UCI President gets the facts wrong

Pat McQuaid

With fresh scandal erupting like an Icelandic volcano, with a jet stream of new allegations blowing over big names in the sport and a cloud of ash hanging over the top officials, you’d think the President of the UCI would be very careful with his words when his organisation is on the receiving end of incredibly serious accusations.

Yet here’s the UCI’s Pat McQuaid speaking to Brendan Gallagher of London’s Daily Telegraph when asked about “donations” paid to the UCI by Lance Armstrong:

“You have to consider that at the time, in 2002, no accusations against Lance Armstrong had been made. They’ve all came up since then. We accepted the donation to help develop the sport. We didn’t think there was a conflict of interest. It’s easy to say in hindsight what could or would have been done. You have to put yourself in the situation at the time.

I think based on experience, based on hindsight and 20/20 vision, and based on the claims of a conflict of interest, the UCI would be very careful before accepting a donation from a rider in the future. Having said that the UCI is not a rich organisation and we have many demands from around the world for support and material. We will listen to anyone who can help us.”

Alarm bells should start ringing with the first sentence. Because it’s wrong. There was a judicial enquiry into doping practices starting in 2000. In July 2001 alone we saw David Walsh make allegations of doping and US rider Greg LeMond said the same thing, albeit less directly. Meanwhile French sports scientist Antoine Vayer was making further allegations via a column in French daily Le Monde. So there were many allegations in 2001. It’s awkward to see a public figure trip up like this, because if they can’t get simple facts like this right, then what about other statements?

But carry on with the quote and soon a foghorn sounds. Apparently you need “hindsight and 20/20 vision” to realise accepting a donation from Lance Armstrong wasn’t a good idea. Yet the UCI is a governing body charged with regulating the sport, from rules on clothing right up to anti-doping procedures. It’s Conflict of Interest 101 to realise taking money from someone you regulate is wrong. It suggests the President is unaware of simple financial ethics, that independence and regulatory capture are new ideas, unheard of in 2000. Except Roman poets were asking “who guards the guards” two thousand years ago.

Worse, the final claim that “we will listen to anyone who can help us” is disturbing. An well-briefed official should be saying “we have firm guidelines relating to funding. I’ll remind you that any donation, be it from a corporate sponsor or an individual, must meet the highest ethical standards” but that seems very distant thinking.

It’s just a quote to London newspaper but all the same, a couple of paragraphs manage to display factual inaccuracy and raise questions over ethical and governance failures. At a time when matters are very sensitive, a President needs to be on top of their game, not making false information.

This is very much an institutional problem for the UCI and not just about Mr McQuaid. If he’s put his foot it before, all the more reason to ensure he’s well briefed this time. I’ve long said the UCI needs to bolster its ethical and governance credentials and to train its President to handle the media. If these things were in place, allegations of wrong doing could be deflected with greater ease.

24 thoughts on “UCI President gets the facts wrong”

  1. I think this article is a bit deceptive and that the quote actually comes from last year and not as a response to 60 Minutes. The body of the story, except for one sentence, is all a quote from Pat McQuaid but the header to the story says last night’s allegations “were dismissed last year by UCI president, Pat McQuaid, when they first surfaced”. This suggests to me that they have just rehashed what he said from last year. This doesn’t, of course, provide any excuse for McQuaid’s contradictions.

  2. The UCI are going to need to think very carefully before they say something considering the letter they had on 60 Minutes. Obviously WADA are very interested too.

    It’s not something you can just say “it’s impossible” about any more.

  3. McQuaid thinks he’s the titanic; well Lance is the iceberg that is going to bring him horribly undone and not before time.

    Shirley there is someone at the UCI with some idea about crisis/media management? Is Pat too pig headed to seek advise on something like this? I guess when your predecessor is Hienz what can you expect?

    The sooner he’s gone the better… but lets replace him with a professional sports administrator, not some mirror image next in line ex-rider or volunteer.

  4. I found the 60 Minutes bit to be more damning to the UCI then Lance. Sure, they might get LA with perjury or other things, but the whole bit about the UCI suppressing the TDS test and there being paperwork to that effect (plus perhaps a lab witness – The UCI’s gonna take a serious hit here. McQuaid’s comments are just more of the same from him – juvenile and poorly chosen. I think he considers himself part of Lance’s “We like our word” bit, but I hazard a guess that if and when Lance needs it, McQuaid’s getting tossed under the bus.

  5. I work for the Environment Agency in the UK who are responsible for regulating the waste industry. For us to accept a ‘donation’ from one of the waste companies that we regulate would be unthinkable. We have to declare any conflict of interest so as to ensure that our intergrity is not compromised. For isntance I have declared that a chap in my cycling club works for a waste management company, so I now do not get involved in any sort of regulation to do with that company.

    For the President of the UCI to be getting the fundamentals of regulation so appallingly wrong (not just on this dontaion issue I may add, also his profesional relationship with his son amongst others) is shocking and is exposing the organisation to be an utter farce.

