Feature: ‘We want a demonstrably clean sport’ – reactions to Pat McQuaid EGM nomination defeat
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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Feature: ‘We want a demonstrably clean sport’ – reactions to Pat McQuaid EGM nomination defeat

by Shane Stokes at 5:46 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Variety of arguments used for and against UCI president in crucial Cycling Ireland meeting

Cycling IrelandFor some of those who lobbied against Cycling Ireland’s proposed nomination of Pat McQuaid for the UCI presidency, the period before the vote at yesterday’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in Dublin was a nervous time. Although indications beforehand were that things were looking favourable for their chances, the vocal backing and emotive arguments used by the pro-McQuaid delegates at the meeting led to some uncertainty.

What seemed like a concerted effort to argue the case for the current UCI president took place at the meeting, with pro-McQuaid delegate after delegate standing up and arguing his value. UCI commissaire Paul Watson said he was honoured to see him as president of the UCI and while he conceded that the sport had a doping issue, he said that this also was the case with many other sports. He lauded McQuaid for globalisation, urged people to vote for him and said that the negative press around him was due to people trying to sell newspapers.

Former Cycling Ireland president PJ Nolan (Navan Road Club) credited McQuaid for bringing top professional racing to Ireland, saying that he watched the Nissan Classic and Kellogg’s criteriums as a result. “Pat McQuaid is a gruff kind of guy, but he gets things done,” he said. He added that McQuaid should be backed, but that he should introduce longer bans for dopers.

Watson’s father Jack, who is honorary secretary of Cycling Ireland, also spoke of what he felt McQuaid had done for Irish cycling over the years and urged people to support him. He claimed that the “anti Pat McQuaid brigade” were critical about the current chief but had no constructive ideas of their own about how the sport should be run.

Two other contributors used stronger arguments. Gabriel Howard (Stamullen CC) said that he was the person who originally proposed Pat McQuaid for presidency of Cycling Ireland, noted that there were many new faces that he didn’t know before and asked where they were when the CI AGM took place. The inference seemed to be that they had only shown up for the EGM in order to vote against McQuaid, and that he felt that they shouldn’t be there.

Howard brought up Harry Reynolds, the Irishman who won the 1896 world amateur sprint championship and who refused to stand for the Union Jack flag when the wrong anthem was played. “A lot of people would turn their back on Harry Reynolds today,” he said, implying that a vote against McQuaid was a vote against Ireland, and that those opposed to him were unpatriotic.

Another delegate, Pat O’Shaughnessy (Cuchulainn CC), said that cycling was undoubtedly cleaner than it was, but that it had gone backwards in the sense that the sport was washing its dirty linen in public. He claimed McQuaid’s rival Brian Cookson was backed by the Russian billionaire Igor Makarov, implying that a vote against the current president equated to a vote for the Russians.

“Are we better with the devil we know than the devil we don't? Yes we are,” he insisted, calling for the nomination request to be supported.

Each of those short speeches was followed by strong applause, clapping which appeared to be louder than that of those seeking to reject CI’s motion to support the president. Anto Moran, the CI board member who voted against McQuaid in April and then stood down from the board after it decided to back him, told VeloNation afterwards that he had concerns at that point. “I was worried as the applause became louder and louder,” he said.

Those speaking against McQuaid appeared to be far less emotive in terms of nationality and old allegiances, less focussed on his Irish-related work and more concerned about the Lance Armstrong affair and its fallout. Their argument was that he should be judged for what he did in his role with the UCI rather than any previous actions on the domestic scene.

Swords cycling member and Cycling Ireland doctor Conor McGrane had long been one of the most vocal in calling for change and he echoed that today.

“I think it is unfortunate that his tenure has been defined and coincided with the Lance Armstrong era,” he said. “For the entire period when he [Armstrong] was active Pat McQuaid was strongly involved in the UCI. Armstrong failed four tests in his first Tour and could have been disqualified, but was allowed to continue.

“While I think Pat is a good man, a personable man, his overall tenure has been a failure. Travis Tygart has said that the UCI did everything it could to block the USADA investigation and that says a lot.”

Barry Redmond of the Orwell Wheelers club said that he believed that the doping situation in the sport had eased somewhat in the past eight years. “But that is despite him, not because of him,” he argued. “He constantly changes what he says. He is not the person to lead things forward. He takes credit things that he didn’t do, and contradicts himself all the time. He said some things in the TV interview [RTE’s Prime Time programme on Thursday] that were not true.”

He added that he was strongly opposed to the suggestion by several people that anyone who didn’t turn up at the CI AGM last autumn was not entitled to vote today.

