Recently the appearance UCI President Pat McQuaid at a race has coincided with boos from the crowd. Perhaps it could be said the Dutch fans last Sunday were slightly annoyed at a Belgian victory and were taunting Gilbert. But this can’t explain the noise when McQuaid appeared at the Olympics.
Sadly Pat McQuaid has not got a great reputation. Some of it’s bad PR but there are some fundamental concerns too. Take your pick from the chaos in the sport, murky dealings, bizarre public statements and much more and, rightly or wrongly, the President takes the heat.
Not many are making the case for the defence, least of all the UCI. For what it’s worth, I tend to think McQuaid’s got a mixed record. Let’s not forget he’s overseen the introduction of the toughest anti-doping rules, that the sport is spreading around the world too. Although before you leap the comments, yes the anti-doping techniques had to be introduced because cycling has resembled Lord of the Flies on wheels. And if globalisation of cycling is great, the way the UCI is handling it raises a lot of questions yet we can’t get answers. But there’s a lot of behind the scenes activity where his chatty ways can work wonders.
But if you wanted to replace the UCI President how do you do it? What’s the mechanism and who’s involved? People often ask so here’s the explainer.
The quick answer is that it’s near impossible. But if you want to know more, read on.
How is the President elected?
The UCI Congress is the annual meeting of about 150 top cycling officials from around the world, each representing the national federations (and not pro teams, big races, fans etc). Under the UCI Constitution these officials appoint 40 delegates split across regions known as Continental Confederations on the following basis:
These 40 delegates are the electorate who vote to install or dismiss the President for a four year term. McQuaid was first elected in 2005, he was then re-elected in 2009. The next vote comes in 2013.
Who are they? Each Continental Confederation is made up of national federations who belong the UCI and all the delegates are senior officials from cycling federations. Here is the composition of the delegates from the 2011 Congress, the latest available data:
About 18 months ago I spoke to two officials and when I mentioned the name McQuaid they replied how they like working with him. When I asked about the problems they shrugged. Now this is no “representative sample” but my feeling here is that most of the senior officials from around the world are satisfied with McQuaid, their jobs are occupied by the Olympics and amateur riders. Pro cycling, doping and sponsors stampeding out of the sport simply isn’t their business. Indeed let’s look to the UCI Congress the other day when delegates passed a special motion. You can read the full text here but the takeaway is that nobody wanted to ask what the hell has been going on, instead it was the now classic “we’ve introduced new anti-doping measures and place our hope in the new generation”, a message that the Congress uses too often instead of actually investigating what is going wrong.
A few federations are not happy but other federations have a wariness of these sceptics and so if a critic wanted to raise any big objections they would be frowned up. It’s very political.
Give all this, dislodging Pat McQuaid looks near impossible. You’d need to get plenty of delegates on board but they’d want to see plans for change and any vote to dismiss the President would upset what is quite a friendly club.
A string of mistakes like not knowing your own rules isn’t enough; nor is getting humiliated by WADA in public during the middle of the Olympics; even grave ethical mistakes like taking donations from Lance Armstrong are not enough and besides, few can even expose these things because the UCI isn’t big on transparency, for example it won’t release the receipts for Armstrong’s donations and has given conflicting statements. No, it would have to be a real scandal which threatens all the delegates and the very existence of the UCI. Like cycling being removed from the Olympics.
If these people seem remote, they’re not: you can contact your local federation by email, phone and post. A message to ask whether they support the UCI management, if any improvements could be made, from presentation to administration to changing the current leadership is fine. After all if you are a licence holder then your federation is there to act on your behalf. And even if you are not a member, you can also contact them as there’s a very high chance your taxes are going to support the federation and hopefully they’ll be only to happy to talk to a fellow cyclist.
There’s a lot wrong with the sport and to some extent the President is the figurehead who is supposed to be in charge. As such a lot of the blame gets pinned on him simply because he’s the visible one. Personally I think he’s too visible, he gives inappropriate interviews where he consistently puts his foot in his mouth and it would help if others shared the load a bit more. Just as McQuaid can’t claim credit for all the good changes in the sport, fans can’t lay all the problems at his door. But it’s more a question of how effectively he deals with the problems and he is paid a handsome salary to act as the UCI figurehead. Rebutting criticism and showing leadership is part of the job.
Be Careful What You Wish For
All this is before we even consider a new candidate for the job. What if the new President was even worse? You might think this is hard but don’t forget Katusha capo Igor Makarov and his associate Andrei Tchmil have talked about running for President.
The rules make it hard to remove the President. The politics make it harder. But feel free to contact your local federation to see what they’re doing for you.
But I think it’s not about one man. If McQuaid stumbles in public sometimes then the UCI should help him prepare better for public appearances. If a conflict of interest appears on the horizon the UCI should have mechanisms to prevent people worrying. Get rid of McQuaid and you don’t fix theses problems, you just remove the top guy when a lot of trouble with the UCI is institutional. They’ve made some improvements over transparency like publishing audited accounts but there’s lots more to do.
- This is a rework of a previous piece because several people have been asking how the UCI elects its officials and whether McQuaid could be replaced. It’s been updated to reflect rule changes and more.
- Back to the racing tomorrow with a feature on the upcoming races in Italy: Milan-Torino, the Giro di Piemonte and Il Lombardia. Each has a story to tell.