When USA Cycling president Steve Johnson joined a group of national federations asking for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to make a definitive ruling on the UCI election rules, he wasn't just representing cycling in the US, he weighed in as one of 42 delegates who will decide the leadership of the governing body for the next four years.
Johnson is one of nine individuals who will represent the continental confederation, a huge swath of the cycling landscape that runs from Argentina to Canada, in the voting for the next UCI president, which will take place at the UCI road world championships in Florence, Italy on September 27.
Johnson and his colleagues are concerned that the "innovative" interpretations of the UCI's nomination procedures by sitting president Pat McQuaid could lead to legal challenges after the election, and USA Cycling, together with the federations of Russia, Canada, Algeria and Finland have asked for the CAS to weigh in on the specific wording of the rules regarding which federation can nominate a candidate.
McQuaid hails from Ireland, but Cycling Ireland withdrew its nomination after the member clubs objected. He lives in Switzerland, but the Swiss federation also withdrew his nomination. He has garnered nominations from Morocco and Thailand, but these have been met with objections over whether or not honorary memberships can be considered for nomination.
"We're absolutely committed to a fair and open election, and a fair, open and legitimate election starts with following the rules," Johnson told Cyclingnews.
"This isn't about one candidate versus another. It's about procedural issues regarding the election, and making sure the organisation follows its own rules. There's been a long standing provisional interpretation that 'the federation' means the home federation of the candidate. Frankly, what we've seen now is a brand new interpretation. From that perspective, we feel we need to clarify exactly what it means - in this election, it was originally and widely publicized that the home federation of Mr. McQuaid was Ireland, and when that nomination was challenged, we learned the home federation was the Swiss federation, which makes sense, because he's a resident in Switzerland. Outside of that it gets pretty muddy."
The legality of the nominations by Morocco and Thailand are separate issues to another proposal by Malaysia that would allow any two federations, regardless of the candidate's membership, to submit a nomination. The proposed amendment would be back-dated to be applicable to this year's election.
Johnson said the proposal was "definitely designed" to make the challenge to McQuaid's nomination a "non-issue".
While Johnson would not offer any insights as to which candidate the Americas will support, McQuaid or his challenger Brian Cookson of Great Britain, he did state that there is a strong consensus across the Americas. Whether or not there will be a vote to be had on September 27 is another question. What he would like to see is clarification of the rules, and a revisit to the language after the election to prevent the same thing from happening again.
"This election has been unique in my experience of 15 years in the sport. Part of that was created by some vague language in the constitution. That said, we've had a standard interpretation of that language that's been effective in the organisation for decades. Inasmuch as it seems to be subject to new interpretation, the last thing you want to do is work under a constitution that can be reinterpreted at any given time. We're going to need clarification and refinement of some of these policies and rules."
"With regard to the request to join with the UCI in the CAS arbitration, it's not designed with a particular candidate in mind, it's designed to ensure we have a procedurally correct election process.
"We have to get this particular issue resolved, put it behind us and then move forward with a vote for the candidates based on their merits."
Regardless of which candidate becomes the next president of the UCI, Johnson hopes that the unique needs of the Americas will be heard in the future.
"If you looked at UCI stakeholders survey, what clearly emerged was an overriding interest from every stakeholder to participate with an organisation that is open, fair, ethical, and engages in good governance practices. First and foremost, the organisation needs to move in that direction.
"For the Americas in particular, we have interesting challenges - it's an entire hemisphere which presents challenges for the calendar, in terms of winter and summer. We're a large country, geographically. Which creates challenges with us and the nature of UCI rules which have been designed to work well in western Europe.
"I look forward to an opportunity to sit down with whichever candidate prevails and have frank discussions on how we think the rules can be modified and the calendar adjusted to really help grow the sport in the Americas."
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