A day after Brian Cookson formally launched his campaign to become president of the UCI in a press conference in Paris, current incumbent Pat McQuaid went on the offensive with a press release that focused on attacking his rival’s manifesto rather than making specific arguments in favour of his own credentials to be re-elected for a third term.
In a strongly-worded statement released on Monday afternoon, McQuaid dismissed Cookson’s manifesto as “half baked, fundamentally flawed and financially impractical.” McQuaid took issue with the Cookson’s stance on independent drug testing and a possible Truth and Reconciliation commission, as well as the costs of his proposals.
Cookson’s manifesto proposed the establishment of a “completely independent anti-doping unit in cooperation with WADA, managed and governed outside of the UCI,” pointing out that the existing Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation is “independent in name only” and located “down the corridor from the President’s office.”
However, McQuaid maintained that Cookson’s manifesto was proposing “nothing new on independent anti-doping, because the WADA Code simply does not permit the UCI, or indeed any other international federation, to create an independent anti-doping body.”
“What Brian is proposing, when you examine the detail, is simply to relocate the existing Cycling Anti Doping Foundation (CADF) unit, which is as fully independent as the WADA Code permits, outside of the UCI building in Aigle,” McQuaid continued. “My own position, and that of the UCI, as we have said many times, is that we are in favour of independent anti-doping if WADA changes its Code to facilitate that for all international federations.”
Written in bullet points, McQuaid’s statement read at times like a PAC attack ad in an American election campaign, and each section concluded with a series of questions for Cookson.
“Brian must immediately explain: why he is proposing to establish a new anti-doping unit when the CADF already exists, whose independence he has vouched for, voted on and approved in numerous management committee meetings?” McQuaid wrote. “What is the fundamental difference between the independent CADF that exists and the new unit that he is now proposing?
“How far geographically must the UCI relocate the CADF away from its President’s office to guarantee its independence?”
Cookson’s second electoral pledge is to “embrace openness and transparency” and he has welcomed the possibility of a so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission that would also investigate allegations that the UCI was involved in covering up doping cases in the past, although he acknowledged that there are “a number of practical legal issues” that would need to be overcome.
McQuaid attacked Cookson for what he claims is a lack of consistency on the issue, citing an interview last week in which the Briton said he “wasn’t sure” if such a commission was necessary. “Brian must explain why he has two versions of where he stands on the subject of establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” McQuaid said.
McQuaid went on to criticise Cookson's pledge to increase the budget of the World Cycling Centre and to establish more World Cycling Satellite Centres, saying that it bore “no relation to the existing budgetary constraints and the financial resources available to the UCI." He complained that Cookson “has prepared his manifesto as if money were no object. This money has to be found and he has given no indication from where it will come.”
In a final section entitled “Other Issues,” McQuaid queried Cookson’s assertion that cycling has lost influence within the International Olympic Committee and alluded to his own involvement in sports politics in Switzerland.
In spite of receiving a lifetime Olympic ban for defying the anti-apartheid boycott and racing in South Africa in 1976, McQuaid became a member of the IOC in 2010. McQuaid is also set to be nominated to run for re-election by the Swiss Cycling Federation after Cycling Ireland recently voted against backing his candidacy.
“How can [Cookson] claim that he can affect policy within the Olympic Movement when he is neither an elected member of the IOC, nor well known by the membership?” McQuaid asked.
McQuaid also claimed that Cookson’s plans to promote the UCI’s globalisation and women’s cycling do not fundamentally differ from his own actions since he succeeded Hein Verbruggen as president.
“How do his plans in these two areas differ significantly from what I have been doing successfully for the past eight years? And what is his credibility and track record in the globalisation of cycling and in promoting women’s cycling?” McQuaid said.
McQuaid’s statement concluded with a barb aimed at Cookson’s choice of location for the launch of his manifesto. Cookson held his press conference in Paris as it was the city in which the UCI was founded, but McQuaid decided to highlight that Britain was not part of the original body.
“It was launched specifically to replace the then International Cycling Association which these countries felt was too dominated by Great Britain, hence the choice of Paris. Britain was even specifically excluded from joining the newly launched UCI for a number of years,” McQuaid said.
McQuaid’s statement was sent on his behalf by Irishman Ian McClure, who until recently served as a PR advisor to the UCI and, specifically, McQuaid himself. Cyclingnews understands that McClure, who was hired by the UCI in March 2012, was closely involved in preparing McQuaid’s response to USADA’s Reasoned Decision on the Lance Armstrong affair.
McClure said that he has now been appointed “in a private capacity” by McQuaid “to advise and assist him in managing and directing his campaign.”
Cookson's presidential campaign is being run by Vero, a London-based sports communications company.