Race to the bottom

August 21, 2013

[Published August 9, 2013 in issue 9 of 2r. For all issues of 2r, download the app for iPad and iPhone here]

McQuaid attacks, Cookson responds. Cookson lobs in a grenade, McQuaid seeks shelter – briefly – and retaliates with a salvo.

Say what you will of the UCI presidential race, but it has all the action and plot twists of the most successful reality TV shows. Sadly, it also matches them in its lack of class, decency, substance and belief in the good of humanity.

Unfortunately for cycling, there is no sign this theatre will be over soon, not even after the election. With the process tainted by multiple nominations, court challenges, attempts to amend the rules mid-way and a complete inability from the incumbent to concede defeat, comparing cycling to a banana republic is offensive to most such republics, and all bananas.

Worse, it’s not even clear it really makes a difference who wins the race.

The first issue to be resolved is the nomination by the Swiss cycling federation:

  • The UCI rules clearly state “THE federation of the candidate” must nominate the candidate. It was the Irish federation who nominated McQuaid in 2005 and 2009, and he represents Ireland in all UCI documentation (IRL behind his name). Furthermore, by first asking Ireland to nominate him, McQuaid himself MADE Ireland THE federation of himself.
  • Despite claims of having “long-standing ties” to many federations, it has emerged that McQuaid only joined Swiss Cycling on May 1, 2013, a whole 24 hours before seeking their nomination for the UCI presidential race. In all fairness, sticking to anything – a conviction, an idea, and presumably a federation – for 24 hours seems like a very long time for McQuaid.
  • It is clear from their meeting minutes that the Swiss Cycling board did not agree to nominate McQuaid in their meeting, but rather to wait a little and look into it further. The federation president, Richard Chassot, then announced the nomination.
  • It should be noted that Chassot is a long-standing (more than 24 hours) friend of McQuaid. He was on the witness list on McQuaid’s behalf in the lawsuit against Paul Kimmage. He is also on the board of the World Cycling Centre chaired by McQuaid.
  • Furthermore, and maybe most damning, Chassot owns the company that organizes the Tour de Romandie. Unlike the Tour de Suisse, of which the rights are owned by the Swiss federation, those for the Tour de Romandie is held by Mr. Chassot’s private company.
  • This makes Mr. Chassot financially dependent on the UCI, since it is the World Tour status awarded by the UCI that allows the Tour de Romandie to make money. In fact, Mr. Chassot stated during the Swiss board meeting that supporting McQuaid “would contribute to ensure the position of the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse”. If you ever wondered how such a small race could obtain World Tour status, follow the Swiss lawsuit.
  • The rules of Swiss Cycling clearly states that “if a member of the board has a personal interest in the matter, he or she can not participate in the decision”. But not only was Mr. Chassot present, he was the one pushing the case for McQuaid.

Therefore, it is virtually beyond doubt that the Swiss nomination of McQuaid for UCI president will fail, for any of these four reasons:

  • The Swiss Cycling board will withdraw the nomination out of fear it may be financially ruined if it loses the lawsuit over it.
  • Chassot may actually wish to withdraw the nomination so that no further light is shown on his Tour de Romandie and his relationship with McQuaid.
  • McQuaid may not want the judge in this lawsuit to come to a decision (see below)
  • The lawsuit goes ahead and Swiss Cycling loses.

The next hurdle would be the Malaysian amendment that would allow any two federations to nominate a candidate, rather than only THE federation of the candidate. In itself this is a proposal with merits, the problem is the part where they suggest it should retro-actively apply to this election. Quite simply, this proposal will be rejected, it doesn’t have the votes at the UCI congress to pass.

It is possible that the amendment will be amended, and that for future elections any two federations may nominate a candidate, but the qualified majority to allow retro-activity simply isn’t there.

Anyone who might conclude that therefore, McQuaid does not have a nomination, is not thinking using Pat’s brain. After all, he will now tell you that not only could he be nominated by Ireland or Switzerland, ANY federation of which he is a member could do so. And since he is a member, and has the nomination of both the Thai and the Moroccan federation, either of those will do.

This is the part where McQuaid would not want a Swiss judge to have rendered a decision in the Swiss Cycling nomination case. You see, if that case goes all the way to the end, a Swiss judge may reject the Swiss nomination on any number of grounds. If it is rejected based on something to do with Swiss Cycling’s rules such as Chassot’s failure to recuse himself, that’s OK for McQuaid. But if the judge rules that THE federation of McQuaid is Ireland and not Switzerland, then it follows that it is also not Thailand or Morocco.

McQuaid could – and probably would – argue that these are completely separate cases, but his position is somewhat weakened by the fact that Switzerland is not only the relevant jurisdiction for Swiss Cycling (which is why the current case appears there) but also for the UCI itself. It makes it a bit hard for the UCI president to ignore. However, it is probably a lot harder for McQuaid to step down from the UCI presidency, so expect him to further cement the image of cycling as a lawless entity.

In all likeliness, this would mean the election between Cookson and McQuaid would go ahead, and in such a case there is a real chance McQuaid wins. While he doesn’t have the qualified majority to get retro-active rule changes approved, he may have the simple majority to get re-elected.

