I once described Pat McQuaid’s presidency of the world cycling governing body, the UCI, as resembling a banana republic.
In retrospect, that was a bit harsh on banana republics.
Defined as ‘A small nation dependent on one crop or the influx of foreign capital’, the term doesn’t even come close to encapsulating the charade that the UCI truly is.
Whilst the UCI under the Irishman has essentially ignored and denigrated all aspects of cycling other than the cash cow with the golden udders that is the top tier of the sport – including young rider development, anti-doping and the women’s side of the sport, relying truly on ‘one crop’ – it is far worse than that staid definition of ‘banana republic’.
There’s a reason why a character with such dubious personality traits as Lance Armstrong thrived for so long under the presidencies of Hein Verbruggen (1991-2005) and then McQuaid (2005-), and it is this – his modus operandi perfectly complimented the goals of the governing body under those two gentlemen.
Verbruggen wanted a star system to propel his vision of cycling in the 90s, a desire so great that his henchmen – from coaches, doctors, journalists to riders – turned a blind eye even when young rider began dying in droves in the early 90s.
How did they die? From abusing EPO, the ‘wonder drug’ that fueled the star system and created the supermen that held the cycling world in thrall in that era.
It was, for sponsors, TV companies and the governing body alike, a match made in heaven. For anyone with a shred of a conscience however, they recognized that though the money men saw the marriage as divine, the details of the deal had been thrashed out a far darker place.
Verbruggen left in 2005 (but remains as ‘honorary president’, a misnomer if ever there was one), allowing his hand-picked successor to slip in seamlessly onto the velvet throne.
McQuaid then began a ‘business-as-usual’ reign that continues to this day, despite the trials and tribulations – and they have been massive – that his ship has been beset by.
Why, had the Titanic been even half as robust as McQuaid’s presidency it could have sailed into Antartica and split that great frozen waste in two.
An iceberg? Pffffft. No worries. Get the gin & tonics ready.
It’s like a giant Hummer with desks and rubber stamps. Bullet-proof glass, bomb-proof underside, armour plated doors, paper weights, clip-on ties and lots of Hush Puppies.
Look out: Uber-Bureaucracy is rumbling into town, and it’s gone quite insane.
How so? Well, here where’s the madness reaches new heights.
McQuaid recently suffered the ignominy of having his bid for backing for re-election as UCI President from Cycling Ireland chucked out on its shell like into a murky Dublin back alley, which sent him all a-huffin’ and a-puffin’ to Switzerland.
Once there and after a quick session of chocolate freebasing and checking out the latest trends in leather shorts, our dear Prez then managed to get the executive of Swiss Cycling to back his re-election bid.
All seemed fine. Phew! But invariably, just as when you’re smelling the flower and you realize you’re up to your knees in sheep crap, there were mumblings about the legitimacy of being backed for the presidency by any federation other than the candidate’s national body.
McQuaid bluff and blustered his way through the questions, maintaining that his bid was legitimate and that there was no legal impediment to Swiss Cycling backing him.
But then some noisy little brats from Swiss Cycling began to complain. Then a date was set for a hearing into the legitimacy of that backing, August 22nd, a hearing McQuaid cannot be certain he will win.
To add to his woes, someone else – shocker! – decided they’d throw their hat into the presidential ring – Brian Cookson.
And it seems he doesn’t have much time for Our Pat, and that he has the backing of some influential figures in the game. With most cycling fans tired of seeing the Verbruggen/McQuaid Dynasty ruling over the sport, Cookson has the hesitant support of many – hesitant because we don’t really know if Cookson will be good for the sport, but then, well, how could he be worse?
So, game over for Pat?
Not a chance. Pat came up with a brilliant plan.
To become Japan.
Not in a literal sense obviously. As an archipelago consisting of 6,852 islands, even Pat would find that transformation tricky.
No, he’s becoming Japan in that, like the sushi-loving nation, he’s spreading his tentacles far and wide to disparate nations garner support for himself in a time of dire need.
As Japan seeks support from African nations that don’t even have a coastline to help them fight anti-whaling initiatives, so McQuaid has gone to the Malaysian and Moroccan cycling federations to enlist their help in trying to overturn the ruling concerning any presidential bid requiring the backing of the candidate’s national body.
The Malaysian boys sent this letter over recently, stating the proposed change, read out to the press by UCI Director General Christophe Hubschmind (exactly – who?):
“In their letter proposing the amendment, the Malaysian Federation and ACC [Asian Cycling Confederation] state that their aim is to reinforce the independence of future UCI Presidents by ensuring they are able to carry out the role based on serving the global interests of cycling, independently from those of any single nominating National Federation.
“Under the proposal, in addition to the current rule for nominating candidates, any two National Federations would also be entitled to nominate a candidate to stand for President of the UCI.”
“The independence of future presidents…”
“…serving the global interests of cycling…”
I’d call it Machiavellian if it wasn’t so incredibly, um, un-Machiavellian.
This is altogether more SchoolYardian.
The ruling, if passed, would be backdated to support Pat’s nomination. Yup, dated at the time of passing but rolled back to allow it to be brought to bear to help McQuaid.
So, this is not about ‘future’ presidents at all – is it all about the current one.
Amazingly, I’m not the only one that has spotted the overtones of the tin-pot dictator here.
“What sort of organisation attempts to rewrite the rules once an election has actually begun?” asked Brian Cookson. “It smacks of attempted dictatorship.
“It is surely completely out of order to allow a proposal to change an electoral procedure, once that procedure is underway” continued Cookson.
“These proposals should never have been permitted onto the agenda, let alone given the validity of acceptance for the current election, especially considering that the UCI Management Committee have not even had the opportunity to discuss the matter.
“There is certainly no provision in the Constitution, as it now stands, for nomination by more than one federation.”
Why Morocco and Malaysia? Who knows? Could they have been promised something in return for this backing? Surely not – how could you think such a thing?
Or could it be that the Tour de Langkawi was very much Pat’s love child and that he’s now calling in the chips?
Again, you’re way too cynical – banish such thoughts from your dim little mind.
The twists and turns of this murky little plot couldn’t be written by even the hammiest scriptwriter.
Get your seatbelts on. We have quite a few more cliff-edge hairpins coming up.
*This article originally appeared here, on The Roar