  6. inrng, an aside from doping, have you been watching this Katusha/Pozzatto feud bubbling? Now it’s an all Russian affair for the Tour. Very cool idea for their countrymen, but Fillipo better get his victory tally going at this weeks Ronde van Belgie if he wants a spot at anything else this year. Where’s that guys passion? Silky smooth, but aggressive as a granny on a three-wheeler.

  7. It boggles my mind that there is not one person on the UCI staff or more fittingly the board willing to stand up to McQuaid and say, you need to shut up now. And then hire proper PR staff. I get that the quote is a rehash from last year, but as you say more evidence that they need to be ready when these stories hit (it’s not like we didn’t all have plenty of notice) – reactive vs proactive. Something many organizations do struggle with. Still my tiny organization developed a conflict of interest policy; it’s not that hard. And in full disclosure, I am an Irish-American who grew up in history class with stories of Tammany Hall and Irish politics and, therefore I might make some “unfair” assumptions about McQuaid.

  8. I’ve been saying this for a while now. The rot starts with UCI.

    Guys like Basso, Rasmussen, etc banned despite no actual evidence of doping (justifiably so, I might add). And a guy who allegedly failed the test gets away? If that positive was indeed concealed, the 2 TdF titles should be given to the #2 finishers (retro 2 year ban)

  9. Watching the 60 Minutes piece yesterday, I came away thinking that the producers at CBS had failed to realize the opportunity in front of them. The UCI and the testing labs were complicit in the doping and subsequent cover up of LA’s positive test(s). Yet the 60 Minutes piece merely touched on the topic and moved back to bashing LA.

    The UCI is sanctioned (is that the right word?) by the IOC, who stand by and watch the allegations of serious corruption and ineptitude. I thought it was interesting that they had WADA on to talk about the allegations of corruption, but again it was an afterthought when I think it was the real story.

    If the international governing body of the sport of cycling, as well as the international governing body for all Olympic sport, are corrupt and don’t play by the rules, how can we expect some idiot from Texas to play by the rules? Why should anyone play by the rules?

    I do love this sport, and I see lots of young riders having success that I truly believe are not doping. However, I also think that in order for the sport to regain any credibility, we will need to “burn the house down” and start fresh.

  10. I have worked with enough businesses over the years to recognize that an organization’s culture starts at the top. No wonder the UCI is toothless; the statements quoted above make it appear that McQuaid has nothing but gums in his mouth. Anybody know how long he’s been there?

  11. Ha, was wondering how long it would take for McQuaid’s nationality to crop up in this discussion (full disclosure: I’m also from the fabled ‘land of saints and scholars’). The man is a dingbat, very little question about that. And, weirdly, he is inarticulate in exactly the same way as was our ex-Taoíseach [prime minister], Bertie Ahern. But to what extent are his shortcomings an extension of his being a paddy? Probably loads- what the fuck do I know?

  12. Re: The Pelican – yes I think you’re right, and please stop calling me Shirley. (Am I the only one here old enough to get the Airplane reference?)

  13. All of this occurred long before I was ever a fan of this sport so while I’m interested from the perspective of the impact that it has on the sport today, I’m not really hooked into any particular outcome of who did what. That said, once again we have the statement from the UCI that I have come to expect and disrespect: deny any wrongdoing, feign shock at how someone could possibly accuse this governing body of ever acting with anything less than its perfect moral and ethical standards, attempt to discredit the athlete making the allegations and blow hot air as they “confidently” sit back in their chairs awaiting vindication.

    To be fair, I acknowledge that the UCI has done some good for the sport but from my little corner of the world all that I am taking away from reading their statements and comments is that the leaders of this organization are a bunch of egotistical nightmares craving power.

    Time to switch off and enjoy the rest of this lovely spring day as it is best enjoyed: on my bike. Take care all! Once again, some really great comments.

  14. Hi, long time reader first time poster here. Love your blog, it’s one of the most informative pieces of writing to be found on the web.

    Anyway a lot of the comments about the rot starting at the top are 100% correct, the UCI have a lot to answer for. But it even goes higher than that with the IOC seemingly always close to scandal and bribery allegations. Then you don’t have to look to far across the pond to see FIFA and the mess that they are in. There needs to be a fundamental shake up of high level sports administration across multiple sports. The actions of these people in positions of high responsibility are simply not good enough. They owe a lot more to the public, the athletes and the long term interests of sports they represent.

  15. Hincapie’s testimony will be key. All American good guy, implications about the governing body, widespread drug abuse. The boil will need to be Lanced.

  16. This is the most intricate form of words for a simple concept that I have seen in a while:

    “The UCI also said that it “can only confirm that Lance Armstrong has never been notified of a positive test result by any anti-doping laboratory” “(cyclingnews).

    ‘Never been notified of a positive test result’? What about: ‘LA has never had a positive test’? I see the inklings of a UCI defence somewhere in there to do with testing technicalities and what constitutes a positive result. This would align with Tyler’s comment that LA and Bruyneel went into the lab and discussed the findings with someone there.

  17. Will there be a takedown of the UCI. It seems like it needs to happen (with regard to Tyler’s allegations).

    How does that even happen?

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