Clearly, if that happens, his Thai/Moroccan nomination will be challenged. This may take time, any appeals may take more time still and in the end, assuming the case is decided by not only the competent court but also a competent court, the nomination will be invalidated.

Less clear is what would happen next. Would the number 2 of the election become president? One could argue for that, but one could equally argue that other candidates would have stepped forward had they known the incumbent would not be in the race.

There is no straightforward answer for this question, since no such situation is contemplated in the UCI rules. So we either get a quiet ascension, a quick second election or either of those two choices followed by legal action from those who disagree with that choice. In short, it could take a long time.

But maybe it’s all much simpler than that. Maybe McQuaid will decide that after yet another defeat, it’s been nice and he graciously bows out of the election process (the way he graciously tried to take all the credit for taking down Armstrong after resisting USADA every step of the way). In that most positive of cases, what will happen to cycling?

Well, we don’t know. We know very little of Cookson’s plans, since his manifesto lacked in specifics. On top of that, he seems to have changed position on several important topics in recent months. On truth and reconciliation and women’s racing for example. This is OK, changing your mind is a subtle way of showing you’ve gotten smarter, but we must hope that a clear direction emerges. Otherwise, the changes smack of opportunism.

Last but not least, spare a thought for all the forms of cycling that are part of the UCI but are not men’s pro road racing. Mountain biking, BMX, cyclocross, marathons, artistic cycling, cycle ball and other disciplines you have never heard of. It is the UCI’s mandate to promote and foster them too, but 99% of the discussion ignores them.

The only dissident group successful in disrupting the substance of the proceedings has been women’s road racing, thanks to the brilliant “Le Tour Entier” campaign. If you want to feel you’ve made a difference this UCI presidential election and don’t have the money to start a court case in Thailand or Morocco, consider signing their petition.

15 Responses to “Race to the bottom”

  1. […] being exposed to costly liabilities given McQuaid says he has support from Thailand and Morocco. As Gerard Vroomen’s says, there could be some procedural and ethical questions to answer so why test the validity of a […]

  2. Didier Says:

    Hi Gerard, very pertinent article! Quite impressed by your knowledge of the McQuaid-Chassot relationship. I have never seen these details anywhere else on the web. As an ex-member of the Romandie and Tour de Suisse organization, I fully confirm what you say. Finally, it seems that Chassot has been put in minority at Swiss cycling. What’s next there?

  3. 900aero Says:

    There is a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit or intent. One can fulfill the obligations of the letter while ignoring the intent or spirit; it rarely ends well.

  4. […] Vroomen’s latest blog about the UCI leadership election (Sign the Le Tour Entier petition, if you haven’t already done so, it’ll annoy Pat […]

  5. Nick II Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing content from 2r. I don’t have an idevice, so this is my first taste of it, and it tastes good!

  6. “The news has got around that the scoundrell from Aigle has gotten DONE “!

    jim burn aka phat the rat has now been told that his 24hr membership of Swiss Fed. was NOT a Nomination for his 3rd term of RUINING UCI & Cycling Sports !

    @PaulKimmage ‘s Lawyer should be encouraged to lay further info with the Swiss Authorities ! It is quite clear even to the ” Tifosi ” , that the timeline of the various emails to & fro at UCI are NOT WHAT THEY APPEAR ! Fiddling whilst Aigle burns , seems to be the result of the incompetence of those caught up in adjusting the ” FACTS “!

    When i set this petition going i thought MORE people would want to see the back of phat & nein , so far 4 have put their name to this :


    HOW Hard is it to spend 30secs seeing off the BLIGHT to Cycling Sport ?

    DO YOU WANT another term of 4 years of phat the rat ?

    Hilarious tweet follows :

    Breaking: RSA seeks special session of UCI management committee to propose rule change enabling nomination of Jim Burns for President.

  7. The last comment cost me nearly an hour and 18MB

    Something WRONG there !

  8. Roger Sitterly Says:

    I think you have an inadvertent typo in what I count as paragraph 18. The paragraph’s first sentence is “The next hurdle would be the Malaysian amendment that would allow any two federations to nominate a candidate, rather than only THE nomination of the candidate.” I think you meant to say “… rather than only THE federation …”

    Also, just saw reports in Velonation that Swiss Cycling has dropped/rescinded the nomination of Pat McQuaid, so your first “reason” for the failure of that nomination has become fact.

  9. Marshall, Steve Says:

    Informative, insightful and agreed! Gerard nails it again.


  10. […] reinterpretación pudo haber sido contestada, y legalmente invalidada, en los tribunales. Como señala acertadamente en su blog Gerard Vroomen, fundador de Cervélo, si el proceso con Suisse Cycling hubiera llegado hasta el […]

  11. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Good job Gerard! I still fear “The Mad Hatter” could do a Robert Mugabe and scheme his way to another term somehow. His opponent is clearly the lesser evil, though I realize that’s not much of an endorsement, but it’s the best the “banana republic” that is the UCI can hope for at present.

  12. […] matter the side you’re on, the presidential battle is not particularly pretty viewing – as neatly summed up in this piece, which asks what damage a protracted legal battle for the presidency might do to the […]

  13. […] has received some criticism from the likes of Cervelo co-founder Gerard Vroomen for changing his position on a number of key issues, such as women’s racing and a truth and […]

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