walkiewicz is employed by UCI Management Committee member Igor Makarov. A number of other Management Committee members have told me that they had been invited to Moscow but had refused. Mr Cookson, however, informed me recently that he was going to Moscow to meet with Mr Makarov and Mr Walkiewicz. I have subsequently had confirmation that at least one meeting took place, although perhaps in a different capital city.”

Cookson is yet to comment on the claims, but said in a number of interviews that he didn’t want to get into a public slagging match with McQuaid. The days ahead will show if he will respond to the claims made Tuesday.

McQuaid continued by saying that while he supports democracy and also debate, that he did not agree with ‘underhand activities’ which entice people to run for president.

He then referred to a payment made by a company connected to Makarov which sponsors the UEC, using this to raise further doubts.

“At least for those who worry about the UCI Code of Ethics, they should not be accompanied by any form of incentive that might constitute undue influence,” said McQuaid

“In this respect, therefore, I must also express my extreme concern about a donation of almost €1million made by Mr Makarov’s company, Itera, to the UEC within weeks of the UEC elections. Given all of the accompanying activities, it is important to know what the true nature and purpose of this donation is – and I also spoke directly to Mr Cookson on this subject outlining my concerns. I am however also confident that UEC President Lappartient will look into this and that in any case the funds, if accepted, will be used for the development of cycling in Europe.”

McQuaid’s letter then sought to link Cookson to his questions about Makarov, saying that he believed Cookson may be a pawn in a larger game. He brings up the subject of Makarov’s Katusha team, which was initially denied a place in the 2013 WorldTour for ethical reasons. [Note: this decision was eventually overruled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, something McQuaid doesn’t mention].

“Mr Cookson’s decision to announce his candidacy for the UCI President raises a number of important issues. Given all this, I think it is for Mr Cookson to explain his reasons for meeting Mr Makarov at the behest of Mr Walkiewicz,” he continued. “All three men have strong ties to World Tour teams. In the interest of transparency, Mr Cookson must answer a number of questions and I intend writing to him to seek clarification of, among others:

• Does he condone Mr Walkiewicz’ s activities?
• What was the nature of his visit and discussions with Mr Makarov in Moscow?
• Did he establish the facts concerning the €1m donation by Mr Makarov’s company Itera to UEC and does he continue to have concerns on this issue?
• Does he share Mr Makarov’s anger over the decision of the UCI Licence Committee to refuse his Katusha team a World Tour Licence?
• What assurances can he provide that the independence and impartiality of the UCI Licence Commission will not be compromised by the interests of the Katusha and Team Sky World Tour teams, with whom he and Mr Makarov have conflicting interests, were he to become UCI President.
• What assurances has he given Mr Walkiewicz and Mr Makarov in respect of the Presidency he will deliver.
Judging from the many letters I have received urging me to stand, it is clear I have an enormous amount of support from the great majority of national federations and cycling officials all around the world to continue the work I am doing.”

Winding up, McQuaid told the various federations in his email that he would outline his priorities in the coming weeks, and that he would have a fully global agenda.

“I look forward to being judged by you, the global Cycling Family, for what I have objectively achieved for our sport over the past eight years, in particular on my record of successfully developing the sport throughout the world, the phenomenal success of cycling at the Olympic Games, as well as ensuring that the UCI has remained at the forefront of the fight against the scourge of doping in sport,” he concluded.

Leaked publically, the letter has had a very mixed reaction. While some have said that they want to hear Cookson address the points raised and have concerns that Makarov may be seeking to shape the election, many others have been critical of McQuaid because of the tone used and because of what they said was an attempt to sling mud at Cookson and to dent his character.

Thus far the British Cycling president hasn’t been drawn into the same tactic. He said Tuesday that he wouldn’t criticise McQuaid personally, and that his upcoming manifesto would make more clear what changes he felt were crucial for the UCI to make in order to win back confidence and to move forward.

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