How to Replace Pat McQuaid

UCI Pat McQuaid

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:

Africa 5 delegates
America 9 delegates
Asia 9 delegates
Europe 14 delegates
Oceania 3 delegates

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.

Mission impossible?
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.

Go local
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.

Lightning rod
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 UCI’s most powerful member. And Pat McQuaid.

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.

59 thoughts on “How to Replace Pat McQuaid”

  1. What does this sentence mean: ‘most of the senior officials from around the world are satisfied with McQuaid, their jobs after occupied the Olympics and amateur riders.’ ??

    Might be a good idea to go over the article correcting the grammatical errors; detracts from the otherwise good quality of the post.

  2. While many present McQuaid as a kind of UCI dictator or overlord, I am curious about the internal power structure of the UCI–especially the makeup and powers of the “Management Committee”. Prior to the UCI Management Committee’s meeting during last week’s world championships, McQuaid made public comments in favor of a doping amnesty program. After the meeting, he gave an entirely opposing position. It seems likely that McQuaid (regardless of his personal beliefs) must dance to the committee’s song and, therefore, getting rid of McQuaid may leave cycling no better off. Is he primarily a bumbling figurehead or is he a bumbling policy maker who holds real power?

    • The Management Committee are the executive board of the UCI. There are 10 who get elected, 9 and The President, by the Congress plus a further five who are slotted in because they are the head of each continental confederation to make 15. At least 7 must be from Europe (don’t ask). So the members are, for want of a better term, mini-Presidents.

      In the case of the amnesty, it is likely that McQuaid liked the idea and went public until someone else told him it was not allowed for under the WADA Code (he didn’t check of course) and so it got dropped. I’m speculating but on past precedent ideas are floated only to vanish.

      • Thanks, that’s helpful in terms of make-up but less so in terms of powers. In that regard, any sense of how to answer my last question: is McQuaid a bumbling figurehead or is he a bumbling policy maker who holds real power?

  3. The only one of the delegates i know is Tom Lund. In his reign as chairman for DCU repeated accusations of stupidity and corruption has been made. Not just in the blogosphere. Why does cycling attract these types?

  4. Honestly, the biggest problem I have with McQuaid is the way that the UCI uses GCP to “Globalize” cycling. GCP seems to want to ignore the biggest market in the world (the US) in favour of places like Qatar or China.

    They think that it’s just a matter of plonking down ProTour races in big (China) or rich (dubai, Qatar) markets, and forcing the best cyclists in the world to go to them, meanwhile races in North America have to work their way up the ranks, like the Tour of Utah, or pay obscene amounts of money (the races in Quebec City and Montreal) to attract the calibre of racers that GCP can just hand over to itself by automatically making them ProTour races.

    It seems so dumb it’s perverse.

    • Not that I agree with their approach for globalizing cycling but the reasoning might be that the US already has races and promoters; whereas, these other regions need *real* help. Or, more cynically, there is more money to be made when there are no other promoters to compete with.

    • Easy to say, but GCP has no involvement in Qatar, that’s the ASO.

      Also, the UCI would love for Cali to go Pro Tour, but they refuse, because they get all the riders they want anyway, and they get the US domestic teams as well.

    • Sorry but it is entirely logical – who is the wealthiest sport promoter in the world and what model does he follow? If you want to get rich follow Bernie Ecclestone. GCP are just doing exactly what he does – it’s just they don’t have the business nous to go with it.

  5. I am more convinced than ever that the top tier of professional cycling needs to break away and form a new league. As it is structured today, the governors of the sport are not 100% focused on creating the best product (fair, high-level competition).

    It ought to be structured like the American professional sports leagues. A federation of team owners in partnership with a strong players union.

    It is possible for amateur and development-level cycling to work in conjunction with the top-level pro league, but at arms length.

    There is so much more money to be made when the sport is well-run!

    • The UCI is corrupt but a North American style pro league is not the answer. The players unions (just like the cyclists) fought tooth and nail against anti-doping rules while the fat-cat team owners get the public to pony up for expensive stadiums and tax exemptions. While I’m a pro cycling fan, I’d rather NOT see the sport end up like NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. How much have THOSE organizations worked to clean up their sports?

