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Cookson slams McQuaid's 'desperate' UCI bid

ESPN staff
July 30, 2013
Pat McQuaid has been under fire for his handling for the Lance Armstrong fallout © Getty Images

British Cycling chief Brian Cookson believes Pat McQuaid's bid to remain president of the UCI "smacks of attempted dictatorship".

Cookson has lodged a formal protest against the UCI's decision to change its election rules midway through an increasingly bitter presidency battle, branding the move "a sign of desperation" from the incumbent custodians of the sport.

The UCI issued a press release on Monday evening outlining a proposal that would allow candidates to be nominated by national federations other than their own. The constitutional change, submitted by the Malaysian federation and supported by the Asian Cycling Confederation, would breathe fresh life into McQuaid's bid to cling to power at the UCI.

Irishman McQuaid saw his nomination by the Irish cycling federation declared void before pursuing nomination in Switzerland, the home of the UCI. That nomination has been disputed in court, leaving the incumbent president without a clear nomination.

Cookson, the president of British Cycling, who nominated himself for the post, described the efforts to rewrite the nomination rulebook midway through an election campaign as "a clear sign of desperation from the incumbent president, Pat McQuaid.

"This latest twist appears to be nothing more than a fraught attempt to undemocratically and unconstitutionally impact on the process while it is underway.

"It is no wonder that many in the cycling family as well as fans and sponsors have lost faith in the UCI to govern ethically when the man at the top of the organisation is prepared to embarrass an entire sport in an attempt to try and cling onto power.

"What sort of organisation attempts to rewrite the rules once an election has actually begun? It smacks of attempted dictatorship."

McQuaid has been in power since succeeding honourary president Hein Verbruggen in 2006, a year after Lance Armstrong completed the seventh of his now scrubbed Tour de France victories. His commitment to anti-doping efforts has been called into question on numerous occasions, not least during a running feud with former WADA president Dick Pound.

The UCI flip-flopped in the wake of Armstrong's doping confession earlier this year, with current WADA president John Fahey accusing the UCI of "again [choosing] to ignore its responsibility" to cycling after an independent commission set up by the governing body to investigate the pervasive influence of doping in cycling was swiftly disbanded.

Such episodes have led to a surge in unrest with the current leadership, prompting calls for McQuaid to stand down, which he has ignored.

Cookson's latest protest is supported by fellow UCI management committee member Mike Plant, the former head of US Cycling, who condemned the proposed rule change as "unethical".

In a letter to Christophe Hubschmid, the UCI's director general who issued the press release to the national federations, Plant wrote: "The timing of this significant change to the presidential nomination process, less than 60 days from a very contested, globally visible and important election is unconscionable, unethical, dishonest, unprofessional, manipulative and destructive."

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