McQuaid strikes again!

Monday, 13 December 2010

If it’s fashionable to dismiss Pat McQuaid outright in some circles, I think the story is more nuanced. With his background in race organisation, especially the Tour of Langkawi, the UCI President brings experience to open up the sport around the world, something that might not have happened if, say, a Frenchman or Belgian was appointed.

That said, the phenomenon of globalisation is something that touches trade, culture, immigration and most sports, it is not particular to cycling. It’s hard to judge the value he’s brought when compared to others.

But like many McQuaid pieces, I start with a “he’s not all bad” opening paragraph but then quickly point out that he proves serially incompetent when it comes to dealing with the media. It’s no different this time. Indeed he’s the gift to those of us commentating on the sport, at times he rivals Cipollini for the ability to stir things up. Only this is exactly what the president of a governing body should seek to avoid.

Take today’s interview in L’Equipe, the UCI President discusses taking the sport around the globe, with new teams and races taking place in new continents. It’s all good, more people enjoying the sport around the world is something to be celebrated. And whilst any change involves adjustments, overall everyone will win if it’s handled properly.

But here’s where the problems begin. There are significant issues with the administration and development of the sport and I have my concerns about the judgement of those at the top. Even simple matters like an interview get wasted, indeed all too often a media appearance by Mr McQuaid ends with more questions than it began with.

So back to the L’Equipe interview. This was a good set-piece opportunity to put the case for taking the sport around the world, especially to an audience in France and also directly to ASO, since L’Equipe belongs to the same parent company as the Tour de France organiser. It was also a chance to present the basis of longer and stronger doping sanctions. But these vital messages got buried under an avalanche of careless statements and inflammatory phrases.


Chinese Whispers
For example he says “the two or three races run in China are better organised than the Tour de France, say team bosses of those who have ridden in China“. Now perhaps there might be some lessons for ASO but slicker than the Tour de France? When you hear statements like this it’s hard to take the rest seriously.


A Two Week Giro?
Whilst discussing the busy calendar and the spectre of doping, he says “I think we can reduce the length of the Giro and Vuelta by a few days. The Tour, that will always last three weeks“. But what’s the motivation here, anti-doping or trying to shoehorn more races in to the calendar. Above all this is a massively significant policy, the idea of shortening the Giro will prove highly controversial and not just in Italy. It overshadows any discussion of new races in Beijng.


Softies
Discussing why the French aren’t the force they once were, McQuaid says “I find the French riders a bit soft“. Now there might be a kernel of truth here. But plenty of French riders are as hard as they come. Above all an international President needs to be careful about singling out particular nations with lazy stereotypes.


No to Vacansoleil, Yes to Vacansoleil
McQuaid also makes a public attack on Vacansoleil. When asked if the team’s methods are questionable he says “yes, that’s true. I’d simply say that that the management of the team have been naive. If I was the director of this team, I’d never have signed Ricco“. Only the President of the UCI has just granted the team a World Tour licence, despite having grave doubts over the management.

Variable bans
Whilst saying a decision on Contador’s case won’t happen “before the end of the year“, McQuaid also tries to make a distinction between “light and heavy substances“, saying “EPO, that’s serious, you should get four years. Ventoline, for example, that could be six or nine months“. Now perhaps there’s a point to be made here but given the sport’s top rider is embroiled in a doping affair, trying to reclassify doping offences is risky business right now. Is Clenbuterol heavy or light?

A wasted opportunity
So for me we have another media performance blundered. What could have been a useful starting point to set out plans for 2011 and beyond ends up reading like he’s trying to poke a big stick into several wasps nests at the same time, to annoy the Italians and French, to rewrite sections of the anti-doping code and more. What could have been a chance to set the agenda for the New Year is simply going to ensure several key players in the sport start 2011 on the defensive.

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{ 12 comments }

Anonymous December 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm

I like the way you list several points. It's not like he just tripped up once, he did it several times and in just one sitting. He's a liability.

Angelo December 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I've enjoyed all three posts today. I can't believe he floats so many ideas in a single day.

Anonymous December 13, 2010 at 6:51 pm

When was the last time he gave a normal interview?

TheInnerRing December 13, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Anonymous I: yes, but unfortunately that is his style.
Angelo: indeed, we learn of some big ideas on one interview. I wonder whether these have even been discussed with the likes of race organisers RCS and ASO/Unipublic?
Anonymous: sadly that is a good question. He can talk reasonably at times but seems prone to be led in the wrong direction and within no
time, making incendiary remarks.

As I've said before, I think a President needs to rally people and ideas together rather than set people against each other.

Ned Kelly December 13, 2010 at 8:57 pm

the most intriguing element of Pat McQuaid is why on earth he was considered as a credible president to represent cycling.

Anonymous December 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm

You are too nice to him, he is a walking disaster. I work in the sport and can say that from my view, nobody respects him. He makes the UCI look dumb.

david December 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Those really aren't the comments of an intelligent, incisive, media-aware chairman. The bumbling actually kind of turns my stomach. This is definitely not the man who'll solve the issue of sponsor-rider-team-event risk sharing.

Do the delegates from each region, especially the 14 from Europe, voice their disapproval often enough? I think I would prefer to know there was disunity in the ranks than to think that everyone was behind Mr McQuaid.

TheInnerRing December 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Thanks Roadie. Like I say he is doing some good… but I'll continue to suggest his media appearances are accompanied by a lawyer and a PR expert to ensure the message stays true.

Yes it's good to have an opinion and yes he's superior to Blatter. But it would be even better if we could have a consistently positive message. For me this is all easy stuff, it is not asking for the moon.

Roadie December 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Can you explain why my comment is the only one deleted! … Because is offered another side of an argument?! And had a positive sentence on McQuaid? You seem happy to leave the comments calling him "dumb" online?

TheInnerRing December 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Roadie, hmm I certainly didn't delete this. Indeed I replied to your comment earlier as you can see. Are you sure you didn't delete it?

[to anyone else: Roadie made a good point that McQuaid is superior to the likes of Blatter, that and that he commands respect from many in the sport]

Feel free to make the point again, like I say I don't know what happened. I don't do censorship here (unless things get very ugly or excessively personal) but ideas can be debated for free.

Anonymous December 15, 2010 at 12:17 am

I haven't met one person who respects him! No one in any position of influence in the sport in Australia think at all highly of him (except maybe the terribly conflicted Mike Turtur but he's brown-nosing to be the next Pat McQuaid!). He is a disgrace and a huge liability for the sport. He is an Irish thug and how he lost the public debate with the ASO a few years back just demonstrated how incredibly incompetent he is. The sooner he's gone the sooner the sport will grow… as long as we don't replace him with another of his ilk. We need to appoint a professional sports administrator not someone with a chip on their shoulder how thinks they deserve the post because the stood on a street corner for years as a volunteer.

Ned Kelly December 15, 2010 at 5:19 pm

i wonder if Paul Kimmage would regard the McQuaid's as the real cancer of cycling ?

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