British Cycling's president, Brian Cookson, took a big step towards running cycling's governing body today. The European Cycling Union, after a debate with current UCI President Pat McQuaid, decided to back Cookson in this month's presidential elections.
The decision in Zurich this morning weakens McQuaid's bid for a third term and underscores a general need for change following one of cycling's darkest periods.
"For many outside this room our beautiful sport is associated with ugly things - doping, decisions made behind closed doors, manipulation of the rules and regular conflict," Cookson said, according to The Telegraph. "This has to stop. The reason I'm running for president is I know I can restore our credibility. I represent a completely clean break from the past."
McQuaid ran the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) for the last eight years, from 2005. The Irishman helped bring in the biological passport but suffered many setbacks. He accused of corruption and of failing to change cycling's direction in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal over the winter.
Cookson's victory today will be crucial for the September 27 elections in Florence. The European Cycling Union (UEC) gave him a crucial 14 electoral votes, or 33 percent of the 42-vote pie. The union is one of five regions - with Oceania, Africa, Asia and America - to cast votes. Oceania, with three votes, announced on August 25 that it would side with Cookson. Asia, which proposed a constitutional amendment to allow McQuaid's nomination, is said to be giving its nine votes to McQuaid. A candidate needs a majority, 22 or more votes to win.
The UEC said in a press release today it voted 27 to 10 in favour of Cookson. According to its constitution, it will back him with its full 14 votes. It also shot down Asia's proposed amendment change in a 31 to 10 vote.
McQuaid needs the amendment backing as the federations in Ireland and in Switzerland, where he lives and works, decided against his presidential nomination. Asia's proposal would allow any two nations to nominate a candidate jointly, which the Thai and that Moroccan Federation have done for McQuaid.
The UCI Congress will first decide on the amendment ahead of the presidential vote in Florence. The European leaders already indicated their decision. If the congress votes against it, Cookson would become the only candidate and the automatic winner.
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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