With the UCI presidential election set for Friday, candidate Brian Cookson has been accused of ‘subversive legal tactics and intimidation’ by one of Pat McQuaid’s supporters. The allegations stem from the President of the St Lucia Cycling Association, Cyril Mangal, who in an extraordinary seven-page letter identifies what he believes are similarities between Cookson’s campaign and apartheid in South Africa.
Mangal’s concerns arose after respected Belgian journalist Pascale Schyns allegedly sent him a message via Whatsapp; a free texting service that allows users to send written messages, photos and emoticons. Schyns used to be a UCI commissaire but resigned in 2011.
"St Lucia is very concerned that when we were contacted by someone supporting Cookson, the person indicated 'I would like you to be on the right side after the election, so you are on the priority list of the Federations which would be helped'," Mangal wrote in the letter, which Cyclingnews have obtained.
"We sincerely hope that this would not be the way Mr Cookson would operate should he win the Presidency of the UCI,” the letter continues.
Cookson, who is meeting delegates in Florence ahead of Friday’s UCI Congress, has denied that the third party contact came from his camp.
Mangal’s letter was sent to all 178 countries which are members of the UCI.
Those allegations aside, the letter from Mangal opens with the show-stopping line, “Prime Minister Winston Churchill won us the Second World War but Britain voted him out of office immediately after the war.”
It goes on to say that, “UCI President Pat McQuaid has launched an aggressive and uncompromising assault against the cheats in cycling, but even before the battle has been fully won, some want us to blame and crucify him. The sustained attacks against Pat McQuaid and the unsubstantiated attempts to blame him for the dirty deeds of coaches, doctors and team officials driven by greed, is a dishonest attempt to taint a champion of anti-doping in cycling.”
The letter does not make reference to how the UCI handled the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong in which the sport’s governing body, under McQuaid, attempted to wrestle jurisdiction from the US anti-doping organisation.
“Were it not for the leadership of Pat McQuaid, the scandalous behavior of many participants in the sport would not have been uncovered,” Mangal adds without providing precise examples.
Mangal does not mention either of the UCI’s legal cases against Paul Kimmage or whistleblower Floyd Landis, who provided the initial confession that helped lead to USADA’s investigation.
Mangal then takes aim at the backers of Cookson’s campaign.
“But Pat McQuaid is the one who led the fight, so how can we now sacrifice him for a candidate whose main backers are the commercial interests whose demands may well have caused the cheating in the first place?”
“It is time for the Cookson Camp to come clean and abandon its devious and dishonest campaign to unseat Pat McQuaid by subversive and undemocratic tactics.”
Ahead of any vote for the Presidency between Cookson and incumbent McQuaid, the UCI Congress must vote on Article 51.1 of the UCI’s constitution. With McQuaid lacking the necessary backing from his own national federation and an unsuccessful attempt to win favour in Switzerland, where he now resides, he has been forced to rely on support from Thailand and Morocco. Any support from such federations will come down to how the current rules are to be interpreted, and whether Morocco and Thailand can be considered "the federation" of McQuaid.
This is separate from the Constitutional amendments, which were designed to stop such an interpretation being appealed in the event of victory.
Mangal goes on to support the rule change but adds further flames to the fire by likening Cookson and his camp to South African Apartheid. Ironically, McQuaid was banned from competing in the Olympics after he competed in South Africa during Apartheid under a fake name.
“South Africa had rules in the Apartheid era which were discriminatory and perpetrated atrocities on the majority of population for decades, until the world said enough is enough. The Cookson campaign is reminiscent of this scourge of history as they try to bully the majority into accepting their way. In 2013, this must not be allowed to succeed and the UCI Congress as Cycling’s highest decision making body must assert its right to change a rule which has clearly been abused, to try to subvert rather than enhance democracy in the electoral process. This is a struggle to secure the soul of Cycling and it is bigger than Pat McQuaid or Brian Cookson.”
Cookson is unlikely to give much attention to Mangal’s letter, his attention recently focused on last minute meetings with delegations. However the voting procedures also took centre stage on Thursday when the Daily Telegraph reported that Cookson had stopped colleagues of McQuaid, UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest and manager of national federations Dominique Raymond, from being part of the verifying party tasking with counting votes.