St Tiernan’s delegate Brian Kilbride said that his club had voted overwhelmingly not to back McQuaid. He said a reset button needed to be pressed. “The feeling of our members is that with the way pro cycling has gone in the last ten years, if there is to be any change there needs to be a complete break with the past,” he explained. “Unfortunately the only way to do this would be for Pat McQuaid not to be involved with the UCI.”

Mark Gill of the South Dublin club pointed out that many of those speaking for McQuaid’s nomination were playing the nationality card. “They are talking about Pat being Irish, saying that we should support him for being Irish. He has eight years to do his job and we feel that he hasn’t done this,” he said. “Where were he when other Irish needed him? People like Paul Kimmage, David Walsh and Emma O’Reilly have stood up to Lance Armstrong and had no support from Pat McQuaid.”

On the nationality issue, Orwell Wheelers’ Dick O’Brien noted that McQuaid quickly sought nomination instead from the Swiss federation after Cycling Ireland said it would let its members decide through an EGM. He, Moran and others felt that this ultimately worked against the UCI President.

“I think Pat McQuaid’s decision to go to Swiss Cycling is not right; if he is seeking our support, he should have waited for our decision,” he argued.

A total of 188 delegates from 60 clubs were present at the meeting, although not all would use their vote. A show of hands was used to determine the number of delegates supporting Cycling Ireland’s motion to back McQuaid. A total of 74 said aye, but these were then followed by 91 others who said no to his nomination.

McQuaid had lost.

He must now hope that his nomination from Swiss Cycling remains in place, something which is uncertain amid suggestions that some of the board members there hadn’t backed him as claimed, and because a legal case has been filed against it.

Asked yesterday if McQuaid had indeed been given the nomination by Swiss Cycling, CI president Rory Wyley said that the point wasn’t clear at this moment. It remains to be seen if that will be verified and will carry him through to the UCI elections in September, but yesterday’s defeat plus reports of growing opposition on the UCI management committee mean that McQuaid’s future is uncertain.

Reactions to the vote:

VeloNation spoke to several people after the meeting, including Cycling Ireland’s president Rory Wyley and then three of those who had been central to the push for change. The trio were part of a five man group which put together a document entitled The Pat McQuaid file, a 31 page document which was made available to clubs and cyclists in the buildup to the vote. It laid out their reasons why they believed a change was necessary, and was undoubtedly an important element in yesterday’s result.

Rory Wyley (Cycling Ireland president):

Obviously as president and board members I would have much preferred if the vote was carried. It was not, that is the democratic decision of the meeting. I accept that, that is fine, life goes on.

VeloNation: Were you surprised at the outcome?

RW: No, we always felt that to pass the motion would be the second favourite, if you like. It was only a two horse race anyhow. I felt the gap was closing in recent weeks, but the decision is the decision.

VN: The Swiss have said they have nominated him, but that backing is now under legal appeal. Do you have any view on that?

RW: I have no view on that, to be honest. That is out of my hands. Cycling Ireland have made their decision today. What the Swiss do is what the Swiss do.

Anto Moran (Sole CI board member to oppose McQuaid in April vote, subsequently resigned from CI board):

I think this was a historic day when grassroots members can actually vote and express their confidence or not in a global leader.

VN: What were your expectations beforehand?

AM: The expectations were that it could go either way. What we were doing was as clubs were declaring the way they voted, we were keeping a tally. But a lot of clubs were not declaring it. We knew that with potential double votes for commissions and board members, it could be tight. All depended on the turnout – the more that turned out, the better the chances.

VN: A total of 32 votes were said to have been coming from the board and the various commissions within Cycling Ireland. It has been suggested that these boosted the number of pro-McQuaid votes. What is your view?

AM: The provinces have a vote, but the provinces are not mandated by the clubs. The clubs can’t really tell the provinces how to vote. Some went along with Cycling Ireland’s board, while others voted against.

I think what should be looked at is that it is possible for Cycling Ireland to move into the modern era after this, in terms of voting in situations such as these. It is quite easy to do it online with licence numbers, allowing members to log in and to indicate what they want.

VN: There were some strong arguments prior to the vote…

AM: Really the debate today was redundant as it had been decided beforehand which way the delegates would vote. With the exception of one individual, they all voted as their clubs directed.

VN: Some of the arguments used seemed bizarre, particularly suggestions that a vote against McQuaid was unpatriotic and that rather than looking at his track record, people should back him because he is Irish. Were you frustrated by this?

AM: I was, to a certain extent. The issues are much bigger than that. It is nota case of Harry Reynolds not standing for the Union Jack. The issues are bigger than that.

I thought the quote of the EGM came from Mark Gill – where was McQuaid when Paul Kimmage, Emma O’Reilly and David Walsh needed him? The argument we heard today is he is Irish, we should be voting for him. But our position is that it is more than being Irish, it’s a bigger issue.