      • I agree. I like the open model with teams, riders, races all negotiating under the UCI. If it worked better it could be great, as opposed to a monopoly. If the UCI was run like the NFL or Formula 1 then there’s a high chance doping would swept under the carpet even more and the governing body would be shaking down everyone for cash; even if there might be some managerial advantages to run the sport in a more business-like way.

        • I agree with this, but I think it’s about time road cycling got it’s own governing body. It seems the delegates only care about the Olympics, but all the money comes from the road. I can see why the road teams are getting annoyed at this and I think a breakaway league under another governing body is the way to go.

  6. If I’m correct in understanding that “GUM” in the Oceania confederation is Guam, they must be thrilled to know that they are being represented by the President of Cycling Australia. Guess we need two votes overseeing one of our big Olympic sports

  7. The distribution of delegates in the UCI seems very skewed towards Europe and America. 14 delegates from Europe and 9 from the Americas, but only 3 from Oceania (i.e. Australia), when Australia is a world powerhouse in cycling. Seems very Euro-centric to me. Perhaps if the distribution of delegates was more even, boofheads like McQuaid might get the boot.

    • Another way of looking at it is to note that Guam has a delegate when neither Germany, Spain nor Britain has, and conclude that Oceania is over-represented, relative to Europe. After all, Europe won 33 of the 55 medals available in all the different cycling disciplines at the Olympics.

  8. 40 delegates – 1 woman, 39 blokes.
    World Champs – Men’s RR wins 100k, Woman’s RR wins 30k
    Go figure why the UCI treats women’s racing like shit. Pooley for President!

    • I just got goosebumps thinking about that. Intelligent (working on Phd), passionate about cycling, maybe looking for a job (Inrng has there been any movement from the AA Drink colapse?), and wouldn’t take any sort of crap from anyone. And she’s really nice.

  9. Great article, much better than previous one. Yes it’s hard, but not impossible, and not even “near impossible”. At the end of the day it will be about public pressure through the national feds. And that is can indeed be built and mobilized very quickly with the current anti-UCI sentiment. Look at how the Kimmage fund has taken off in the past 2 days through just a little main stream media coverage… A decent petition may help as it doesn’t cost the punter a dime. But debate focus also has to shift towards what the new UCI needs to focus on, indeed it’s not just the head that needs changing. So more coverage about doping control totally separate from UCI, full disclosure on associated company interests and financials, and additional transparency on pro tour matters would be a good start…

  10. Inrng do you have a compilation of McQuaid’s gaffes or disreputable actions? I’m going to produce a form letter to send to the delegates in my region and would like to list the top five great reasons not to vote for McQuaid in 2013.

  11. I think of the UCI as much more than overseeing doping controls. Sadly, they don’t seem to handle anything at the professional level you’d hope for and their credibility is hard earned by continued bungling. This isn’t to say other sports don’t have questionable administration (FIFA comes to mind). Remember a few years back when a team sponsored by an online betting company wasn’t allowed to race after they’d been secured a protour license and paid the dues? Bush league I’d say.

  12. Notwithstanding who may be waiting in the wings, McQuaid is a boil on our sport that needs to be lanced (if you’ll pardon the pun). He angers me for the same reason that Vino does – they are both unrepentant doping apologists. It is McQuaid’s belligerence that riles me the most added to his indelible ties to that morally bankrupt buffoon Hein “Lance never, never, never doped” Verbruggen.

    The cycling public needs to make clear to the UCI that this behaviour is not tolerated and any successor needs to realise this too. Once the public gets its voice and the media starts doing its job by being journalists, the cycling companies will start to get nervous, the sponsors will get nervous, and as a consequence the riders will get nervous. Voting mechanics aside, surely these commercial forces are going to ultimately be more powerful than what the delegate from Gabon thinks of Pat McQuaid? It all depends on how these pressures can be brought to bear on the UCI most effectively. The IOC has got to be the angle – if they feel that cycling is damaging their brand or tarnishing the Olympic ideals, they will surely start leaning on the UCI to improve its practices and give McQuaid the boot.