Mangal's letter in full:
OPEN LETTER TO UCI NATIONAL CYCLING FEDERATIONS
The sustained attacks against Pat McQuaid and the unsubstantiated attempts to blame him for the dirty deeds of coaches, doctors and team officials driven by greed, is a dishonest attempt to taint a champion of anti-doping in cycling. Were it not for the leadership of Pat McQuaid, the scandalous behavior of many participants in the sport would not have been uncovered. Cycling has led the way under the leadership of Pat McQuaid and other sporting disciplines must now follow and clean up, like cycling is doing. Those of us who genuinely appreciate the work that has been done and recognize that strong and determined leadership is required to complete the job, understand that the certainty and continuity of Pat McQuaid must be secured. However, those who would rather that the clean-up and globalization of cycling be interrupted, are trying desperately to taint Pat McQuaid. They are deliberately distorting the facts and dishonestly ascribing blame by association to Pat McQuaid. So never mind that Pat McQuaid is Cycling's undisputed champion of the anti-doping cause; for his opponents, since he is the President under whose tenure the cheats were caught, then he must be considered an accomplice.
We recognize Europe as a major player in cycling, but how can Europe alone have 14 delegates which is one third of the total UCI votes? Why is Article 47 so heavily biased in favour of Europe? Out of 10 elected members why must 7 be from Europe? Is this the UCI or the European Cycling Union? The National Federations from the other continents must wake up to this undemocratic and discriminatory provision which will be very difficult to change unless there is full support from the other continents to get two thirds, or unless European countries willing agree to give up their power in favour of the full globalization of cycling. But that is hardly likely to happen and so we have to fight for the liberation of Cycling like the majority had to do in South Africa to dismantle apartheid. Russian Cycling Federation President Igor Makarov who is also a member of the UCI Management Committee and a major sponsor of European Cycling; has gone on a frolic of his own in his deceptive campaign against President Pat McQuaid. Now tell me, what gives Mr. Makarov the right to independently hire private investigators and unilaterally decide that the UCI Ethics Commission is not independent? Who gave Mr. Makarov the authority to completely ignore the disciplinary mechanisms of the UCI and decide that USADA is the appropriate authority to deal with his corruption allegations? So are we supposed to believe that Mr. Makarov is independent and that he alone can decide who is independent? If there is genuine doubt why can’t Mr. Makarov and company take their complaint to the highest authority which is the UCI congress? Is it that Mr. Makarov doesn’t trust the National Federations also? It is that type of arrogance which perpetrated the dreadful apartheid system on the majority of South Africans by a selfish oligarchy.
Why must we accept Mr. Makarov’s view that the USADA would be independent in the matter? Isn’t it the same USADA which had challenges from current UCI President Pat McQuaid, who has stood up to defend our sport against those who want to police the sport, yet do not want to spend enough on detection, as they failed miserably in detecting Lance Armstrong through testing? Mr. Makarov’s unwillingness to go through the Ethics Committee of the UCI has done more damage to the UCI. Since it was his investigation and he hired the investigators, how can he now disassociate himself from the leaks? Mr. Makarov’s actions suggest that he is Judge, Jury and Executioner, and that he and his candidate will throw enough mud at Pat McQuaid in the hope that some of it sticks. And how can Brian Cookson distance himself from the dossier, when the same dossier is presented to some American continental delegates at the same time he is making his campaign for the Presidency of the UCI? Attempting to deny the UCI Congress a choice of candidates for the UCI Presidency, is tantamount to a hostile takeover and a blow to real democracy. St. Lucia has confidence in the American delegates elected to represent our continent and will not succumb to any pressures from selfish interests with their narrow agenda, who want to question the elected leaders entrusted to make decisions on our behalf. Steve Johnson of USA Cycling has decided that his preference is for Brian Cookson, contrary to the majority view in the continental federation and so be it. Although St. Lucia does not agree, we will not enlist lawyers or succumb to powerful interests to question where he is going to vote.
We may not agree, but we are confident that the other delegates will do the right thing in line with the thinking of the majority of the Federations of the American continent, and not that of the most financially powerful. We look forward to a free, fair, open and democratic election and hope that whoever is victorious will work in the interest of all UCI members. St. Lucia is very concerned that when we were contacted by someone supporting Cookson, the person indicated “I would like you to be on the right side after the election, so you are on the priority list of the Federations which would be helped.” We sincerely hope that this would not be the way Mr. Cookson would operate should he win the Presidency of the UCI. It is our hope that the wisdom of the UCI Congress will restore the democracy of the organization and permit an election between Pat McQuaid and Brian Cookson. We see no reason why the Cookson’s camp should object to an open election, which it is the prerogative of the UCI Congress to decide. So let the Congress decide and stop trying to constrain it with selfish legal hurdles.