I also objected to the suggestion that some people shouldn’t be there. If a fella is only in Cycling Ireland six months or whatever, his vote is equally valid as those who have been there thirty years, like myself. Everyone is entitled to have a say.

VN: What were the reactions afterwards?

AM: From the pro McQuaids, it was all very good…all congratulatory and respectful. Had it gone the other way, I would have been the exact same.

VN: Were you concerned at any point?

AM: Yes - it was like a rollercoaster in the EGM, I thought it was going to go the other way. I stood up, I said my piece, then I sat down. We then got a procession of people who were pro pat. I was worried as the applause became louder and louder. But then the no people stood up again and got a lot of support. To be quite honest, I think PMQ made some big errors. First of all, why he wasn’t there shaking every delegates hand on the way in?

Secondly, we don’t know if he has a Swiss nomination or not – it’s not clear. He left it late to get a nomination, and he also sent letters to the Cycling Ireland clubs very late. Some had already decided before they got the email he sent around.

Another mistake was branding the people against him as being ‘activists manipulated by commercial interests’ – that turned off a lot of people, to be quite honest.

VN: Do you think the attempt to get Swiss nomination acted against him?

AM: I think he shot himself in the foot by going to the Swiss. That was the first bad move he made. He did it soon after the EGM was announced, and that was an error. Perhaps he should have gone on the quiet, saying, ‘listen, I may need you.’

In fact, I think if the vote had taken place at the EGM last autumn, as Conor McGrane had requested, that could have been different. Things were much closer then and perhaps they would have won out.

VN: What do you think will happen next?

AM: I expect the Swiss to verify that they have nominated him in the next few days…I believe they were waiting until today’s result before they commented again.

VN: What about suggestions that some of the board are not happy with the nomination and want to overturn it?

AM: I think they need five as their quorum to overturn the previously announced nomination, and I believe it will be hard to get that. I know there is a legal action and while I don’t know the exact ins and outs of it, I’m not sure if it will be successful.

Longer term, though, I think the tide is turning against McQuaid. It is even noticeable that the letters he sent out to clubs weren’t on UCI headed paper. That has changed from before. Also, there is the Mike Plant dossier – apparently he hired private investigators to investigate McQuaid.

Pat is under pressure. It is a sad fact of the modern world that in corporations where mangers, CEOs and others don’t do their job, they have to go. Those who get paid the big bucks are those who take the blame. I think it is 100 percent fair that he takes the blame – in my work, if anybody on my team fecks up, I take the blame.

VN: Many of those who voted against McQuaid seemed to be younger than those supporting him. Do you think that access and regular use of the internet was a factor in them making up their minds?

AM: Absolutely. That’s very important. Mick Doyle from Barrow Wheelers was talking to one of the pro McQuaids and he held up his smartphone. He said ‘that’s the difference’. Anything that happens is on the web, on the forums, on facebook and Twitter. I think internet played a big part.

You could see a clear demographic today. Many of the older people were pro McQuaid. You could see the younger ones were different. Maybe part of that was that they came into the sport through Armstrong, and they feel let down by what he did. They say ‘hang on, somebody has to pay for this.’ That’s the man at the top, that’s McQuaid.

VN: Brian Cookson is standing against him. What is your view of him – is he the right man, or is he too similar, given that he is also part of the UCI core?

AM: I think it is too early to say. He has been saying the right things but he hasn’t released his manifesto as yet. I would also like to see at least two or three more people step forward.

One thing I do hope is that when someone gets in in September, that they look at the whole voting structure. People were asking me today why Ireland doesn’t have a vote at the UCI congress – why doesn’t every country have its own vote?

Also, others can’t have any say. Marco Pinotti said recently, ‘how can I vote?’ There needs to be an overhaul of that.

VN: What are your final thoughts?

AM: Well, looking back at the original board meeting, Cycling Ireland had three A4 pages of demands. They ranged from a forensic audit to all of the UCIs accounts for the past ten years to apologising to Landis and Hamilton and more. There were a lot of ideas of putting good governance stuff into place.

Unfortunately those demands never got to Pat McQuaid when the board was negotiating the original nomination. They were ultimately very watered down aspirations – not even demands. All those things that were originally requested have yet to be attended too.

What I will say is that this story is getting a lot of attention but it’s important to stress that there is a lot of good stuff going on at the moment. You had the Sprocket Rocket today [CI’s youth initiative – ed.], then the paralympians riding well last week. When I left the board, my last message was that Cycling Ireland needed to place their members at the core of everything they did. That’s very important. It’s also important to recognise that they are no longer mainly racing cyclists – they are also club riders, guys who just go off training on their own, leisure riders and others. The sport is more than just racing cyclists.