    What I don’t properly understand though is exactly what power the UCI has on the sport, other than in relation to controlling the world championships and cycling at the Olympics (do they even control that?). All of the other races are run by other organisations. Why do we need a breakaway league when the race organisers of the Grand Tours and the Classics can simply get together and write their own rules? Can’t the UCI be completely sidelined by this type of move? Let’s face it, the Olympics are a sideshow when it comes to cycling. Trackies may be up in arms about this comment but the real deal is European professional road racing. I’d take 1 Tour de France win over 100 Olympic gold medals.

    • You could sideline the UCI but we shouldn’t have to. If it worked effectively as a governing body that set the rules and supplied commissaires then all would be better. It could act like WADA, sitting above national agencies/federations and offering guidance and support but not trying to control/run everything. It can ensure balance between races, teams and riders. In theory.

      I’ll probably do another piece to try and explain why I think we need the UCI.

      Oh and the Gabon delegate? There’s a little story about a Sino-Swiss oil company, the UCI and Gabonese cycling officials. I’ll save it for another day.

  13. International sports authorities are actually in a legal limbo as far as International Law is concerned. Even WADA. Their decisions and regulations have no real legal value. They are no UN or EU where national Governments have explicitly delegated and pooled their authorities. A movement to strengthen the link between these bodies and government-emanated law would increase control and transparency (and possibly democracy). I’m talking about an international treaty or convention on international sports governance, that would specify the basic functioning rules under which they should work (how countries would be represented, how would voting work, how would their finances work, to whom they would be accountable, etc…)
    It’s important that governements feel seized by this issue (I don’t trust much those endogamic national federations, they are like UCI and ICO and FIFA only on a different scale).

    • It’s a good point. Several Belgian athletes have been taking WADA’s Wherebabouts system to court claiming it violates human rights and a verdict was expected last October but still nothing.

      The EU offers sport some exemptions on laws because it is a “cultural exception” but this clashes with plenty of sports where the activity is business as well as culture.

      However in place of the law these sporting bodies sign up to rules and use arbitration. If someone does not like the rules, they are free to do another sport or create another federation.

  14. Great summary and great site – I agree its tricky – I would go even farther and say personally that grass roots people have got diddly chance of changing the leadership of the UCI. It’s as corrupt as the next IOC sport and the nod-nod wink-wink which goes on behind the scenes is only to be guessed at (precisely why we are in this place now ) . Most fans in the immediate short term , don’t have the clout to change these types of organisations which are linked by croneyism and connections (read $$ or promises of resources or both).
    So I am guessing the only way Pat departs is that he doesn’t provide the growth and attention in the right areas or hugely embarrasses the Olympic movement, and some billionaire who owns a couple of countries, comes along and shakes the tree. Money rules and that’s I fear the only way to unseat the current hierarchy. I am reminded of Packers onslaught on cricket (and that’s a person who couldn’t give a flying toss about fans) – he was only interested in audience and advertising $$.

    Now if PK has a real embarrassing nugget or 2 that would make life interesting in December … and that would segue nicely into Puerto but I think Pats still got it covered going forward : slower peleton, slower climbs, banning the most famous rider in the world, Bio Passport introduced…

  15. Interesting piece, and I wonder if we should often look at the job that the UCI Presidency encompasses rather than the person filling the hot seat. We have seen that nearly every rider has found it nigh on impossible to balance fairness and truth with the recent past of cycling, it can’t be an easy job to preside over this when you are the de facto face of cycling.

    I think we should perhaps look at having separate powers within the UCI for certain elements that all seem to fall under the current remit of McQuaid. Would it not make more sense to have different people running the anti-doping, race organisation, Worlds, etc? At least from a point of view of accountability and transparency, I would prefer to see a number of officials reporting to the president.

