Who is Andrei Tchmil?


Last week La Gazzetta Dello Sport said Andrei Tchmil is going to run for the top job at cycling’s governing body the UCI. But where is he from, what has he done and where is he going?

Born in Khabarovsk, a town so far to the east of Russia it is within sight of China and just 1400km from Tokyo. With the iron curtain falling away, he joined the Russo-Italian Alfa Lum team and became a successful rider in the mid-1990s. His style was forceful, he often seemed to sit awkwardly on the bike but he took wins in Paris-Roubaix, Milan-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders amongst others.

During his career he changed nationality several times, going from Russian to Ukrainian to Belgian and he is now officially Moldovian. Indeed in 2007 he was appointed Minister for Sport in Moldova, a small country of 3.5 million people between Romania and Ukraine. He stepped down from this role but remains the President of Moldovia’s cycling federation.

After retiring from riding, he joined the modest Chocolade Jacques team as an advisor but resigned after complaining nobody was taking his advice. He then took on a mission from the UCI to improve the sport in eastern Europe, acting as the UCI’s “external consultant in charge of relations with Easter Europe National Federations”.

I don’t know how long this role lasted but soon after beginning this job he was talking to Russian businessman Igor Makarov. Makarov is a well-connected Chairman of Itera, a very big Russian company with operations in the Russia, the US and beyond. A billionaire, Makarov bought the Tinkoff team from Russian entrepreneur Oleg Tinkov. But Tinkoff found he was being frozen out of his own team by Makarov and Tchmil in their bid to create the “Russian Global Cycling Project. He went complaining to cyclingnews.com about “a lot of politics – there are a lot of people behind Makarov” and then dumping criticism on Tchmil.

“He is a great cyclist, but he is a very poor sports manager and sports director. He brings in Serge Parsani; he is basically starting to bring all of his friends into the team. I said, ‘Andrei, that is not what you want to do, you want to get the best people out of the market, not your friends.”

Maybe Tinkov had an axe to grind and enjoyed doing it via the media but certainly the Katusha team was run in Tchmil’s way and it hasn’t really delivered results.

Last week it was confirmed that Tchmil will leave the Katusha team; it’s unclear whether this is a move by Makarov to demote Tchmil for the lack of results give the money spent… or to promote him to another job.

A concern is that Tchmil doesn’t bring enough to the UCI job. He speaks eight languages which helps and has briefly spent time developing the sport but we’ve not seen much more. It’ll be interesting to see him in campaign mode.

Makarov McQuaid
Makarov vs McQuaid

Igor Makarov himself sits on the UCI’s management committee and is chairman of Itera, as well as the Russian Cycling Federation and the Katusha boss. I can’t help but wonder if he’d like to be UCI boss but given he’s so busy already, he is trying to parachute Tchmil into the role.

Makarov is no stranger to winning elections. There’s a body called the European Cycling Union (UEC) and it sends a representative to sit on the UCI’s Management Committee. In February 2011 Makarov’s business Itera announced a sponsorship deal of the ECU. In March, the UEC held elections to nominate the representative to the UCI. Makarov won with 25 votes to 21 for Frenchman David Lappartient. One minute Itera sponsors the ECU, the next it votes Makarov into a top job. Just fancy that!

We’ll see what Tchmil does. It’s worth bearing in mind the election process for the UCI President. This is political and dependent on electoral colleges composed of national federations from around the world; the world of pro cycling is only a small issue. Looking forward, if he wants the top job Tchmil will need to impress officials from around the world.

As well as establishing his abilities to run an international sports governing bodies Tchmil will need to take steps to ensure he’s not seen as a sort of puppet for Makarov’s ambitions.

9 thoughts on “Who is Andrei Tchmil?”

  1. 1) Great piece. Good retrospective of Tchmil’s past, and of Makarov’s present.
    2) I wouldn’t want a ex-rider who made his name in the EPO-free-bar years to have any authority (although this rules out a whole generation, or two).
    3) Minor linguistic (and pedantic) detail: the country’s name is “Moldova”, the natives are called “Moldovans”.

  2. So Tchmil is to Makarov as Nygaard is to Becca?

    The picture formed by a man who switches nationality almost at whim (or as it suits his needs?), leaves Chocolade Jacques because nobody was taking his advice, runs a Super Team with minimal results, and criticizes his riders in public (i.e. Pozzato, not that there isn’t plenty to criticize) is not one I’d like to see leading the UCI. However, given Pat McQuaid’s tantrum press releases and power struggles with the rider’s union, maybe Tchmil is a good heir to the throne.

  3. Don’t see Tchmil getting to the top at the UCI. He is too much old school, old eastern-bloc world for today’s cycling and he certainly is not a charmer in the way that Verbruggen or McQuaid can be. Note the wording, “can be”. McQuaid certainly is not the greatest at PR but he can turn it on when required. I just don’t see Tchmil having that capability in any way, and I suspect he has enough adversaries already lined up to make sure he cannot reach the top of the UCI.

    As a rider, I loved Tchmil. He was an astute tactician and got his big wins by taking his chances at the right moments. His win in Milan-San Remo exemplified this. Say what you want about being part of the doping era (has it really ended?), but history will show his results were against a level playing field.

  4. Bundle: quite right, thanks. One is an area of Romania, the other a sovereign state.

    To the others, one thing to note is that the UCI is more than the President. Put who ever you like at the top and they can set the tone and even conduct lightning but for me the institution needs updating. It should be for the senior members to collectively put in place greater transparency and to introduce rigorous mechanisms to handle conflicts of interests.

    Still, I can’t quite work out what Tchmil can bring, what skills he has and why he even wants this job. We’ll learn more in due course I hope.

  5. No doubt Tchmil was a hard-man of cycling when he rode the bike. I can still remember seeing him doing hill repeats on the (slightly easier ascent) of the Passo Mortirolo! But I fear guys like him will make the corruption of the current UCI bosses and directors look like child’s play when/if they get their hands on the levers of power. The UCI needs a steely, principled guy to end the corruption, not an expert on cycling or ex-cyclist. I think of Mitt Romney being brought on to clean up the corrupt mess prior to the Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games. Not a sports guy for sure and certainly not my choice for president of the USA, but it’s widely accepted he cleaned up a very big mess there. Can cycling find a guy like that, willing to take on the establishment and restore some sense of credibility to the UCI after so many years of cronyism and corruption? Who would want this job?

  6. @Larry T.
    I agree with you that the UCI needs a guy that is willing to take on the establishment. But not because of the so called cronyism and corruption withion the UCI. It is my firm believe that the UCI (or the bureau) isn’t as corrupt as some view it is. Especially not when compared to FIFA or IAAF.

    The most important task for the UCI is to curtail and constrain the position of the ASO. The second most important task is to strengthen the position of the teams by maintaining a strict ethical and financial code for teams that want to obtain ProTour-status and enabling those teams to benefit from their ProTour-status on the shorty and the long term.

    The problem is that both tasks conflict on the short term. To solve this problem you need a guy with whose personal integrity is not in discussion. A guy like Tchmil does not fit this profile.

  7. Good point Rooie, I don’t wish to see ASO become more influential in the running of the sport, they have too much clout now. As for corruption, while FIFA, etc. might be more corrupt, to me it’s like being more pregnant….you’re either crooks or you’re not and the UCI is currently the former and needs to be the latter. Tchmil’s history does not suggest he’d be much good at cleaning things up.

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