UCI president claims to be part of "new guard"
UCI President Pat McQuaid believes he is the man who has "completely changed the culture of doping" in cycling ever since he came into power in 2006.
Speaking on Irish radio this morning, McQuaid insisted he is part of the "new guard" in the sport and has done more than most others to fight the scourge of doping which reached its nadir in October last year when Lance Armstrong was exposed as a drug cheat and subsequently stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
"I'm the beginning of the new guard because I'm the one who has completely changed the culture of doping in our sport since I came in eight years ago," said McQuaid.
"Eight years ago, the sport was riddled (with drugs). We had Armstrong, who had just retired, and I was aware there was a culture of doping and I stated I was going to attack it over those years. I've done many things to attack it over those years. And changing the culture isn't something you do overnight. I brought in the Biological Passport system, I brought in the corticosteroid rule, I brought in a no-needles policy, I brought in a rule where riders who were caught doping could not come back to the sport as part of an entourage and a whole raft of measures to combat doping in the sport," he continued.
McQuaid has come under sustained attack this week after it emerged a proposal from the Malaysian cycling federation could aid his quest for a third term in office (to be announced at September's UCI presidential election in Florence).
The proposal, if adopted, would enable any two cycling federations to come together to nominate a candidate for the presidency, and it emerged on Monday that the Thai and Moroccan federations had given their backing to McQuaid.
The Irishman's only opponent for the presidency, Brian Cookson, blasted the incumbent president, calling it "an embarrassing act of desperation" but McQuaid brushed off his comments and declared he had not solicited the Malaysian federation.
"Of course he would say that," laughed McQuaid. "But my argument is, this is a democracy and the Malaysian federation have every right to put forward a proposal as they so wish. They decided to put forward a proposal, I had no discussions with them. I didn't need to. The UCI Congress will decide whether to accept their proposal or not. That's democracy.
"You have to understand that there's an election going on here and there are two candidates and the other side is trying to use things to his (Cookson) advantage, trying to twist things to their advantage.
"Besides, I don't need the Malaysian proposal (to be passed), I've three federations that have nominated me; I've the Swiss federation, the Morocco federation and the Thai federation. So I've enough valid nominations to stand for election for the presidency of the UCI."
When pressed on why, for example, the Moroccan federation would nominate him, McQuaid was steadfast in his belief that his record stands up, and his reputation earned him their respect.
"Since I was elected eight years ago I've been to Morocco six or seven times, and since then, the standard of cycling has improved dramatically and they're the number one African cycling nation now. I've done a lot of work there and in 2009 they made me a member of their federation as a form of gratitude for the work I've done."
When asked if it appeared morally wrong that McQuaid was seeking election after his own country abandoned him, he hit back, saying: "You can talk about morally all you like but I'm talking about the rules and I haven't broken any rules. I'm not even bending the rules. The federation of the candidate is the federation of which the candidate is a member.
"There's been a lot of pressure on me to step aside but I'm not going to. I've done a lot of work over the last eight years and I'm standing over that.
"If I was to follow the views of some people, I would just step aside and let Brian walk straight in for the presidency of the UCI. I don't think my federations around the world would thank me for that. In actual fact, a lot of federations around the world have urged me, despite the various pressures on me, including inducements to leave the position, that I shouldn't leave the position and they want me to stay."