    Now, I’m not defending McQuaid, just wondering whether replacing one man with another is a solution to the problem. Ousting McQuaid might be cathartic, but it would also be pointless without underlying reform of the UCI’s structure.

    • Agree with your comments. Wholesale review is what we ultimately need, not just change at the top.

      Notwithstanding this, McQuaid still has to go. The man is a laughing stock and the Kimmage suit is nothing short of an embarrassment for a sport that is fighting for its credibility. After all, we the fans and amateur cyclists are the custodians of the sport and, as little power as we do have in the face of the back-room boys with large cheque books, we should be pressing for things that we believe in. On any rational measure McQuaid has failed to deal with the biggest issue the sport has ever faced. Add to that the (arguably) credible and persistent claims that the UCI has been complicit in doping practices in the peloton and you have McQuaid in an untenable position. It is irrelevant who is in the wings should McQuaid resign – his successor needs to realise that he or she will have the same blowtorch applied to him/her by the public and the media on these issues. The tide is changing and the fear of the public switching off the sport is the most powerful tool we have.

  16. I would love to see you lay out a detailed article making the case for why Pat McQuaid must go. You touch on a lot of it but it would be great to see it all laid out like a lawyer making a case.

    I nominate Bob Stapleton for UCI president. I’m sure he would never want the job though.

  17. From a read of your article it appears to me , that we are STUCK with the phat incumbent for the next year ! That WADA cannot participate in establishing an ” Amnesty ” is deeply disturbing , how else can the Majority of Sports throw off the yoke that ” Doping/Peds ” has become ?

    Major ” lobbying ” will have to be done , at ” grassroots ” , to wake those with ” voting powers ” to the unease that the populace feels towards the hierachy of the UCI and the present constitution ! It is just not acceptable for the Racers to be at risk when they try to step past the roadblock of ” Omerta “! Garage doors do not fall on Athletes in the real world ! Tractors have been known to tip over on hillsides where the driver has been careless and taken risky decisions .

    Written to ” phat ” , in my blog , suggesting he take a long holiday , rather than participate in the december action in the Aigle Court . Judging from comments made by the likes of Mike Ashenden there is sufficient evidence of ” omerta ” for a blind man with a white stick “, to understand that anything Paul Kimmage said about the Pompous Prats of Aigle is justifiable .

    An organisation to replace UCI will be good for the Team Owners but a TOTAL CLEANUP of the UCI Organisation will be the only thing that will help the Racers enjoy a future without the menace of PADs/Doping and organised crime bosses interfering in their careers .

  18. Whoa! These comments are beginning to create a mob mentality. I don’t know any one of the UCI officials and delegates, but my guess is that most, if not all, got involved because they care about cycling. Inring is right to point out the UCI’s shortcomings and to lobby for improvements, but I worry about the way this “debate” is going.

  19. Must replace McQuaid. He is too close to the problem and too much a part of the dark modern era of cycling. He can be part of the catharsis that a truth commission would generate but he cannot be part of the renewal and future.

  20. The only way to remove the UCI is to make them irrelevant………….and the only people that can really do that is the team owners/riders (who haven’t got the guts to – yet)…….but probably the biggest conundrum is what to put in it’s place……………

  21. I’m guessing that the booing at the world championship has nothing to do with Dutch people disliking Gilbert. It’s more likely that the massive amount of Belgian people who showed up to a world championship started the booing: whenever Mr. McQuaid shows up at a cyclocross event in Belgium he gets an icy welcome by the crowd with lots of booing.

  22. There is an easier way – if you are Irish and a member of the national federation. PMQ needs to be nominated by his federation 90 days before the vote so he can stand for re-election. If the federation did not nominate him he cannot stand for election. Cycling Ireland members can call an EGM to vote on whether he should be nominated by their board. As you say the 40 delegates would then pick another insider.

  23. Not yet – there is no vote on Saturday but there will be a discussion that might lead to a call for an EGM. The board has already come out and declared there support for PmQ so there is a possibility they could ignore the vote and nominate him anyway. Or perhaps PmQ seeks nomination through a diff Fed.

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