BUENOS AIRES, September 10, 2013 (AFP) – Cycling chief Pat McQuaid told AFP he is confident that now he has been cleared to be a candidate he will be re-elected easily as President of the International Cycling Union (UCI) later this month.
The 64-year-old Irishman – who has been president for eight years – has faced a vitriolic assault on him since the other candidate Englishman Brian Cookson entered the race in early June.
McQuaid has been attacked for many things including his handling of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, which eventually saw the UCI strip the American of his seven Tour de France titles.
However, he has fought back in a battle with Cookson — whom he once thought of as an ally having brought him into the UCI — that has become increasingly personal.
After first the Irish and then the Swiss withdrew their nominations, it was not even sure at one point if McQuaid, a former professional cyclist, would be able to present himself for re-election.
Finally the Moroccan Federation stepped in to nominate him, allowing him to make his run for another term.
The UCI Executive Board cleared his nomination and McQuaid, present in Buenos Aires for the International Olympic Committee Session, said he couldn’t wait for the vote.
“I am confident once I get to Florence I will win it quickly,” he said.
“I have globalised the sport over the past eight years, taken it to Asia and South America. The presidents of the federations on those continents know me, I know them and they acknowledge what I have done.
“Why have the opposition being trying to derail me? Because they wanted a coronation not an election.”
McQuaid, from a family of professional cyclists, with his father, uncle and six brothers having competed in the sport, said he could not be faulted over his attitude to tackling doping.
“Over the eight years I’ve been in charge I have developed the most advanced anti-doping policy,” he said.
“I have introduced biological passports, and have spent 7.5million Swiss Francs ($8 million, 6 million euros) a year on tackling doping.”
McQuaid, who is a qualified school teacher, said there was no way he could have swept the Armstrong doping scandal under the carpet.
“First of all I had nothing to do with the Armstrong case as all his Tour de France wins were before I took over,” said McQuaid.
McQuaid still confesses to being stunned at the revelations about Armstrong.
“I read his book and the way he described his cancer and how he had looked death in the eyes. I couldn’t believe a guy who had experienced that would afterwards put poisons in his body,” he said.
However, having initially said Armstrong had no place ever again in cycling McQuaid says he could do provided he fulfilled one obligation.
“I want a Commission… where cyclists come before it and confess to what they have done, in order to help us to move forward. If Armstrong was to come before them then he can play a role.”
McQuaid, though, said that those cyclists still active who confess to doping to the Commission would have to take their punishment.
“Brian Cookson has said there can be amnesties but there can be none as under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules you have to have at least a six-month ban,” he said.
McQuaid said he had made important enemies, such as Igor Makarov, a Russian oligarch who had taken offence at his team Katusha being excluded from the elite teams for this season — they later won a court case to be reinstated.
“Igor Makarov was extremely angry with me, accusing me of taking their license. But the UCI Licensing Commission is independent and made up mainly of judges,” he said.
“He’s been after me ever since,” he added.
Makarov has already dismissed allegations that he is orchestrating Cookson’s bid for the UCI presidency.
Of Cookson’s candidacy, McQuaid said: “I was surprised because Brian made statements supporting me in January and February acknowledging the difficulties I had faced, the pressures I was under and the changes I had made in eight years.”