By Gregor Brown
Brian Cookson's bid to become Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president this September received a significant boost from Australia. Yesterday, Cycling Australia announced it will vote in favour of Cookson instead of helping to re-elect Pat McQuaid.
Cycling Australia President Klaus Mueller told national newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, "We felt [Cookson] was in a better position to restore the reputation and integrity of the UCI and the sport internationally."
It took its position over the weekend, according to the article, after speaking to Cookson and McQuaid. Cookson, British Cycling president, visited Australia and addressed Cycling Australia's board on Saturday morning. The board then held a teleconference with Ireland's McQuaid.
Its meeting continued until Sunday, when the 10 board members present voted unanimously for Cookson. Australia receives one of the 42 votes in the September 27 elections at the Florence World Championships. Two other votes come from within the Oceania region, from Fuji and New Zealand. Mueller believes that the countries will also support Cookson.
Cookson arrived in Sydney on Friday as part of a world tour to sway voters. If he wins, he would end McQuaid's eight-year run (two terms) as head of cycling's governing body, the UCI.
"It's been a worthwhile visit and I'm very happy to have been here and looking forward to being able to deliver the things we have been talking about," Cookson told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I think it's important to get around the world and speak to as many people as you can. I am grateful the Oceania delegates and Cycling Australia wanted me to come and were happy to meet with me.
"I made a similar offer to the Asian confederation, for instance, and their president said they didn't want me to attend, [that] they had already made their mind up and were going to vote for Pat McQuaid."
McQuaid shows no intention of backing down despite dwindling support. Switzerland pulled its nomination on Wednesday after Ireland refused to back him as president. He must now relay on the Thai and Moroccan federations, a joint nomination that is being challenged.
"Federations all over the world want me to stand for re-election. I am standing as a candidate for re-election," McQuaid said in a press statement on Wednesday. "That is not going to change."
The calls for change at the top of cycling became louder over the winter with the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Cookson said in his Manifesto in June that he wants to "rebuild trust in the UCI." He wants corruption allegations investigated and dealt with in his first six months as president. Many, including Cycling Australia, feel McQuaid failed in the Armstrong wake.
"[Cycling Australia] has enjoyed a very good relationship with Pat over the years and we recognise the significant work he has done to help globalise the sport and address the doping culture that besieged professional men's road cycling," Mueller continued in a press statement.
"However, the inadequate response in dealing with the fallout from the Armstrong affair and subsequent allegations brought against the UCI has emphasised a need for leadership change to allow the sport to move on and realise its enormous potential."
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