By Shane Stokes
Following last months declarations of solidarity from USA Cycling and British Cycling to UCI president Pat McQuaid over the ProTour model, the Irishmans own federation has said that it was supporting his stance on this issue and with regard to his approach to recent doping scandals.
"I want to assure you of our continuing support in the battle against cheating by medical and pharmaceutical manipulations in our sport," wrote CI president Miceal Concannon on Thursday. The shadow of Operación Puerto looms large over the public perception of cycling and the ham-fisted approach of the Spanish magistrates has left UCI, the riders who have been named, AIGCP and the various National Federations in the unenviable position of being damned if they do anything and being damned if they dont.
"Undoubtedly, there are lessons to be learned from the debacle, most of which should be given to the Spanish authorities. Their initial haste to get a juicy story to the media contrasts strongly with their subsequent lethargy in making information available to UCI, WADA, or to the National Federations. While I dont wish to be seen as making a judgement against anyone, I applaud the action taken by UCI to proceed as it has. To have done otherwise would have shown our sport in a very poor light.
"Even though you were vilified in certain quarters, any reasonable assessment of events since Operación Puerto serves only to enhance your personal integrity and the integrity of the anti-doping process of UCI."
He continued by stating that CI was siding with the UCI as regards the recent tensions between the governing body and the federations of France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria, and Luxembourg. On November 30th these six declared that they rejected the ProTour model, echoing the stance of the Grand Tour organisers.
Concannon indicated his disagreement with this course of action, saying it was an undemocratic one. "On a separate matter I wish to add the support of Cycling Ireland to that offered to you by British Cycling on the 20th of December 2006. I absolutely share Mr. Cooksons abhorrence of the actions of a self-appointed group in proposing to speak on behalf of the European Continental Confederation. Their action has been high handed and contemptuous of the other European Federations.
"There is a body and a structure that represents the European Confederation (the) UEC. This is the appropriate vehicle for discussion and decision making in all matters relating to the European Confederation. I am annoyed and angered at the way the six national Federations have set out to attempt to undermine firstly UEC, then the Pro Tour and finally UCI."
He said it was vitally important to move forward in order to ensure the growth of the sport. "Cycling Ireland is a 100% supporter of the globalisation of cycling. Nobody can question the glittering history of cycling in Europe and particularly in France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain. However if we follow their view and only continue to do what we have always done, then the sport is doomed to die slowly."
"As the population of the world moves towards 6.6 billion people, how can any sane and reasonable individual or group suggest that the advancement of our sport is best served by concentrating our efforts in three or four European countries? Such palpable nonsense does a grave injustice to our sport and to the myriad practitioners who reside outside of the six objecting countries."
Concannon concludes by saying that McQuaid should maintain his current approach to both issues. "On behalf of the members of Cycling Ireland I urge you strongly to continue the battle against doping. I look forward to the report of the audit into doping in cycling and to the implementation of the recommendations that will come from it. I urge you also to stand firm on the development of the UCI Pro Tour. Sectional interests should not dictate what is the best policy for a worldwide sport."