Embattled UCI president, Pat McQuaid believes he is the man who has “completely changed the culture of doping” in cycling ever since he came into power in 2005.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One yesterday, the Irishman insisted he is part of the “new guard” in the sport and has done more than most others to fight the scourge of doping which reached its nadir in October last year when Lance Armstrong was exposed as a drug cheat and subsequently stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
“I’m the beginning of the new guard because I’m the one who has completely changed the culture of doping in our sport since I came in eight years ago,” said McQuaid.
“Eight years ago, the sport was riddled (with drugs). We had Armstrong, who had just retired, and I was aware there was a culture of doping and I stated I was going to attack it over those years. I’ve done many things to attack it over those years.”
“And changing the culture isn’t something you do overnight. I brought in the biological passport system, I brought in the corticosteroid rule, I brought in a no-needles policy. I brought in a rule where riders who were caught doping could not come back to the sport as part of an entourage and a whole raft of measures to combat doping in the sport.”
“On top of that, for instance, we’ve a conference on doping every year for riders at the Junior World Championships that they’re obligated to go to. If they don’t go, they can’t ride the worlds two or three days later. I’ve started a study in Lausanne University into the sociological aspects of doping in the sport and it’s going to continue for two years.”
“All of this is part of changing the culture and I’m the person who can stand up and be proud and watch (Tour de France winner) Chris Froome say his yellow jersey will stand the test of time and Dan Martin, who won Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a stage of the Tour, saying ‘I can win clean’. I’m the one who can take a certain amount of credit in changing the doping culture in sport.”
McQuaid has come under sustained attack this week after it emerged a proposal from the Malaysian cycling federation could aid his quest for a third term in office, with the contest between him and his only rival Brian Cookson to be decided in September.
The proposal, if adopted, would enable any two cycling federations to come together to nominate a candidate for the presidency, and it emerged on Monday that the Thai and Moroccan federations had given their backing to McQuaid.
Cookson blasted the incumbent president, calling it “an embarrassing act of desperation”. But McQuaid brushed off his comments and declared he had not solicited the Malaysian federation’s move.
“Of course he would say that,” laughed McQuaid about Cookson’s words.
“But my argument is; this is a democracy and the Malaysian federation have every right to put forward a proposal as they so wish. They decided to put forward a proposal, I had no discussions with them. I didn’t need to. The UCI Congress will decide whether to accept their proposal or not. That’s democracy.”
“You have to understand that there’s an election going on here and there are two candidates and the other side is trying to use things to his (Cookson’s) advantage, trying to twist things to their advantage.”
“Besides, I don’t need the Malaysian proposal (to be passed). I’ve three federations that have nominated me; I’ve the Swiss federation, the Morocco federation and the Thai federation. So I’ve enough valid nominations to stand for election for the presidency of the UCI.”
McQuaid said the media’s constant assertions that a candidate can only be nominated by their home federation – in his case, Cycling Ireland – or the federation in the country where the candidate resides – in his case, Swiss Cycling – were wrong.
He said the rules stated a candidate can be nominated by “the federation of the candidate”. And he said that meant he could be nominated by any of the seven federations he was a member of. He added while he had been nominated by Swiss Cycling, he was also nominated by the federations of Thailand and Morocco before the deadline for nominations passed in late June.
This, he said, meant he was certain to run for the presidency; irrespective of any losing of the Swiss backing – which is being legally challenged – and no matter what happens with the Malaysian proposal that has emerged this week.
When pressed on why, for example, the Moroccan federation would nominate him, McQuaid was steadfast in his belief that his record stands up, and his reputation earned him their respect.
“Since I was elected eight years ago I’ve been to Morocco six or seven times. And since then the standard of cycling has improved dramatically and they’re the number one African cycling nation now. I’ve done a lot of work there and in 2009 they made me a member of their federation as a form of gratitude for the work I’ve done.”
“Not that I go around looking for nominations. Morocco is a federation I have close associations and ties with, they’ve made me a member of their federation,” he continued.
When asked if it appeared morally wrong that he was seeking election, though his own country abandoned him, he hit back, saying; “You can talk about morally all you like, but I’m talking about the rules and I haven’t broken any rules. I’m not even bending the rules. The federation of the candidate is the federation of which the candidate is a member.”
“At the end of the day, democracy is best served by having an election with candidates going for election. If I was to follow the views of some people, I would just step aside and let Brian walk straight in for the presidency of the UCI.”
“I don’t think my federations around the world would thank me for that. In actual fact, a lot of federations around the world have urged me, despite the various pressures on me, including inducements to leave the position, that I shouldn’t leave the position and they want me to stay.”
“There’s been a lot of pressure on me to step aside but I’m not going to. I’ve done a lot of work over the last eight years and I’m standing over that.”