During the exceptional general assembly of the Union Européenne de Cyclisme (UEC) both UCI presidential candidates Pat McQuaid and Brian Cookson gave speeches to the national federation delegates, presenting their manifestos and plans for the future of the.
The two rivals also faced questions from UEC delegates in a Q&A session. The two exchanged the odd accusation and barb but opted to not openly criticise each other despite the tension of recent weeks and the clear division that has arisen in cycling politics.
McQuaid appealed to the UEC delegates by describing Europe as the 'beating heart of cycling'. He insisted he was proud of his track record during his two terms as president.
"I'm proud of what I've achieved. I've always had the backbone to stand up for our sport and do what is right for cycling. I believe you have to do what you believe, not how you're perceived," he said.
"I'm seeking re-election on my record. I've changed the culture of the sport and it is now possible to race and win clean. I've got a job to finish and I call on your support to ensure I accomplish that."
Cookson said he wanted to repeat the successful turn around that he helped occur in Britain.
"If we turn the page, break from the past and restore the UCI's credibility we will unlock the tremendous potential of this sport which we all love and have sacrificed so much for." he said.
"For many outside this room our beautiful sport is associated with ugly things - doping, decisions made behind closed doors, manipulation of the rules and regular conflict. This has to stop. The reason I'm running for president is I know I can restore our credibility. I represent a completely clean break from the past.
Surprisingly many of McQuaid's and Cookson's electoral promises were similar.
Both said they will push to develop women's cycling with a series of measures, help cycling for all and promote the ecological benefits of cycling. Both insisted that any changes to professional cycling will have to be done under the control of the UCI and not by a commercially driven Super League or World Series of Cycling breakaway project. They also agreed on a possible rider transfer system, with national federations also possibly collecting a fee if they help develop a young rider who goes on to become a professional rider.
To further appease the UEC delegates, both agreed on the creation of the Elite European road race championships, and promised support for the cash-strapped smaller federations.
Clear differences emerged between the two regarding governance of the UCI, the independence of anti-doping and the importance of the UCI at Olympic level.
Cookson called for a more modern governance of the sport, with better transparency and a board of directors rather than the current Executive Committee and Management Committee, while McQuaid promised more Executive meetings.
Cookson insisted that anti-doping should and could be managed independently, while McQuaid reiterated the current WADA rule that each international federation is responsible for anti-doping in its sport but promised independence for the UCI's Anti-Doping Foundation.
McQuaid suggested that Cookson had little chance of becoming an International Olympic Committee member, saying this could put cycling's Olympic status and events at risk. This was dismissed by Cookson, who promised to fight for the return of track events such as the Kilometre and 500m time trial.
No sign of the Makarov Report
Surprisingly no details of the so-called 'Makarov Report' –the 54 page document of evidence created on the orders the Russian Federation president Igor Makarov, emerged during the UEC meeting.
Ireland's Jack Watson raised the issue but McQuaid reiterated his call for the UCI Ethics committee to investigate the report. Cookson insisted the report is not part of his campaign.
Truth and Reconciliation
Whoever wins the UCI presidential election will have to deal with the sport's dirty past.
Both McQuaid and Cookson were in favour of some form of truth and reconciliation process, with Cookson seemingly ready to offer more clemency.
"I'm committed to an audit into the Armstrong affair and to see if the UCI was involved but we cannot have an amnesty because it is not allowed by WADA," McQuaid said.
Cookson suggested that the UCI follow baseball's Mitchell Report.
"Something went wrong with our sport in the 90's and the 2000's. We need a process to understand why. Riders and teams must take some responsibility, we must investigate if the UCI was involved," he said.
"I want a system that punishes people fairly but allows them to get on with their careers. Lance Armstrong was not alone, there were many riders involved. We need something like the Mitchell report in baseball, we need simple recommendations and it’s a good model to follow. I'm sure we can do it."
"A degree of amnesty is needed but it has to be done with the support of WADA, the IOC and the national doping agencies."
Both candidates added that they want any investigation to include up to 2010 and Lance Armstrong's comeback to the sport.
"Even the director (of the movie The Armstrong Lie) feels he was lying (about racing clean) in 2009 and 2010. It's only an opinion but I agree with it," McQuaid said.
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