Conor McGrane (Swords CC member, Cycling Ireland doctor):

VN: What is your reaction to this outcome?

CMG: I suppose on one level I am pleased, I think that Cycling Ireland made the right decision. I am disappointed that there was bitterness here at the EGM but it is understandable. I just hope that from an Irish level we can put this behind us and move on now.

VN: This no vote is clearly a setback for Pat McQuaid. What do you hope will happen?

CMG: I hope this is going to send a clear message that people in cycling aren’t happy with doping in the sport. We want things sorted, we want a demonstrably clean sport and we want much, much more to be done. This is a message for everyone.

This was never about Pat McQuaid personally, this is about him, the head of the UCI and what the UCI has been doing. It was never personal. I think it sends a very strong message to whomever is the next president, whether it is Pat or somebody else, that what has been done up until now has not been enough.

VN: There were some strong arguments used today prior to the vote. Do you think it’s important for people to put this behind them now?

CMG: Yes, I hope that we get back to riding bikes together, running events together and just get on with it.

Cillian Kelly (www.Irishpeloton.com, co-author with Moran, McGrane and others of the Pat McQuaid file):

We are delighted with the outcome. This is what we planned on doing from the outset. There were two things that we wanted. We wanted to get the EGM called in the first place. After we succeeded in that, we all sat down and said ‘is this all we are going to do, or will we push for the no vote?’

We decided to push for it, we released that Pat McQuaid file which was distributed to as many people as we could. It hopefully made a slight difference. We are happy with this outcome, I think it is the right decision for the future of the sport. Change has to happen at the top of the sport for the benefit of the future of cycling.

VN: Some of those speaking for Pat McQuaid in the EGM were trying to paint it as backing the Irishman against the world, backing the Irish against the English. One guy essentially claimed that Cookson is a puppet of Makarov. Were you frustrated by that?

CK: Yes, very much so. I know that somebody else stood up afterwards and said they were offended what had been said about Irishness. I would share that view, I think it was very offensive what was said. The insinuation that I am in any way anti-Irish or turning my back on my country by campaigning against McQuaid – I really resent that comment.

This isn’t about nationality. We just happen to be put in this position because Pat McQuaid happens to be Irish and as an organisation, Cycling Ireland were capable of taking steps to address this. The fact that he is Irish, I am Irish and anyone else is Irish is absolutely nothing to do with what we did.

VN: What would you like to see happen now going forward?

CK: I know the Swiss nomination is still mucky. I was actually glad to hear that the president Rory Wyley admitted that he doesn’t know if Pat McQuaid has been nominated by Swiss Cycling, which says something. So that needs to be resolved.

I think that Swiss Cycling’s board has been keeping quiet on purpose until the outcome of this EGM. I think it would have suited them for us to say yes [to nominate McQuaid – ed.] so they wouldn’t have had to get involved. Now they do, so I will expect them to make some sort of announcement in the next week.

Time is of the essence because the deadline for nominations is coming up and they need to get their house in order and decide what to do. As things stand, Brian Cookson is the only candidate and that is not ideal. So best case scenario, this might give under candidates a kick to come forward. I know time is short, hopefully they will have moved their pieces into position before now and this might be the final reason that they need to come forward and to announce their own candidacy.

VN: Why do you say Brian Cookson standing isn’t ideal – is it because he has been part of the UCI for so long, or because he is the only candidate?

CK: Yeah, because he is the only candidate. It is nothing specific to do with Brian Cookson himself…it is never good if there is only one candidate. It is kind of ironic, because that was why we started this, because there was only one candidate. Now were in a position now where it seems we have blocked the road for the one candidate that there was, and now there is another single candidate.

That isn’t ideal. It is not a reflection on whether Brian Cookson is good or not, I don’t think I am in a position to comment on whether he is suitable or not but from a democracy point of view, it is better if there is more than one candidate. Definitely.

VN: Prior to the EGM, did you get any flak or intimidation?

CK: To be fair, not really. I have been sending out emails constantly throughout this whole process. I got some emails back that were…they weren’t threatening or mean in any way, I would just say they were blunt. That was the worst word I could come up with to describe them. I don’t think there has been any particular ill will towards me. Whether that is true after today or not, I don’t know. But certainly up to now, no. I wouldn’t say that.

VN: There were some high feelings prior to the vote. Presumably you hope that people move on from this and get back to working together?

CK: Absolutely. I know it is easier for us to say because we got the outcome we wanted and it is probably easier for us to walk away from this and forget about it. But I would share that sentiment. I am just happy that this is over and am hopeful that people will just move on and enjoy their cycling.


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