Brian Cookson has said that a demand from his UCI presidential rival Pat McQuaid for British Cycling to cease a legal challenge to potential changes to the process for next month’s election smacks of desperation on the current UCI president’s part, and has accused him of seeking to engage in “restrospective rule bending.”
Cookson, currently president of British Cycling and the sole challenger to McQuaid, who has been UCI president since 2005, also insists he wants an open and transparent contest ahead of the elections, due to take place at the UCI World Congress in Florence on 27 September.
Last month, the UCI revealed that the Malaysian Cycling Federation had proposed a rule change to be voted on in Florence that would allow candidates for the UCI presidency to be nominated by any two national governing bodies.
McQuaid, whose nomination by Cycling Ireland had been blocked by a vote at an Emergency General Meeting, has been nominated for re-election by Swiss Cycling.
However, the endorsement of his candidacy by the national federation of the country the UCI is based in and in which he lives is subject to a legal challenge.
Controversially, when it announced that proposed rule change in late July, the UCI said that it would allow national governing bodies to make nominations until 30 August and they would be considered valid retrospectively if the amendments were adopted, even though the original deadline was 30 June.
It also announced that besides Swiss Cycling, McQuaid had also been nominated by the Thai and Moroccan federations, which many saw as an attempt by the UCI president to manipulate the electoral process in his favour.
Cookson himself said at the time: “What sort of organisation attempts to rewrite the rules once an election has actually begun – it smacks of attempted dictatorship.”
In a statement released this morning, McQuaid rejected claims by lawyers acting for British Cycling that his nominations from the Thai Cycling Association and the Féderation Royal Marocanine federations were made after the closing date.
There had been no hint that those nominations had been made – or were even possible, under existing rules – prior to 30 June.
“That is an outrageous suggestion,” said McQuaid. “Brian must immediately make a statement on whether he believes that to be true and if he believes otherwise he has duty to ensure that this allegation is publicly withdrawn.”
He went on: “As the President of British Cycling, Brian Cookson must explain his decision to allow his federation - that is funding his campaign - to behave in this way and to use its considerable financial clout to employ lawyers to challenge issues in the election.
“I do not fear an open election and I am not at all concerned by my ability to secure the support and votes that I require to be re-elected as UCI President.
“While it would appear that Brian has lost confidence in his own ability I continue to challenge him to allow the UCI Congress and its voting delegates to decide,” he concluded.
However, Cookson said that the concerns of British Cycling and others about what he termed “retrospective rule bending” and also
“Sadly today we have seen yet another attempt by the existing UCI President, Pat McQuaid, to denigrate the current presidential election process,” said Cookson.
"I want nothing more than an open and properly conducted democratic election and vote for the UCI presidency. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.
"It is also true that I, and many in our sport, have legitimate and growing concerns about the retrospective rule bending and attempted manipulation that is taking place at present.
“In my view it is therefore absolutely correct that British Cycling and others have raised concerns regarding proposed rule changes which have a direct impact on the election process now under way. These concerns need to be addressed.
He added: "Far from ducking these issues, for the good of cycling and the reputation of the UCI, it is critical that openness and transparency guide our procedures and not desperate manoeuvres and outbursts by Mr McQuaid.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.