Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), visited the Belgian cyclo-cross championships in Antwerp on Sunday and before the race the Irishman was pressed to talk about the new developments in the Alberto Contador case as well as Belgian rider Iljo Keisse's (Quick Step) attempts to race outside of Belgium.
The Spanish cycling federation is said to have sent the UCI and WADA documentation a couple of days ago, asking these institutions to help them on making a decision over Alberto Contador and McQuaid talked about this unprecedented move from the Spanish cycling federation in Antwerp.
“I've been in contact with our offices in Aigle but nothing has arrived over there. The system is that the Spanish federation must come to a solution. Some say the UCI should cover this instead of the national federations but who's going to pay for it? We already spend too much... or better, we spend a huge amount of money on the anti-doping department. Most national federations judge on these matters seriously and as a result the UCI doesn't have to appeal in many cases,” McQuaid said.
McQuaid also outlined the UCI's stance on the Iljo Keisse affair.
“I think what's going on here is that the Keisse case is an attack on the system,” said McQuaid. Keisse tested positive for using cathine and Hydrochlorothiazide (HCT) during the Ghent six-day event in November 2008. Keisse was cleared by the Belgian cycling federation one year later.
“The Belgian federation did what they did but the UCI and WADA had a different opinion. We won the appeal at the CAS (court of arbitration for sport) and Iljo Keisse had to serve a two-year ban. Then Iljo had to go to the high-court in Switzerland but instead he went to Brussels. We were never informed of this appeal and thus formed no party that could appeal the verdict,” McQuaid said.
“We accept that decision but when Keisse is racing outside of Belgium we feel the CAS decision stands. Then he went to Holland and the judge there said he had to ride because there was a contract with the organizer. The judge in Holland didn't take the CAS decision into account. This undermines the system. What better system is there than the CAS,” McQuaid asked. “We will continue to defend the system because it is what we think is right.”
McQuaid hails Belgian cyclo-cross
McQuaid's visit to Antwerp highlights the importance of Belgium to this cycling discipline and the Irishman was impressed by what he saw.
“It's the first time I come to the Belgian cyclo-cross championships. Other than this one I've only been present at the world championships. I have been very impressed by what I saw. The crowds are massive,” McQuaid said.
Belgium, and more specifically the Flanders region, is the capital of the cyclo-cross world and the national championships are the most important races of the year in the country. A crowd of 19,000 was present in Antwerp to cheer on their heroes, although some were spotted being more interested in the multiple gin bars.
“We're happy with the development of the sport and it's still getting more popular. Even over here the sport is growing, although one would wonder how that is still possible. The focus from the UCI nowadays is to get the sport going in the non-traditional cyclo-cross countries. Belgium is offering its knowledge to those countries. It's progressing very well in the USA where we're also looking forward to the world championships in 2014 [sic],” McQuaid referred to the 2013 world championships in Louisville.
“Road is were the glamour is”
Many non-Belgian riders are walking away from cyclo-cross despite showing that they're capable of battling with the best. A recent example is Lars Boom (Rabobank) although he's still riding a small program that led him to the title in The Netherlands on Sunday. Other well-known riders who choose to focus on road cycling include Peter Sagan, Roman Kreuziger and Roger Hammond.
“The road is where the glamour is. Track cycling has the same problem. All other cycling disciplines suffer from that," McQuaid said. That's also where [Zdenek] Stybar is now in his negotiations with Patrick Lefevre from the Quick Step team. Road teams can pay him and give him the chance to develop into a road rider.”
After the race McQuaid was present on the podium to shake hands with the medal winners. The presence of the UCI president on the podium was welcomed by the Belgian crowd with some booing. Clearly the Belgians recognized McQuaid as the man who's giving Belgian track rider Iljo Keisse a hard time in his efforts to free himself of his doping ban.