It’s hard to find a dirtier election contest than the battle to run the UCI. Overnight Velonews brought us enough allegations of shakedowns, cover-ups and bribery to fill a James Ellroy novel. You can see a three-page summary of a 54-page dossier that has existed since June containing potent allegations against Pat McQuaid.
But McQuaid has fired back today with allegations that he’s the victim of extortion and bribery attempts from unnamed “opponents”. These are equally bold allegations too. For all the stories we’ve seen so far regarding the UCI it’s now reached a new level with allegations of criminal conspiracy on both sides.
Today also sees the vote for a new President of the International Olympic Committee. This can be a very tough process but most of the action takes place with private briefings and game theory style alliances between rivals who might temporarily link up to knock a rival out of the game before resuming their contest. Think a duck gliding across a pond, it looks elegant and streamlined but its feet are paddling hard.
Meanwhile the UCI’s contest has no such elegance. Instead it’s becoming the public relations equivalent of a bar brawl and as things get more bitter, divisive and out of control by the day. Rather than trading competing visions for the future we’re now seeing personal attacks. Take Pat McQuaid’s response to these allegations. Instead of just refuting things, McQuaid takes it up a notch to launch personal attack in a letter sent to national federations today and seen by your correspondent.
So far in this presidential election campaign, my opponents have employed lies, bribery, attempted extortion, attempted vote-buying, attempts at entrapment with hidden cameras and microphones, commercial interests threatening to bankrupt national federations if they didn’t withdraw my nomination and legal chicaneries to try to prevent you from even being given the chance to vote for or against me. This is not democracy. This is gangster politics.
If Brian Cookson does not now condemn these tactics utterly, then we can only assume that he supports them – and we will all have a graphic preview of how the UCI will be run for the coming four years under his leadership and with his henchmen.
This behaviour on the part of three Management Committee members – as well as this libellous dossier – is doing untold damage to the reputation of the UCI, something that Brian Cookson has claimed he apparently wants to restore.
Allegations vs Evidence
Armed with free software anyone can fill a PDF document. You could type up claims that Pat McQuaid kills kittens or is part of an alien master race. Of course a journalist has the right to press the delete button when it lands in their inbox. In this case we can assume Velonews trust the source to judge it worth publishing the allegations.
The dossier is not new, there were tales of it back in June and a senior official from the UCI said it was being investigated but this seemed to stop after the full dossier could not be obtained.
However if it’s one thing to make allegations, it’s another to prove it. And with the leak today those behind the claims against McQuaid have to state their case. Helpfully for his opponents Pat McQuaid’s first response was to say the following:
Yesterday evening, a libellous “dossier”, alleging corruption at the UCI, was anonymously leaked to the media. The media organisation presented the document to me. The claims in this so-called dossier are a complete fabrication. They are totally untrue and are not supported by a scintilla of evidence.
Has McQuaid gone too far?
If some of the claims include allegations of trying to shakedown a team owner for cash or an apparent attempt to cover-up Alberto Contador’s 2010 positive test others include less scandalous things such as “Mr. McQuaid was interviewed extensively for several hours by the two investigators about the allegations in The Report” but McQuaid seems to be stating this is a fabrication too. Maybe he was not interviewed but if he was this is very easy to prove. Similarly when the report says “There is testimonial evidence from more than one witness” then these people need to come forward.
- In the short term the UCI Ethics Committee needs to look into this 3-page PDF document. Even establishing the facts over whether McQuaid has seen this folder would be a start. But it’s not easy as the three member committee is run by Pieter Zevenbergen, a Dutchman with historic links to Hein Verbruggen
- The UCI needs to investigate the claims made by Pat McQuaid. He’s making claims of bribery and extortion and needs to back this up with evidence because those behind this have no place in the sport. These are criminal matters too so he should think about employing the police.
- The UCI should be asking those suspected to be behind the report, namely Igor Makarov and Mike Plant, to state whether they have any involvement and if they have any information to contribute. This has to be done quickly given the vote is three weeks away. Also is Brian Cookson working in concert with the people behind these leaks?
- Longer term the UCI might consider a lawsuit. Remember it’s used this technique successfully before against Floyd Landis when he was rude about McQuaid. Now that a series of accusations has been made will we see the UCI do the same again?
As for the UCI itself, this is just the reflection of the dysfunctional nature of the sport. There’s now open warfare between the Cookson and McQuaid camps with each side making increasingly personal attacks and nobody seems able to stop the fight. The electoral calculus looks tight and the worry is that whoever is elected later this month will end up with the poisoned chalice of a split governing body with some federations set against them.
Political thrillers have their intrigue, see the success of the TV drama “The House of Cards” but if the contest to run the UCI offers soap opera drama it’s turning into a tragedy. Because for all the press release tennis and leaked documents we’re now going from mudslinging to allegations of criminal activity with talk of bribery and extortion. The allegations from this leaked document and those made by Pat McQuaid are all so serious they need to be investigated by the UCI and possibly the police need to be called in. Brian Cookson needs to think about who his friends are.
The odd thing is that Pat McQuaid could be finished if just one item from the dossier could be accompanied by supporting testimony. But the bullet point list aimed at Aigle today is firing blanks until evidence appears. If anything it will encourage McQuaid’s supporters to stand by him during this storm rather than scare people.
- if you want more on this subject see Joe Lindsey’s Boulder Report blog