With the election of a new president of the UCI lurching towards a conclusion next month, Brian Cookson has expressed his disappointment in the fact that the manifestos for each candidate have taken a backseat. Cookson along with incumbent President Pat McQuaid issued their manifestos earlier in the campaign, however the focal point of the election has been over McQuaid's hunt for a national federation to support him. It has led to condemnation from Cookson’s camp, while McQuaid has relied on the support of a possible rule change in the UCI rules to get this far.
Cookson threw his hat into the ring in June. Since then he and McQuaid have both issued their individual manifestos. However, in reality very little scrutiny has been given to both men’s mandates. Instead, the election process has been shrouded in controversy.
McQuaid has seen two international nominations to support his candidacy revoked and his participation in the election vote in September is not yet certain, with a possible challenge over his subsequent nominations from Morocco and Thailand.
“I think there are serious questions to be asked. I think we all want a democratic and fair election but the important thing is that there are rules and that we all abide by them,” Cookson told Cyclingnews.
“By all means change them and have a different election next time but what really worries a lot of people is that we can have these retrospective changes. The analogy I made was that I thought I was riding the pursuit and then all of sudden it might be a points race or a team pursuit. Just when you start to pull ahead the rules get changed and that’s not right. I think people understand that all across the world and it’s caused a lot of outrage from everyone I’ve talked to.
Cookson claims that ‘everyone’ includes those within the UCI and on Thursday he received the backing of Russian Cycling President Igor Makarov. Until now Makarov’s role has been to work behind the scenes, de-stabilising McQuaid’s bid for election rather than providing a wholesome backing of Cookson.
Hours before hearing of Makarov’s public endorsement, Cookson told Cyclingnews, that “I’ve talked to Mr Makarov. I know him probably as well as Mr McQuaid knows him. I’ve made no commitment to him at all. I’ve no funding from Mr Makarov or commitments to him or anyone else.”
“What I’m trying to do is run a straight and legitimate election programme. I’m trying to do it in a way that’s ethical and trying to set the tone for when I’m president. There’s a Mr Makarov in all big sports and you can’t not deal with these extremely rich Russian people. They have legitimate voice like everyone else.”
However until the manifestos become the focal point of the election, the focus will remain on the UCI’s constitution and the nomination process.
“To me the constitution is quite clear it says that nominations come from the federation and it’s federation singular, not plural. The information that we had from the UCI Director General Hubschmid was that nominations had to be received in hard copy format by June 29. We got ours in and lo and behold it was announced that there were two candidates.”
“Then several weeks later it transpires that there’s more than one nomination for Pat. Now it appears that these lawyers employed by Hubschmid to examine the conduct of Hubschmid have revealed that everything he did was perfectly in order. I think anyone looking at that can see, hang on a minute now, it says that email submissions were acceptable and they came in via email. Well that was not what we were told back in June. We were told quite clearly that it had to be hard copies. We can argue about the pros and cons and it will keep lawyers happy for years on end but the fact is that most people will look at that and think something isn’t right here.”
“That’s a feeling that we have to move away from at the UCI. If we in our elections can’t abide by the rules, then what hope is there for us trying to govern the sport properly?”
Should the two-way election go ahead and McQuaid triumph, a path could be set for the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Such a situation, speculative though it is, would involve McQuaid winning the Congress vote and Cookson appealing the decision based off the nomination process.
“I think we at British Cycling have expended enough on lawyers for the time being but I wouldn’t rule anything in or out. I’m prepared to see the election through but under the rules as they are.”
Although ruling out McQuaid even before an election takes place could be his best chance of winning, Cookson is disappointed with how the manifestos have taken a backseat.
“That’s a huge disappointment to me. I was the first to come out with my manifesto. Pat said they were pretty half-baked and then a couple of weeks later he came out with his manifesto that was not too dissimilar from mine. I’m very happy to have an election on the issues but when you’re in an election scenario and all of a sudden people want to change the rules then I think it’s legitimate for a candidate to say ‘hang on this isn’t right.’ If others want to say the same thing, that’s up to them. It is a shame that the issue have been bypassed in what has become a very unseemly contest. I’m going to fight this all the way through and under the rules and I’m going to complete this race.”
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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